We Shouldn’t Be Romanticizing Love & Theo’s Relationship In ‘You’

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

5 Massive Plot Holes From ‘You’ Season Two

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)

‘You’s Joe Is Toxic And Crazy—But He’s Also What I’d Want In A Man

In case you missed it, the internet is flipping tf out over Netflix’s newest binge watch You, starring none other than Dan Humphrey himself. You technically premiered last fall on Lifetime but was just recently released on Netflix, and since nothing good ever happens in January (aside from my day of birth, duh) I guess people are just now tuning in and they are, ahem, spirited about the show. We had some initial thoughts about the show but now that I’ve personally had a chance to spend 10 hours in a dark room with my Netflix account watch it I’m about to unload on you even more. SORRY NOT SORRY.

If you’re not familiar with the premise, here’s the deal: Joe (aka Penn Badgley aka Dan Humphrey) is a hipster bookstore owner by day, unhinged (but somehow loveable??) stalker by night. He’s set his sights on the human incarnation of the reason people think white girls are insufferable: Guinevere Beck aka “Beck.” Beck is a struggling MFA student just trying to make it big as a poet (lol) and also still party with her rich girlfriends and be able to afford her massive, one bedroom apartment in “the village” (LOL). I’m halfway through the show and I can’t decide what I find more problematic: that Beck thinks she will make enough money as a poet to cover her student loan debt or that I’m actually attracted to someone who looks like he hangs out exclusively in Bushwick.

I guess I’m not the only one who’s wet for a psychopath (tbh I’ve been attracted to worse), because last week people took to Twitter to work our their childhood traumas  kindly ask Penn Badgley to kidnap them. I wish I was joking. See the evidence here:

No thx https://t.co/VnBqJ3JoxG

— Penn Badgley (@PennBadgley) January 9, 2019

A: He is a murderer https://t.co/g2g4f3JvaF

— Penn Badgley (@PennBadgley) January 9, 2019

Lonely Boy responded to fans by pointing out that Joe is actually a murderer and why would you fantasize about someone like that, to which I’d just like to say you clearly don’t understand me or my love language. Look, I get it. Joe’s character is a controlling stalker, he’s a murderer, and his relationship with Beck is less healthy than my Seamless history. But I think we have to acknowledge that there’s also something weirdly attractive about his character. And since I’ve spent the last 27 years of my life dating sociopaths (it’s a gift!) I thought I’d break down for you why everyone is so obsessed with Joe The Stalker.

1. He’s Committed

Say what you like about his psychotic tendencies, but the boy is committed. From the moment he sees Beck and strikes up a conversation with her (one that didn’t start with “ur hot” or “let’s bang”, I might add!!) he immediately knows what he wants and would even go so far as to kill for it. I can’t even get a guy to commit to a happy hour, much less KILL for me. My relationships usually go something like this: boy meets girl, boy takes girl to get drinks, boy sleeps with girl, boy immediately says he’s not ready for anything serious three seconds after pulling out, girl says “nah I’ll pass”, boy blows up girl’s texts, voicemail, and Instagram DMs for the next two years because he wants to “hang out” again. TELL ME HOW THAT IS ANY LESS SOCIOPATHIC. In a time when men are so wishy-washy, when they can’t even begin to vocalize what they want, there’s something that’s insanely sexy about Joe’s intense commitment to Beck. 

2. He’s Engaged

Not only is he 100 percent committed to Beck, but he’s actually engaged in the relationship. He listens to her when she speaks, he takes an interest in what she’s interested in. He supports her interests and career goals and doesn’t even laugh out loud when she reads from her sad hand written book poetry collection!! I’ve literally been on a date with a guy who, when he found out I wrote for Betches, said “that’s cool but have you ever thought about really getting published?” Betches only has an audience of over five million people and casually made Forbes “30 Under 30” list, but I guess because it’s targeted towards women it doesn’t count? Lol I love the patriarchy! It’s this display of unconditional support that might be why women like myself find Joe, a murderous stalker but who actually takes a woman seriously, so damn sexy. Idk.

3. He Looks Out For Beck’s Best Interests

Throughout the majority of the show, Joe is constantly saving Beck from herself. Before she meets him she’s the booty call of an artisan soda maker, she’s broke, barely writing, and about to get kicked out of her MFA program (again, LOL that she was ever accepted in the first place). In short, Beck is me sucks. After she starts dating Joe she’s writing regularly, acting more fiscally responsible, and she even stopped masturbating in front of open windows, which feels like the biggest win here tbh.

Now, would Joe’s controlling behavior be more frightening if he focused that energy on how she dressed and who she spoke to, instead of trying to advance her career and feed her avocado toast? Absolutely. But the things he wants for her don’t seem that bad, which might be why the internet is willing to overlook some of these scary traits.

