Netflix just released the third season of You, and it is raking in views with an audience of around 111 million people. Dethroning Squid Game’s long reign as number one on Netflix, You is one of the most popular shows on the app, bringing in over 40 million people since its debut in 2018. People can’t wait to tune in to Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) chaotic antics, stalking women he once met across metropolitan areas, killing anyone who gets in his way. For a long time, Joe operated alone, flying under the radar by moving from New York to L.A after killing his first girlfriend Beck. For a while, everything seemed to be working out for Joe and his new California life.
Then he met Love.
At the end of season two, audiences thought Joe had finally met his match. Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), daughter of extremely wealthy parents Dottie and Ray Quinn, is an aspiring chef working in the high-end grocery store Anavrin when she meets Joe and subsequently falls in love with him over the course of season two. Upon season three’s opening, Joe and Love are trying to make it work as newlyweds in a soulless wealthy suburb outside San Francisco. The season follows all its usual twists and turns (sex, lies and murder) in a new setting. But the plot takes on an unsettling age-old trope and centers this season on Love as a predator sexually exploiting a young man. And unfortunately, this trope is hardly rare in film and television.
I’m talking about the Mrs. Robinson stereotype.
Coined after the 1967 movie The Graduate, Mrs. Robinson has become synonymous with older women seducing younger men. Set in the late 1960s, The Graduate follows recent college alumn Benjamin Braddock sifting through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. He is feeling aimless and scared about his future, and falls into an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), an older woman stuck in a loveless marriage. Seeing as the 60s was considered to be a sexual revolution, a bored housewife gaining autonomy to pursue a younger gentleman was viewed as empowering and liberating, despite the moral ambiguity of the situation. Evolving with time, this harmful depiction of romance still has an impact today.
You’s Love is our latest example of this toxic characterization. Striking up an affair with her next-door neighbor Theo (Dylan Arnold), Love carries on a romance behind Joe’s back. After having sex with Theo, Love pulls away saying she shouldn’t see him, later going back on her word to continue the affair regardless. Love acknowledges her position of power, pointing out in one episode that she is wrong for having sex with a 19-year-old, yet she continues to abuse her power anyway, indicating to Theo that his feelings are valid only when she is manipulating them.
Knowing the relationship is wrong, Love continues to toy with Theo anyway, playing hot and cold games with a young man desperate for love. Here, the Mrs. Robinson stereotype is in play. Love provides emotional dependence for a teenager, who by the way, has just lost his stepmother, which is a dynamic she later weaponizes to fulfill her own sexual desire. What is more, Love is motivated by the suspicion that Theo’s father has video footage proving that she and Joe are complicit in the murder of said stepmother. Love is using Theo for her own self-preservation, fully aware that he is in his most vulnerable state. Unlike Theo, Love is not in the relationship for human connection at all—she’s in it to keep herself and her husband out of prison.
(No spoilers but I’ll just say the relationship doesn’t end great for Theo.)
Age is an arbitrary number and often, that is used as an excuse to take advantage of young people. Though Theo is 19, above the legal age of consent, scientifically the teenage brain does not stop maturing until age 25. Neuroscientists and psychological evidence confirms that teens can make cognitively rational choices when facing minimal pressure, but in situations like sexual encounters, teenagers cannot make decisions the same way adults can, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous situations.
The Mrs. Robinson trope has been resurfacing in television lately. Before You, there was A Teacher, the Hulu show no one could stop talking about last fall. Premiering November 2020, the show followed a predatory relationship between English teacher Claire Wilson (Kate Mara) and her 18-year-old student Eric Walker (Nick Robinson). Despite not being picked up for another season, the miniseries quickly became FX’s most watched show on Hulu. Despite the fact that the relationship is predatory (not to mention, very illegal), users on Tiktok sensationalized the affair for how “hot” it was, going as far as saying they should “change career paths” to better model Claire’s lifestyle. Of course, the show’s intention was to highlight how an event like this can take over someone’s life, but the fact some people hoped Nick and Claire end up together sheds light on how portraying toxic relationships can sometimes backfire, despite best intentions.
