The Dark Face of Love: Netflix’s “You”

Anna Wells

Anna Wells

Lila Miller, Arts & Entertainment Editor

What would you do for love? Netflix’s new series “You”explores this provocative question and in alarming fashion. The new series examines love under a dark lens and deconstructs modern popular culture tropes in this sinister take on romance.

“You” originally premiered on the Lifetime channel in September of 2018, but didn’t find its footing or its cult-like following until Netflix picked it up in December.

The series is narrated via voiceover from the antagonist’s point of view, Joe Goldberg,

played by “Gossip Girl” actor Penn Badgley. The show sets itself apart from other stereotypical series by precariously shifting the perspective between Joe Goldberg’s fascination, obsession and devotion towards capturing his love interest.

Guinevere Beck is a struggling Master’s student of Creative Writing at Brown University, played by relatively new actress, Elizabeth Lail. When Guinevere wanders into the independent bookstore Mooney’s that Joe manages, he is immediately struck by her beauty and becomes obsessed with captivating her.

Initially, many viewers sympathized with Joe, even going as far as to tweet Badgley sentiments like, “kidnap me pls [sic].”

The show seems to take inspiration from older dark crime shows like “Dexter,” but as far as dark show plots go, “You” seems to exceed the standard.

The show makes psychological appeals to convince viewers root for Joe’s character as he employs devious tactics to ensnare Guinevere by any means necessary. Joe follows her, hacks into her phone and Macbook, spies on her through the windows of her Brownstone apartment, SPOILER ALERT, commits murder on more than one occasion and still manages to cultivate a charming persona to viewers.

“Use what is dominant in a culture to change it quickly,” wrote visual artist Jenny Holzer in a series named “Truisms.” The show itself and the numerous thinkpieces shed light on the disturbing yet persistent trope of heteronormative couples confusing romance with possession.

“You’s” plot and viewer reaction critiques modern day privacy issues in the realm of social media. One of such occasions comes up as Joe surveils Guinevere through her social media presence. Joe is able stalk her because all of her accounts were set to public, and yet even though it is Joe that pursues Guinevere, he believes it is Guinevere that brings his obsession upon herself musing, “you want to be seen.”

What Guinevere does or does not post online is also a subject Joe frequently ruminates when he is also questioning her authenticity. The series focuses so heavily on Guinevere’s use of social media and her text message conversations with friends that it is almost impossible to ignore the social commentary that this show presents. The story also serves as a critique of how people form identities within an increasingly digital era.

In a song titled, “Under Your Spell” by dream-pop band Desire, a recording of a phone call has disembodied voices asking, “I was wondering, do you know the difference between love and obsession?/ No./ And what’s the difference between obsession and desire?/ I don’t know./ Do you think this feeling will last forever?/ I hope so.”

“You” is currently streaming onNetflix and season 2 is rumored to air in Fall 2019.