Spoilers: season 1 and 2 of You on Netflix
I get a knot in my stomach every time I see a pro-Joe Goldberg meme circulating the internet and shared incessantly on social media with heart-eye emoji captions. As if there’s not enough wrong with our society, some fans of the Netflix show You are actually swooning over Joe Goldberg, and quite frankly, it’s repulsive.
First Of All, Joe Is Creepy AF
Joe is introduced to us as an introverted bookkeeper who over-idealizes a random stranger and goes on to obsessively stalk and emotionally manipulate her into falling in love with him. From there on, things take a terrifyingly dark turn for the worst once he starts brutally murdering people who get in his way in the slightest.
Joe continually indulges in his own cynical judgments of the world, and when all else fails, he locks people in a cage in hopes they’ll understand him because he, as a teenager, was forced to understand why he was locked in one.
Some Underlying Psychology
I think the show is portrayed in a manner that intentionally tries to tug on the viewer’s heartstrings to sympathize, care, or ostensibly root for Joe. This is because, despite his sociopathic tendencies, he is a human who still has human characteristics that we can all relate to. The show makes a point to demonstrate that despite the part of him that’s monstrous, he’s human. As we’re given a glimpse of his cynical worldview, we’re subtly taken on the journey of his shaping into the man that he is: abandoned, abused, neglected, codependent, battling unrequited love, and suffering from love addiction, thus constantly needing Beck and behaving erratically out of fear she’ll leave.
Joe’s ‘relatability’ as a human lies not only in his seemingly caring ways (think Paco and Ellie) or in his funny awkwardness, but for some, in the side of him where they wonder what they’d do, had they been raised in his circumstances. We realize that we all get cynical, we all get the moments where we feel like the world is against us, but unlike Joe, we don’t act on them. This, apparently, is leading some people to forget his dark, eerie, sinister, murder-y behavior.
Penn Badgley Wants You To Stop Lusting After Joe
Moreover, Badgley cleverly contends with fans lusting after the undesirable character. “He’s a murderer,” he told one fan. Yes, yes he is.
Badgley continues to speak out and resist pro-Joe tweets by reaffirming his belief that Joe’s actions were anything other than abhorrent.
Have We Learned Nothing?
We live in arguably the most important times, especially as women. We’re empowering each other, we’re standing up for what we believe, we’re kicking ass, making progress. We can’t, in the next breath, root for a psychotic murderer.
So I’ll ask again: Joe Goldberg is a deranged, homicidal stalker. Why are people still romanticizing his toxic, psychopathic behavior? Why are we failing to separate chivalry and romance from abuse and misogyny? Why is anything he does even used as a metric for our standards?
You might say, “Joe would do anything for her” — um, yes, including brutally and savagely murdering people, and he’s not even above murdering his own love interest. You might say, “Joe texts back, don’t settle ladies, know your worth!” — yes, he also took her phone, hid in her shower, and watched her through a window, among other creepy measures he’s more than ready to take if he receives no reply.
Stop. Rooting. For Joe. Goldberg.
You was an interesting show. While Netflix may have put a handsome face on the show’s main antagonist, there is hardly anything sexy, remarkable, or lovable about a stalker’s dedication to stalking and murdering. It’s important to not forget Joe’s dark, insidious behavior and to not poeticize him.
It’s important to separate Badgely’s performance as an actor from Joe’s behavior. He’s not a hopeless romantic pining for Beck. What’s baffling is this doesn’t even take more than an episode to realize, as Joe immediately begins engaging in activities that instantly qualify him as a homicidal misanthropist.
So, please, stop romanticizing, poeticizing, and glorifying Joe Goldberg with the tongue-in-cheek jokes about his behavior. I don’t actually think anyone wants a relationship with a serial killer. Let’s not morally taint our society by perpetuating that this behavior, even for a fictional character on a show, is remotely acceptable, let alone lovable.