“You” stalks Netflix and attracts widespread viewer attention



Playing upon his character and the milieu, Joe stalks Beck in Mooney’s bookstore.

Ritika Sabharwal, Staff Writer

Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble’s recent television show “You” aired on Netflix Dec. 26, 2018, immediately gaining popularity despite its troubling and sinister plot. Although it is based upon a love story, one can’t ignore its creepy and disturbing scenes that depict stalking to an extreme level.

“You” was originally a novel by Caroline Kepnes, published in 2014 with a sequel, “Hidden Bodies,” before being adapted into a television series. Unlike his classic love stories, “Love, Simon” and “Life As We Know It,” which portray romantic fairy tales, Berlanti’s “You” does quite the opposite. This psychological thriller puts a twist on modern romedies and illustrates the darkness of the human mind. Most importantly, it throws light onto the prevailing issue of stalking in society and the dangers of ignorance.

The pilot episode begins with a breathy voice-over by the main character, Joe, played by Penn Badgley. As the main girl, Beck, walks into the library Joe where works, he inwardly comments on her every move — the jangling of her bracelets, the looseness of her blouse. While Joe figures Beck out from her actions, we too can figure Joe out for who he really is: a stalker. This is the moment when he develops an obsession for her and decides to stop at nothing to get her. The show revolves around Joe following Beck everywhere she goes and tracking her every move to tweak their fate. Although he faces several obstacles along the way, he somehow manages to overcome them by committing the most horrific crimes possible. As Joe gets closer to Beck in each episode, his level of stalking becomes more intense. Therefore, despite the discomfort it brings, it creates suspense as to how far Joe will go.

In contrast to most television shows, “You” is mainly comprised of a detailed voice-over of Joe’s thoughts. It includes a similar voice-over of Beck’s thoughts as well, albeit quite short-lived. Though unusual, it portrays the occuring events as to how the character perceives them. Beck’s voice-over is somewhat bearable, although agitating due to her obliviousness; Joe’s voice-over, though perturbing, gives an insight into his dubious intentions.

With his menacing stare and charismatic deception, Penn Badgley does an outstanding job at capturing the characteristics of a stalker. Although he was originally conflicted with the nature of his role, Badgley ultimately adopted the mentality of a stalker with great accuracy.

Throughout the show, his tone suggests that everything Joe does, whether good or bad, he does for Beck. He kills for her, manipulates her life for her and causes her immense pain without feeling even the tiniest bit of remorse. Somehow, Joe thinks his brutal actions are justified because of his love for Beck and constantly reminds himself of it. This effectively exposes stalkers and demonstrates their reasoning for not having done anything wrong.

The television series’ victim, Beck, is played by Elizabeth Lail, who takes on the role of an oblivious, innocent girl. Beck is a struggling writer who craves appreciation and is manipulated by several people in her life. She is also a pushover and arguably fails to see people for who they really are. Lail successfully portrays Beck’s character with her flamboyance and flirtatious smile, in this way bringing out the ignorance in many of us.

As a television show with many twists, the craziness doesn’t end there. Beck’s best friend Peach, played by “Pretty Little Liars” star Shay Mitchell, also has an obsession with Beck. Her collection of half-naked photos of Beck and her desperate attempts at making a move on Beck suggest the same. Here, Mitchell phenomenally depicts a jealous and attention-seeking girl who wants Beck all to herself.

The background music that plays at several times during the show builds up anticipation for the following events. It also draws attention to the severity of Joe’s actions and creates a sense of curiosity as to how far he will go each time.

Building upon the character complexity, the sets in this television series are also very creative and significant.

The bookstore where Joe works reflects his sane personality, and his lair below it depicts his trait of consuming obsession. Peach’s house depicts her wealth and ultimately her spoiled nature. Beck’s apartment is such that there are tall, looming windows without curtains, enabling everyone outside to see her through them. However, the fact that she does not care about her privacy only furthers her ignorance and manifests her desire to be noticed.

The main purpose of “You,” which it effectively accomplishes, is to raise awareness about stalkers. Though uncomfortable, its suspense drives the plot and creates a well-rounded show. wonder what happened in the end.

“You” premiered domestically in September 2018 on Lifetime and internationally on Netflix in December of the same year.