Nobody should be looking to You for relationship goals, but when accounts of older women abusing their power pop up consistently over time, in real life and in Hollywood, it is important to highlight why harmful relationships between older women and younger men should not be sensationalized. As a new generation grows alongside television, subjecting themselves to popular media featuring romance centered around imbalances of power, it’s important to avoid romanticizing these kinds of relationships and overlooking the toxicity and danger they pose.
Image: John P. Fleenor / Netflix
We live in a world that is streaming-obsessed. I know this because my credit card statement every month is nothing but Netflix, Apple TV +, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney + (and Seamless, and some more Seamless, and then a little Uber Eats so the Seamless people don’t judge me, I’m sure you understand). I basically get berated at work all day so that I can afford to watch High School Musical on repeat when I get home. And lately, the only thing streaming that people want to talk about is You. It seems all my friends are really into psychopaths, which now that I know this, makes a lotttt of sense. I mean, I thought they were into psychos, you know, like men who dip their pizza in ranch dressing, but it turns out they’re just turned on by good old-fashioned murderers. Cool. Never going to your boyfriend’s houses, though! I haven’t watched You yet, and the reason why is because I read the book You by Caroline Kepnes years ago and I have not slept ever since. It’s been fun!
Although the book continues to keep me up all night, I was incredibly impressed by how well Kepnes captured the ramblings of a psychopath. Now that I think about it, she was almost too good at it, and I’d like to request the police do a wellness check on her spouse, just in case. Sorry if they break down your door, Caroline! But you brought it upon yourself! If you’ve watched the show AND read the book, you’re probably looking for some new material to make people slowly back away from you at parties. Thankfully, I would rather read a book than engage in actual relationships with a real person, and I’m ready to share my knowledge with you, my fellow anti-socials. So, if you’re craving more books like You, here are seven that I’d recommend you start reading as soon as possible. Before you start making human connections!
The New Husband by D.J. Palmer
The first book is called The New Husband, and, frankly, any number of husbands is a terrifying thought, so sign me up. In this book, Nina Fitch’s second husband knows all her favorite foods, movies, and her son adores him. Definitely a psycho. Nina is a little gun shy because of what her first husband did to her (See! Husbands are terrifying!) so she decides to do a little digging. Sure, Nina. I can call stalking digging, too. When things aren’t adding up, the story gets more and more tense, twisty, and of course, there’s a shocking reveal. I shrieked! You have to get your hands on this one when it comes out on April 14, 2020.
The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale
Contrary to popular belief, The Sunday Girl is not about a twentysomething woman who goes to brunch with her girlfriends, gets day drunk, and orders a $40 uber home before passing out at 5pm. I know! I was also confused. The Sunday Girl is actually about a woman in an abusive relationship, who gets dumped by her boyfriend, and then he posts a sex tape of her online. I think we can all agree at this point he deserves what’s coming to him. And, what’s coming to him is a revenge plan straight out of The Art of War. Girl, I am SOLD. Find out what happens *please say she cuts off his balls, please say she cuts off his balls* when The Sunday Girl comes out on May 5, 2020
The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
You is told from the point of view of Joe, the psychopath serial killer. But what if it was told from Beck’s point of view? In The Last Woman in the Forest, Les Becquets flips the script when her heroine Marian starts to believe that her recently departed man, Tate, was a serial killer. Marian goes on a mission to prove to herself that she was not, in fact, banging a dude who preferred his women in a ditch in the woods, but as she gets further along, sh*t starts getting terrifying and it’s possible Marian will end up as a skin suit for a different freak. I’m not going to reveal what happens, but I will tell you that Diane Les Becquets is an incredibly talented writer, who dedicated a lot of time to creating realistic and nuanced characters. This is not your run-of-the-mill thriller, it’s more of an intense, slow build that ratchets up the terrifying as it goes on. Just like life!
