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Reviews Series / You 2018

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03/14/2019 21:57:09 •••


So Dexter came out just long enough ago now that you can basically steal the concept of "amicable psychopath monologues to the viewer" without too many people adding it up. You is Netflix's new thriller series about a stalker bookshop manager, Joe, who goes to extraordinary lengths to invade the privacy of Beck, the woman he falls in love at first sight with. Joe seems charismatic and good looking enough that he could win Beck over without resorting to cloak and dagger, but he's that misanthropic he does it anyway.

One thing that strikes me right off the bat with You is the slight distaste I get from a lot of its writing. I'm not just talking about the exploitative way it plays off of people's paranoia around privacy on social media, or how Joe looks and sounds a little too much like college shooter Elliot Rodger to be coincidental, but most of all the way the show keeps hi-jacking feminist and identity politics terminology, in a way that seems purpose built to make those terms look bad. "He's the poster boy for white privilege," says Joe, about the man he's planning on murdering. "She's a victim!" says Beck, about a woman who is feigning trauma. Joe gets called "nice guy" by the woman he's deceiving. Later he's criticised for "mansplaining" by a woman he immediately outsmarts. "You're story is problematic," says a publisher who's trying to coerce Beck into sex, "it blames the victim". It seems like any time these terms are used, there is a dramatic irony or hypocrisy built in to make the person saying it look stupid. Did Ben Shapiro co-write this?

Story wise, You is more than a little bit predictable. There wasn't a single twist I didn't call way ahead of time. For example (this is a minor spoiler), there is one bit where Beck packs a suitcase full of corsets and rushes off to a motel, to meet a mysterious man called "the captain" who keeps sending her large sums of money. I only half jokingly predicted, "the captain is actually her supposedly dead dad, and she is actually going off to do some reluctant LAR Ping over the weekend with him." It turns out I was 100% correct! How does that happen?! If I were generous, I would say the series sprinkles in enough clues for an observant viewer to figure out what is happening. Less charitably, I would say you could figure out just as much if you keep asking yourself, "hmm, what's the most unlikely scenario a hack writer could come up with?" In that same episode Beck calls out Jane Austen for her contrived writing; pot and kettle, You.

I've been harsh on the show, but to be fair to it, You is still watchable. There is enough there to keep you engaged, even if the story is all kinds of ridiculous, the characters are all kind of awful, and the writer has all kinds of hangups about millennials. If you can't decide what to watch on Netflix, you aren't going to have a terrible time switching this on. But there are more than enough series out there that deserve your time.

03/14/2019 00:00:00

I agree that there are a lot of cringeworthy coincidences and contrivances in the writing, but I think you totally missed the point with the characters and the reference to social justice issues.

The show very clearly isn’t criticizing social justice activism the way you think it is. Hypocrisy is one of the main themes of the show. The show is commenting on how people will use their supposed moral righteousness as a cover or even a justification for deplorable behavior. The show isn’t exactly subtle about it, either (again, it’s not the most well written show); Joe has the gall to call himself a “feminist”, for goodness sakes. It’s criticizing the shallow ways people manipulate social justice (and morality in general) for self-gratification, not criticizing social justice itself.

I also don’t see this vilification of millennials you’re describing. You have to keep in mind that the show has a Villain Protagonist. You’re not necessarily supposed to agree with Joe’s misanthropic attitudes towards most of his peers. If anything, Joe’s holding such antipathy towards even friendly, decent people like Ethan and Annika serves as a warning to the viewer about Joe’s true nature. He doesn’t just hate actually toxic people like Peach, he degrades anyone not named Paco or Beck. This clues the viewer in that it isn’t just Asshole Victims that are threatened by Joe.

In short, I think you unfortunately took the wrong messages from the show. Obviously, you’re entitled to your view - Death Of The Author and all that- but in my opinion you really missed the whole point.

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