The DM’s managing editor Devna Bose, news editor Hadley Hitson and assistant arts & culture editor Eliza Noe sat down yesterday to discuss “You,” which has been a major point of discussion around the office and the rest of the country. This Netflix drama has taken social media by storm and has raked up 40 million streams on the online service. From the depth of Beck’s character to the romanticism of charismatic murderers, we touched on the highs and lows of the suspenseful series.
What was your first impression of Joe? Did you think he was creepy at first?
The first time you see Joe, he is creepily observing Beck’s body and what she’s wearing. He interprets it to mean she wants him to look at her, which is really uncomfortable and creepy.
I definitely felt weirded out when he was like, “Oh, she wants to be seen” or whatever he says because of her clothes. But I kind of tend to romanticize characters, so I was like, “Eh, not so creepy yet,” because I saw the reviews about the show and I thought it was going to be horrendous. It set off maybe like a small red flag, but nothing major.
That’s a good point because when you see him at first, his surroundings are all sunny and there’s light coming through the bookstore window. It looks really pretty and so you’re like, “Well, maybe it’s not as creepy as the words he’s actually saying.” But when you listen to his actual thoughts and his voiceover, it is.
They make a point throughout the series to show the environment and the lighting shifts as the mood shifts, but you really don’t notice until the end of the show how they played up that scene in that setting. It’s true — the light streaming, there’s this attractive actor and this attractive actress. It looks like the beginning of a rom-com.
So, it’s like you want it to work. Do you think his intentions were ever pure or good?
That’s a tough question because I really struggled with that when I thought about Joe. It becomes clear later in the show that he thinks what he’s doing is right. He thinks he has good intentions. It was clear that this was a product of how he was raised. So, I don’t know, but considering he killed, like, five people, I’m gonna say no.
Like we were saying earlier, Joe views himself as the male protagonist in a rom-com. When he’s describing his actions and decisions, how he’s seeing Beck and all the lengths he’s going through to come into contact with her, the whole situation seems very picturesque. He acts like, “Oh, I’m just acting in this romantic comedy” when really he is an obsessive stalker.
So would you consider Joe a feminist? I’ve seen this big question online. Is he technically a feminist? Because he makes Beck feel wonderful, you know?
Did you see my horrified expression?
I’ve seen people who try to defend Joe as a feminist!
I guess he thinks he’s one. He says, “I’m just doing this because you don’t see how strong you are and how powerful you are.” But, at the same time, he is so misogynistic in how he views her. Going back to when he first sees her, he immediately comments on her appearance. The way he thinks about her is demeaning. He thinks he knows her better than she knows herself. When he narrates an episode, it’s a “mansplaination” the whole time, for lack of a better word. So, no, I don’t think he’s a feminist, even if he thinks he’s the one.
Joe has a very self-important view of the world where he thinks that he’s right about everything and about everyone. In his mind, if he could just control everything, then everything would be all right. That’s what he tries to do with Beck’s life. This man is trying to project onto Beck everything that he thinks she is and should be. Joe decides he’s making her life better, so it’s worth it.
Do you see any dangers in shows like “You” that portray male killers like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson as they appeared to their victims — charming and handsome?
I just saw a tweet today that said something like, “If I ever get murdered and someone talks about how hot the murderer is, I’m going to lose it.” I guess I hadn’t thought about it that way until I saw the tweet. I understand the perverse desire to romanticize these people and find out more about them. It’s okay to be interested, I guess, in serial killers and true crime, and a lot of people are because they wonder, “How can people be like this?” But, when you have Zac Efron playing Ted Bundy in a movie, especially an actor like that who young girls are super into, that’s problematic. When the first word people are using to describe Bundy isn’t “murderer” but “charming,” I think that’s dangerous.
But I don’t think “You” is dangerous. Viewers shouldn’t romanticize Joe, and I think the show makes that obvious, especially towards the end. Yes, he’s an attractive character. Yes, the actor was in “Gossip Girl” and has teenage fans. But you see this character doing all of these terrible things, and the show is meant to give you a glimpse into his mind and hear his rationale and realize how incorrect it is.
I agree. I think that “You” is different than all the Ted Bundy documentaries and movies that are coming out because it calls more attention to be aware and be cautious of people like that because you do get to see inside of Joe’s mind.