A Good Man by Ani Katz
A Good Man! Ha! At least the title is funny, even if the rest of it makes you dependent on melatonin for the rest of your life. A Good Man is about Thomas Martin, a rich dude from Long Island working in Manhattan, who commits a horrific act and then when he can’t take it back, tries to convince himself that all he ever tried to do was be a good man. Ha! Funny again! Coincidentally, that’s what my ex said when I found him literally on top of another woman. He was also, in fact, not a good man. Another pro for this book is the fact that it has a pull quote on the cover from Caroline Kepnes, aka the author of You. If it’s endorsed by the woman who thought up Joe Goldberg, you know it’s the perfect kind of creepy.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Okay, if you thought you liked one attractive, charismatic psychopath in You, you are going to be thrilled when you meet the most f*cked up couple of all time in My Lovely Wife. Is the husband a murderer? Sure is! Is the wife a murderer? You betcha! Do they do it together as some kind of twisted sex game to keep the spark alive? Yes, ma’am! Should they have just gone to therapy? Probably, but it’d be less fun! This book is slippery though, so you never really know what’s going on until the very end, and that’s just how I like it, much like murdering young women is how the couple in this novel likes it. My Lovely Wife came out last March, and the best part is, if it really turns you on to murderous families, Downing has another thriller coming out on April 28th called He Started It.
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
So, yes, Darling Rose Gold is definitely more similar to The Act than it is to You, but I figure to us crime fiends that’s basically tomayto, tomahto, am I right? Plus there are plenty of murderous people in this, so you’ll be fine. Growing up, Rose Gold believed that she was seriously ill. Turns out, her mom Patty (YOU WOULD, PATTY), just did everything she could to make people believe that, even intentionally making Rose Gold sick. Patty went to prison, but now she’s out and Rose Gold takes her in. Such a sweetheart! Or is she? In this book, you can’t tell who is lying, and you can’t tell who is winning their little cat-and-mouse murder game until the very end. And who among us hasn’t wanted to kill their mother every once in a while?! (Not me, mom! Please still pay for that trip to Ireland!). You’ll have to wait until March for this one, but I promise you it’s worth the wait.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
The Stranger Beside Me is the OG book about a handsome and charming man who preys on young women. And all you sickos are just as thirsty for him as you are for Joe! I know this isn’t a novel (it’s true crime, FYI), but I’d put all my money on the fact that Ted Bundy and Joe Goldberg are distant relatives. Let’s get these two on Ancestry DNA!
The Stranger Beside Me is written by Ann Rule, and her writing style is so sweet and sincere, you’ll feel like your mother is telling you a comforting bedtime story, except that bedtime story includes the dates and times that dozens of women were murdered. The Stranger Beside Me has been out since 1980, so while you’re waiting on some of these other books to be released, you should definitely spend your time with this master class in true crime. And just remember, Ted Bundy is dead so you can’t send him nudes in prison, FOR GOD’S SAKE.
And those are my recommendations! If you read any of these, please let me know what you think. And if you think you’re not a reader, just throw one of these in your bag to check out on the subway just in case. Candy Crush will still be on your phone when you go to the bathroom later!
Images: Beth Dubber/Netflix; St. Martin’s Press; Source Books; Berkley Books (3); Penguin Books; WW Norton
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Some say that the best holiday gift was spending time with family. I, however, forwent family time this holiday season to lock myself in my childhood room and binge the second season of You because Netflix’s impeccable timing is truly the best gift of all. If you didn’t watch, just stop reading now because there will be many a spoiler. Season two is exactly like season one except it takes place in L.A. and is slightly better because more people die in this one, and because the names in this season are even dumber than Guinevere Beck, if you can believe it.
I’m not going to summarize the second season, nor am I going to review it, but I will offer five of my favorite inconsistencies because even though Joe Goldberg is my favorite Jewish murderer, he f*cked up a lot. Buckle up, because we’re about to take a drive through the biggest plot holes of You season two.
1. Henderson’s “Suicide”
Similar to that of Jeffery Epstein, Henderson’s death was a very obvious murder that the cops stupidly believed was a suicide. If watching 22 seasons of Law & Order: SVU has taught me anything, it’s that suicides are pretty easy to differentiate from homicides, so I’m confused how anyone with working vision could walk into Hendy’s sex dungeon and just be like, “Yep, suicide for sure.” To set the scene, Henderson is laying face down in a pool of his own blood with rope marks on both wrists and a f*ckton of GHB in his system. I’m no detective, but that doesn’t seem like a suicide to me, L.A.P.D.! Of course, he died in a sex dungeon, so the rope marks could have just been some kind of BDSM thing, but the GHB? Generally, if you want to enjoy the sex you’re about to have, you don’t roofie yourself right beforehand.