So there you have it. I rest my case. To the trolls who I CHALLENGE to @ me in the comments, I’d just like to reiterate that I understand Joe is toxic and trash but, like, so is every other man on the planet. I’m not advocating this as a healthy relationship. But I do get why women are attracted to him. The fact that every woman with a pulse on Twitter is setting the bar for the male species at “crazy stalker who is interested but might kill people” should say something about our current dating climate. Instead of pretending like you have NO IDEA why women would stoop so low, maybe think about why we would want to in the first place. This concludes my TED Talk. 

Images: Twitter (2); Giphy (3)

Is Penn Badgley’s New Show Problematic?

I started watching Lifetime’s YOU for the same reason I assume everyone did. As a self-loathing 24 year-old with an English degree an ex-Gossip Girl addict, I missed watching Penn Badgley condescend to women about literature on my TV. And YOU does serve up plenty of that—but it also serves up a narrative that walks through very dangerous territory. As the show follows the story of one guy’s growing obsession with a girl, it has the potential to fall on the side of harmless, bingeworthy pop-horror—or on the side of sexist, hurtful garbage. Here’s why I’m a little worried it’ll be the latter.

For those who don’t know, Lifetime’s YOU is about a crazed stalker/bookstore owner named Joe (Badgley) who becomes obsessed with an MFA student/generally insufferable “poet” named Beck. (Guinevere Beck in full, just to give you a sense of the writing we’re working with here). The show is (mostly) narrated from Joe’s point of view, a device that’s apparently carried over from the source material. We hear as Joe decides to indulge his obsession: following her, breaking into her apartment, stealing her phone. We hear the judgments he makes as he examines her life: her friends are shallow and stupid; her choices in men are hopelessly misguided; and above all, she needs to be rescued from her own worst impulses. Rescued, of course, by Joe.

The decision to have us hear Joe’s thoughts is useful, to an extent. We hear the jumps in his logic early on (“I should Google her” becomes “I should masturbate outside her window” very swiftly), establishing firmly that he is disturbed and we should treat him as such. But hearing his thoughts also creates an instinctive desire to understand him, as you experience the story through his eyes. And given that the show’s view of Beck does very little to contradict his impressions—her friends are portrayed as rich, unsupportive airheads, and her pseudo-boyfriend is a celiac entrepreneur with a trust fund. To an extent, YOU tells us that Joe is right, and Beck does need to be saved from these monsters.

Of course, you could argue that the story is simply uninteresting if Beck is an unflawed character. But in the first four episodes (SPOILERS), we see Joe save Beck’s life, help her work through deep-seated issues with her father, and re-invigorate her confidence as a writer. Yes, we also see him murder a man in a bookstore basement, but YOU does everything short of casting Donald Trump to ensure that we want that man dead anyway. For every act or thought that could only belong to a complete maniac, Joe is somehow given an equal and opposite opportunity to prove himself as Best Boyfriend Ever. And between that dangerous balancing act and the flashbacks to (what I assume is) Joe’s abusive father, I’m getting a little concerned about the picture YOU is painting.

Ultimately, the question of how much we want Joe’s character humanized is key. The more we watch Joe have a positive impact on Beck’s life, or hear Joe’s opinions and agree with them, or are shown flashbacks intended to make us feel sympathy for Joe, the more we’re distanced from his active decision to prey on a strange woman. Every time Beck’s friends are mocked or demonized for questioning her choice in Joe (ostensibly, because he makes no money), it complicates the narrative of “man terrorizes woman.” In an odd way, the story instead becomes “Joe is so great for Beck—if only he weren’t also a terrorizing psycho!” It suggests, in turn, that Beck would be better off if someone like Joe came into her life. Just a version without childhood trauma that causes him to stalk and kill people.

But I never sought out this show in hopes of watching a woman get saved by a man. I came hoping to watch a terrible man behave terribly, and eventually be punished for it. I came for the kind of justice that’s rare as ever in our current world, where a bad man is outed and punished appropriately. Instead, I’m getting the same of what we see in the news, or what’s been written in every book with a male author since the dawn of time. A man did a bad thing—but it’s complicated, and he had a bad childhood, and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, and hey, she’s not perfect either!

Like I said, I understand the need to have “complicated” characters on both sides for the overall non-awfulness of the story. But when you’re showing Beck swiping indiscriminately on Tinder and Joe driving around a corpse in his trunk in the same episode—and implying that judgment is equally deserved for both—I’m going to lose a little patience. Explore Beck’s character all you want, but portray Joe the stalker as the monster he is, and not as a morally comparable puzzle we should all be eager to solve.

