You Season Three, created by Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble, has a compelling story but is problematic from the jump.
Erasure of Toxic Masculinity
In the first season, it was clear that stalker serial killer Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) revealed how the media glamorizes certain types of toxic masculinity. For example, in movies like Twilight, women find stalking and possessive behavior romantic. Penn Badgley talks about how Joe is the older version of Gossip Girl’s his “good guy” teenager character. Dan Humphrey uses his “Gossip Girl” persona to stalk and manipulate Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) into marrying him.
When You Season 2 added abusive serial killer Love Quinn-Goldberg (Victoria Pedretti) to the mix, it diminished the original feminist message of the series. The feminist message is further diminished in the third season when Joe’s new wife, Love, murders several people.
Joe starts to become sympathetic when we learn more about his horrific childhood. He attempts to stop obsessing over women for their newborn son, Henry. Joe only kills cruel news reporter Ryan Goodwin (Scott Michael Foster) and his wife, Love, who poisons him to force him to stay in the marriage.
Love is out of control this season. It turned out years ago; she accidentally killed her first husband, James, with the poisonous plant wolfsbane to stop him from leaving her.
Love continues to grow the wolfsbane. Even though Joe spends half-season gaslighting Love (the tool of abusive husbands), it’s hard to feel sympathy for her.
Love murders realtor Natalie Engler (Michaela McManus) after buying a building from her. She kills Natalie out of jealously because she knows about Joe’s obsession with her.
After the murder, Natalie’s stepson college student Theo Engler (Dylan Arnold) has an emotional affair with Love. Joe saves Theo after Love’s attack by sending him to the hospital.
Love has poor impulse control. She violently kidnaps anti-vaxxer professor Gil Brigham (Mackenzie Astin) because his daughter gave baby Henry measles.
The sexist depiction of Love dilutes Joe’s toxic masculinity. Love’s character perpetuates the stereotype of the hormonal out-of-control psychotic killer woman. In contrast to her, Joe seems calm and collected, erasing the whole premise of the show.
Still a Compelling Season
Despite the erasure of the message of the first season, the television show is still compelling. Joe Goldberg’s narration continues to connect us to the character. Narration is a brilliant story device that helps viewers empathize with a character like Joe because we learn firsthand the reasons for all his twisted actions.
In “And They Lived Happily Ever After,” the couple returns home with their baby. Joe’s narration tells us that he hates living in wealthy suburban Madre Linda. He only moved there to protect their son. He doesn’t feel comfortable in his suburban surroundings but is trying his best. Joe even waves at the nosey neighbors.
The setup immediately grabs us. Joe and Love, psychopathic killers, deal with living in a wealthy Californian, closed-knit community where they can’t hide in anonymity like in Los Angeles or New York. Penn Badgley’s natural charm makes it hard not to root for him, especially when most of the other characters are self-centered one-percenters. For example, “momfluencer” Sherry Conrad (Shalita Grant). Self-centered Sherry bullies everybody who doesn’t fit the Madre Linda mold.
Suburbia Madre Linda creates a sense of claustrophobia and suspense. Neither Joe nor Love can hide away from the person most likely to find them out. The Quinn-Golbergs live right next door to reclusive tech mogul Natalie’s husband, Matthew Engler (Scott Speedman). Matthew controls cameras all around town that he uses to hunt for Natalie’s killer.
Joe and Love framed Gil for her murder after the kidnapped professor committed suicide out of shame. However, Matthew doesn’t believe that the sweet professor murdered his wife. Instead, he uses crazy high-level tech that he invented, like computers chips, to monitor his neighbors and dead wife’s health. Tech genius Matthew intently hunting for his neighbors creates suspense since we never know when he will learn the truth.
Failing to Deal With Racism or White Privilege
You Season 3 raises’ issues of systemic racism, then bypasses delving into them. At first, it seemed like the television show was finally going to tackle white privilege. Joe’s new boss and obsession Marienne Bellamy (Tati Gabrielle) is a Black Librarian who illustrates children’s books on the side. Marienne and her blind best friend Dante Ferguson (Ben Mehl) introduce Joe to the term” Missing White Woman Syndrome.”
Dante explains it as, “When upper-class, attractive white ladies go missing, they get tons of media coverage. It doesn’t happen to other victims.” Marienne calls Joe out on his lie that he understood “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” which implies that society’s women of color are not valued. The librarian is Joe’s first stalking victim, who’s a woman of color, which left the show the opportunity to explore further issues that BIPOCs face every day.
Instead of taking this opportunity to tackle racial inequalities in society, the white creators Berlanti and Gamble decided to whitewash the story. When Marienne learns that Joe was primarily raised in an orphanage and foster care, she suddenly decides that he understands her life. She stops being overly critical of Joe because he doesn’t come from money. Unfortunately, the writers ignore the inherent privilege of all heterosexual White men that prevents Joe from truly understanding her life experience.
Marienne being a recovering drug addict, further dirties the water. She struggles to regain custody of her daughter, Juliette, from her abusive ex-husband Ryan.
Marienne mentions to Joe that the justice system doesn’t favor Black women. But it’s clear that her ex-husband uses a previous case of child endangerment and her former drug charges as the primary tool to keep her in line.
There are no scenes of judges, lawyers, or anybody else being racist toward Marienne. Instead, Joe silently declares himself her White Savior. He runs around planting drugs on Ryan, then blitz killing him to “protect” Marienne. Now the show depicts Joe’s stalking of Marianne as wrong, but his White male savior complex is never called out.
You Season 3 should probably be the last of You. The show has lost its focus on toxic masculinity now that Joe has turned into a reluctant villain who doesn’t kill “good” people.
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