What Would You Do For Love?

Faulty love stories and abusive relationships are normal in the real world, and nobody seems to bat an eye. This piece dives into a certain TV-drama that gets inside your head and really makes you think about how "normal" these real-world love stories should be.


Lily Savage, Staff Reporter

A scene from You.

You, a Lifetime-drama, hones in on Joe Goldberg, a tech-savant psychopath who instantly becomes obsessed with Beck, a rising poet, and inserts himself into her life any way he can.

Getting into the headspace of Joe has proven difficult for Penn Badgley, the star in question. He has expressed a distaste for the character and to those who think the relationship between Joe and his charming, poetic damsel is what love looks like, as well as a proper disconnection.

Joe is twisted and delusional, confused as to what he is, who he is, and what the word ‘love’ means, but he’s also portrayed as sensitive. He’s a romantic, he’s sweet and attractive, so from the outside, there’s nothing to be afraid of, right? Well, according to some, including those who find Ted Bundy and young Joseph Stalin attractive, Joe is a perfect boyfriend.

While it is true that everyone has their own ideas for an ideal partner, a psychopathic stalker should not be on the list. Badgley has had to convince viewers to steer clear of romanticizing his character. He wants viewers to be afraid of Joe, terrified on some level of people like him, wants the audience to recognize the signs of obsessive, abusive partners. This has become a common theme, romanticizing dangerous characters simply for their attractive attributes. Even, and especially, in real-world situations.

If this is a love story, what is it saying? It’s not an average show; it’s a social experiment.”

— Badgley

In this case, the directors are smart. They get inside your head with portraying the so-called bad guy as sensitive and sweet, as a real human being with real human problems, rather than emotionless. This causes you to root for the “underdog” and later realize that this behavior really is normalized if you seem innocent enough. In real-world situations, it’s easy to convince others that “Joe” is innocent, and “Beck” is asking for it.

So much of what Joe does is like what we do, the stalking and desperate for love, the desperate to be close to someone, and hating this other person.”

— Elizabeth Lail

On some levels, the show was in fact created to be a social experiment, to show ugly sides and ugly intentions. It shows real-world love stories, whether the critical audience wants to accept that or not. In reality, it’s normalized for your drink to be spiked in a bar, to be trafficked, to be stalked, or to even be raped and killed. It’s dangerous for young men and women alike and it is completely looked over by most. Nobody wants to be generalized, nobody wants to be blamed or stereotyped, and for people like Joe, they have no idea that what they are doing is wrong.

Things as large as the way people think isn’t going to change, and in reality, nobody would mortally be able to change that fact, but media like this is certainly making an effort to push people in the right direction.