Images: Lifetime; Giphy (3)

The Most Bingeworthy TV Shows This Fall

As I sit in my flannel, jeans, and black ankle boots, I can happily confirm that the fall season is upon us. True, it’s still mid-70s and I’m only dressed this way because there was a tick advisory for my workplace today (working in TV is all glamour, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). But I’m sure we can all agree that it feels like fall. In other words, it’s time to curl up in front of your TV and forget the words “crop top” for another nine months. While you probably spent all summer bingeing Office reruns (same), fall is the time for new, highly anticipated TV. In order of when they come out, here are the new and returning TV shows that will dominate your life for the next few months. Please set your DVR accordingly.

‘You’ – September 9, Lifetime

I should qualify at the start of this list that not every show will be what’s traditionally considered “good.” For example, most of the dialogue in this particular show makes me want to throw myself through a window. But like, in the BEST way. This show is about Penn Badgley playing a stalker freak who becomes obsessed with a slightly vapid blond and immediately starts doing psycho sh*t like writing about her on an anonymous website breaking into her apartment and messing with her life. So basically, a dark yet accurate glimpse into Dan’s future. (Extremely self-aware of Penn Badgley to take this role.) This is my new favorite guilty pleasure show, and if you’re a fan of Lifetime at all, I can’t recommend it enough.

The first of many red flags he displays in this show:

‘Maniac’ – September 21, Netflix

Okay so polar opposite of the last show, but also about mental health. Can’t imagine why that’s trendy right now when we have such a stable genius in the White House! Anyway. This whole season dropped on 9/21, and it stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone. Even in this ~Golden Age~ of television, that’s a pretty high-end cast. I won’t tell you much about the plot beyond the fact that they both have a sh*t-ton of baggage and sign up for a pharmaceutical trial. The plot is less important than the vibe, which so far is like every episode of Black Mirror smushed into one world. This show is good for an all-day binge when you’re up for actually thinking about what you’re watching. Invite over your artiest friend so they force you to pay attention through the first 3 episodes, it’s kind of slow to start up.

‘Dancing With The Stars’ – September 24, ABC

Have I ever watched this show before? No, and I probably won’t again. But who could resist seeing Grocery Store Joe flit across the stage! I give you permission to stop watching as soon as he’s cut.

‘This Is Us’ – September 25, NBC

You all know what this one is for. This is the show you come to when you need a really good cry, or when you want to ignore all your problems and pretend Mandy Moore is your mom for a while. Also, to get your weekly Sterling K. Brown fix, which is right up there in terms of importance with drinking water and getting enough sleep. It’s just a fact of life. This season, we’re going back to Jack and Rebecca’s first date—and Randall’s daughter, Tess, all grown up. Few things are as pure as my love for this show.

Anyone else need to watch this on repeat to cleanse from this week’s news cycle?

‘Modern Family’ – September 26, ABC

Did we all kind of get over Modern Family five years ago when it won every award? Yeah, maybe. But this is likely the final season, and they’ve been teasing a “significant death,” so I’m planning on riding out the show until the end. It’s the least you can do for something that gave you a few good years, like when you loyally wear your favorite black leggings until they’re completely sheer in the crotch. Watch out of loyalty, watch because Phil is still funny AF, or watch because you’re hungover and it comes on next on Hulu. Up to you.

‘The Good Place’ – September 27, NBC

Very few shows like The Good Place have come around in the past few years, and I’m deeply grateful when they do. It’s from the creator of Parks & Rec, and has the same soothing effect of all your fave 25-minute comedies. Kristen Bell has spent the first two seasons figuring out that she’s in (SPOILERS) Hell, aka the Bad Place. Season 3 opens up with her and her 3 companions having been redeposited on Earth to give things another try. Will they f*ck it up in a largely similar way to the first time? Probably, their memories were erased so IDK why they wouldn’t. But it’ll be fun to watch them try to fight their baser instincts for a while.

‘How To Get Away With Murder’ – September 27, ABC

This is another show that’s sadly nowhere near as good as it used to be. But at its best it was so iconic that I still can’t look away. No matter how ridiculous the rest of it gets, Annalise is still the epitome of boss b*tch goals, and Laurel still has an annoyingly good lingerie collection for someone with such a terrible personality.

‘Riverdale’ – October 10, CW

Of course the show I’m most excited for doesn’t come back until October 10th. OF COURSE. Season 3 of Riverdale is about to be f*cking lit. We’re dealing with the aftermath of Archie’s arrest, an all-out war with Hiram, more screen time for Cheryl and Toni, and some weird cult stuff with Betty’s sister. The promo shows Archie shirtless, more milkshakes at Pop’s, and what appears to be a ritual sacrifice of two babies. Exactly what you’d expect and get more than you dared hope, in classic Riverdale fashion. And obviously we’ll be recapping it.

Me all season:

The best part of these fall shows? Since they’re all newly released, you’re basically engaging in a cultural activity with every binge. Some people go to museums; you binge artful new storytelling techniques. Or at least that’s what you’ll tell yourself as you order Seamless the sixth time that week. Happy watching!

Images: The CW; Giphy (4)