I love villains and antagonists. Seeing people depicted on screen who possess the very qualities and sentiments that we’re taught by the very same media to shy away from, is fascinating to say the least. Villains who seek out rightful revenge, villains who take justice into their own hands, villains who treat morality like the silent, subjective code for humanity that is is, villains who disregard the law much like the people who are in charge of upholding them. The beauty of villains is that they show us the real representation of humanity, the good and bad in us all, and that’s why it can be seen as taboo to root for someone like Darth Vader or The Joker. All of us have the potential to be someone like The Joker, but fear of repercussions and reputation holds most of us back. I say most of us because there are villains around us everyday in plain sight. But seeing them on-screen sometimes is like looking in a mirror and plainly laying out your shadow side for you to see, all the thoughts and qualities you refuse to bring to the surface and keep locked away in a mental safe like a Dark Phoenix.
I think we as everyday people have an over-exaggerated idea of what it is to be evil and a villain, and I think that’s why You has been such a hit on Netflix recently. Almost every character on that show is terrible and insufferable in their own way but it’s fun to watch because we can see the embarrassing and problematic aspects of ourselves in them as well. Joe is definitely a special case with this, as I’m actually horrified by the amount of tweets I’ve seen from women and men alike romanticizing this freak and saying how much they can relate to him.
Joe is your typical New Yorker white guy with a heavy superiority complex because he hates social media, prefers paperbacks over Kindle, and judges women for falling victim to misogyny instead of blaming the issue and men itself. He’s basically Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl on steroids and way more poor.
After seeing this show and how the minds of men like Joe operate, I had to reevaluate my life but specifically how I date and vet men. There are a ton of excuses made for men who abuse and damage women, and I honestly couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of it because it’s literally none of my business. “He’s been cheated on! He’s been played so many times in the past! He’s closed off because he’s been hurt!” Ok cool, go to a therapist. Don’t go out strategically hunting for women to date so you can act out your sick fantasies and unresolved trauma with.
What’s so genius about this show though is how cleverly written it was. The entire time you’re viewing the actions and mindset of an abuser firsthand, you’re sitting shotgun with him as you watch how his twisted mind works through each episode. You witness the entire thought process and explanations behind the manipulation and yet... you still fall for it and find yourself rooting for Joe so that he doesn’t get caught despite him being a stalker, an emotional abuser, and a murderer. Essentially, you also become the victim in his quest to conquer Beck in every way that he can. The writing lets the viewer experience what emotional abuse is like firsthand, but to a lesser extent of course.
The mind games, the controlling nature, the rationalization of abusive actions, the stalking. It was such a creepy yet engrossing journey to see how Joe successfully manipulated everyone around him and actually got away with it (and murder). And I say engrossing because at times watching Joe in action felt like watching myself from the outside when it comes to dating. You would be a liar if you said you’ve never found a guy’s Facebook/Instagram within a day of meeting him simply from getting a first name. Girls joke about it all the time, being skillful detectives on the dating scene and finding all their information after a small exchange or even just seeing him online.
But it then becomes creepy to you once you realize the same actions that a psychopath like Joe does, is the same thing you’ve been doing for god knows how long. And the craziest part is how normalized it’s become so it’s not really considered stalking despite the fact that we gather intel before getting to know the person to see what kind of person they are. You want to see where they hangout at, what kind of friends they have, where they work, what their hobbies are, a glimpse of their personality and personal life before you really decide to invest any sort of time and energy into this person. Truth be told, it’s a little invasive when you think about it, despite this information being public online.
We usually use this information for 1 of two reasons: 1) To see if they’re worth pursuing and giving your time and energy to. 2) The more sinister reason, people collect this personal information in order to shape-shift into a reflection of that person. This is what abusers like Joe do, they mimic your actions and interests to trick you into thinking you two actually have some things in common which leads you down a rabbit hole of thinking like, “We have so much in common are we soulmates?! Omg he might be the one for me. I’ve never met anyone so much like me!”
Instead of asking women out and getting to know them in person, how dating should be, men will stalk and study women so that they can transform themselves into the kind of guy that they thinks the girl they’re interested in wants (but how would he know if he doesn’t even know her yet!) or needs because the real him is a broken creep with unaddressed trauma that any stable and sane woman would run from because she’s not easily blinded by love and manipulation. This is when friendship circles come into play. Abusive men more often than not will hate their prey’s friends because they know their friends can smell their bullshit from a mile away. They don’t want their friends interfering with their plans of basically destroying their target from the inside out for their own pleasure. Everyone has a Peach Salinger (RIP) in their circle, hell your whole circle might be a bunch of Peach Salinger’s. And a man like Joe will do everything they can to isolate you and get them out of the picture, which Joe did quite successfully.
