Why Do I Like a Murderer?

Radio Times

Jessica Whitney, Copy Editor and Treasurer |

Netflix’s hit show “You” recently came out with the third season and, I’m sure like many others, I binged it in 2 days. I’ve been waiting for this season for over a year, and I can say that I was not disappointed in the slightest.

If you’ve never seen the show (first off, what have you been doing?), the premise of the psychological thriller is that a man named Joe, played by Penn Badgely, will do anything for love. He’ll even go as far as committing murder to get past any obstacles standing in his way in order to feed his toxic obsession with the women in the series.

I, like many other fans, happen to really like Joe and it’s almost a hard concept to grasp sympathizing with and rooting for this psychotic character. Badgely has even commented on this common thought saying, “Well, it says something about how much we’re willing to be patient and forgive someone who inhabits a body that looks something like mine, the color of my skin, my gender, these sorts of things, these sorts of privileges.” The show being narrated by him also assists us in liking him as it gives us insight into his hopelessly romantic thoughts and justifications for his action.

The real question is, is it problematic that we all love Joe Goldberg? My answer to this would be that it probably is, but I do not think it’s the viewer’s fault. The co-creator for the series even stated, “If an actor walked into the casting room and creeped us out, they would have been completely wrong for this character.” People are naturally attracted to charming, intellectual people, and being good-looking for sure helps (just look at all the people who fangirl over serial killer Ted Bundy, who Netflix had heartthrob Zac Efron play in another production). They seemed to be looking for these traits in an actor to play the leading man in “You.”

Especially in this third season, we got many flashbacks to Joe’s childhood that helped us understand why he is the way he is. It showed us how he just wants to protect the people that he loves and while he doesn’t demonstrate that in the sanest way, the intentions are there. We also see his growth throughout the seasons and how he doesn’t want to keep committing heinous crimes, so when he does, we feel bad that he backtracked in his progress. All these qualities Joe has evokes our empathy and attraction to him which has us hoping he gets away with his actions, even though they’re morally wrong.

Overall, I think we are supposed to feel this way about Joe. Protagonists are normally meant to be likable, and Joe is no exception to that. The internal debate that may occur in us with these feelings can start a social commentary on why productions want us to feel this way. If a different actor had played Joe, would we have felt the same way about him? If the music chosen for scenes where he is following women had been more intense rather than soft, would we have been more creeped out? These questions all further emphasize how intentional every choice made for the show was.

I highly recommend everyone to watch “You” and take all of this into consideration to form your own opinion. Seasons 1-3 are all available for streaming on Netflix, so get ready for your new addiction.

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