Obviously, it is later revealed that, surprise, his death actually wasn’t a suicide, and the police decide that the most obvious target on whom to pin the murder is a 15-year-old girl, because of course. All the cops had to do was visit the scene of the crime to realize that her fingerprints, hair, fibers, etc. are nowhere to be found to conclude that she was never down there. Of course, she could have been wearing gloves, but since she can barely read a book, if she was down there, she’d likely leave some evidence.
And lastly, if every 7/11 has a security camera on its slushy machines, wouldn’t it make sense for a hugely famous comedian in L.A. to have a few cameras on his multi-million dollar home to avoid things like break-ins and murders? All I gotta say is f*ck the police. Case closed, people.
2. The Whole LSD Incident
I can derail this plot line in one single sentence: LSD does not cause memory loss. Period. There are plenty of drugs that do, though, so I’m confused why the
sh*tty writers chose this specific drug for Joe’s epic blackout during which he’s convinced that he murdered hot neighbor Delilah. Also, why was Forty (why???) able to recall every detail of his night and Joe can’t remember a damn thing? They took the same drug, right?
Also, question for Forty: if you’re trying to have a really productive night, drugging your writing partner with a hallucinogen just doesn’t sound like it’d be a good idea. I can barely write a 1,000-word Betches story on iced coffee, so I can’t imagine having to bang out an entire script on f*cking acid. Forty also never really explains why he thought slipping the brains of the partnership a hallucinogen was a good call, so I’m doubly confused. It seems like it would have made more sense for them to rent a WeWork room and bang out a few pages before calling it a day.
3. The Au Pair’s “Suicide”
Ah, another very obvious murder staged as a suicide. If the police were to believe this was a suicide and not a troubled teen committing her first of many murders, they’d likely want the knife that the au pair supposedly used to confirm. However, had they done that, they would have found baby Love’s fingerprints all over it and filed a cute little manslaughter charge against her.
The Quinn family, who are supposed to be super loaded yet their only real asset is *checks notes* a health food store (sounds like MLM but okay), covers up the murder like it ain’t no thang. When I was in high school, I could barely manage to cover up skipping track practice to hang out with my boyfriend, let alone killing my babysitter in cold blood (and in broad daylight) and framing my brother for it. If Love wanted to kill the nanny and make it look like a suicide, why not just take a note from Henderson’s book and slip her a little too much GHB? Not that I spend my days thinking about how to kill the people I hate without going to jail for it, but drugs seem like the most obvious route to take.
4. The Cage
I know this is really specific, but how in the actual f*ck did Joe manage to bring the fiberglass soundproof cage with him from New York to L.A.? I once left a West Elm sofa in Atlanta because I couldn’t figure out how to get it from there to New York without spending more than the sofa was worth, but you’re telling me that a bookstore clerk moved a small building across the country? Bitch, please. Also, did he just steal it from the bookstore in New York or have a new one made? I know this seems like a really niche detail, but since most of the scenes take place in the storage unit, I have a lot of questions re: its cross-country journey.
Another issue I have with the cage is what it’s used for. I feel like this is a little much for old books, no? Like, the Declaration of Independence has a protective case, but not its own freaking house. Why do rare books from what seems like a run-of-the-mill bookstore get their own bulletproof mansion? It honestly seems like this cage was built for people to get murdered in, which is totally fine by me, but let’s stop pretending it’s saving old books from ruin and call a spade a spade, mmkay?
5. Love and Forty
The absurd names aren’t really a plot hole, but they are on this list because I need an explanation. In my opinion, you can’t name two of the main characters Love and Forty without some sort of reasoning behind them. All I know is that they are tennis terms, but since there is only one tennis scene in this show, I’m really f*cking confused—especially because the tennis scene was reminiscent of the one from Bridesmaids in that they all suck ass at tennis. It would be one thing if all of the characters had ridiculous names (they’re in L.A., after all), but I just feel like you can’t have some characters with names like Joe, Ellie and Candice and then have a few more named Love and Forty. WTF, Netflix? Aside from the fact that the twins’ names are weird af, I also don’t understand why one twin is named zero, essentially, and the other is named after the score just before match point. I’m seriously confused. Were Deuce and Fifteen taken by another teen thriller?
Did I miss any massive plot holes? Let me know in the comments! XOXO Gossip Girl
Images: Netflix Media Center; Giphy (5)