Joe was quite the master at gaslighting everyone around him, and even the audience. He made you second guess your stance, your morals, and your opinion of the other characters. He killed Benji and tortured him for days yet you still find yourself like, “Hmm maybe he has some points. Maybe Peach IS an attention seeker. He’s taking care of a little boy, he can’t be that bad. Maybe Beck’s friends AREN’T good for her...” But this is where discernment comes in and you have to really define what’s good and bad to you. It tests your morality. Watching this show reminded me that 2 things can be true; that Joe is a fucking psycho and Peach was a little crazy too. But she was nowhere near as dangerous as Joe, so I definitely wasn’t going to side with Joe and defend him just because there’s another psycho in town. At the worst Peach would’ve been like the clingy insufferable best friend that needs to be around you 24/7 while Joe is actually a serial killer so yeah.
But that’s why abusers are abusers, they’re good at distorting your view of other people based off of their twisted perceptions and projections. What the responses I’ve seen from this show has shown me is that a lot of people still aren’t good at spotting these tactics. Worst of all, I’ve seen men ruin it (as they do with everything) and make memes out of Joe, threatening to turn into him if their girl does something they don’t like. Even funnier, Penn Badgley has been on twitter constantly telling folks not to romanticize Joe because he’s fucking crazy!
Joe is such a menace because he will read you like a book and use your insecurities and fears against you without you even realizing it. And unfortunately this describes like 90% of the male population, we all know at least one guy like Joe and cringe at all the red flags we missed or ignored because it would’ve saved us a lot of trouble.
But Joe is also a representation of the many men who use their superiority complex and psychotic behavior to cover up how fucked up they are, and they are running amok on the dating scene unfortunately, which is why I’ve personally resorted to becoming a nun. Men will whine about women who are insecure and have daddy issues that show their ass on the internet for attention, meanwhile they’re killing people and abusing women because their childhood was atrocious and they refuse to address it. What’s worse, lookin’ caked up or crazy?
His trauma manifested in so many ways, trauma from childhood and past relationships. His constant fear of being cheated on led to his stalkerish & controlling ways, thinking if he kept Beck on a tight enough leash then it wouldn’t happen again. His past has since become a part of him, leading him to feel compelled to display bizarre behaviors when in a relationship. Being a control freak, keeping tabs on Beck, lurking before and during their breakup, doing everything he could to please and keep her, projecting onto her when trying to fill in the cracks of unanswered thoughts with his own insecurities and assumptions.
But it was clear, especially towards the end of their relationship, that Joe genuinely believed that Beck could love his pain away. The worst part about his character is that despite him being a psycho, he was very much a romantic guy who wanted love and I think that’s the point of this entire show, to show how these desirable traits can exist in the most dangerous people. Joe was so damaged that he believed the love Beck had for him would finally make his trauma and pain disappear, but that’s not how love, life, or trauma works at all.
Love is grand but it can only do so much. We cannot use love and other people as a bandaid to temporarily heal our trauma, using them as a quick fix. With Beck having a flighty crackhead father and Joe being tortured as a child then cheated on as he got older, some shit was bound to go down between the two of them eventually. Their relationship was the result of two dysfunctional and damaged people becoming attached to each other, thinking their love was an explosion of irresistible fireworks, when in reality it was unhealthy codependency for the most part. They didn’t know how to be without each other, they were drawn to each other in the worst way. In relationships where there’s unresolved trauma with both parties, it tends to spill over into each other’s lives and creates turmoil. When you have so much unpacked baggage, you don’t fully know yourself and neither can anyone else, so your relationship will be based off of falsehoods and a charade that you can only keep up for so long.
Beck went as far as to pursue Joe when he got into a relationship after their breakup, convinced that she couldn’t live without him and that he was The One. And that’s why she died and the good sis Karen lived to keep it a buck. Black women be knowing, she warned Beck but Beck (like many other women) thought she was so special and immune from the imminent wrath of Joe that was about to be unleashed.
Intuition never seemed to be anyone’s strong suit on this show besides Peach, and she was killed for it because she knew too much. Beck’s own insecurities have never allowed her to have strong intuition, and definitely not one that she could trust because otherwise she wouldn’t have been messing with Benji’s goofy ass. Joe’s intuition was right, but only sometimes. Like many of us, he had yet to master the art of differentiating intuition from paranoia that resulted from past trauma. It only made matters worse when he believed Beck was cheating, she denied it and basically said he was crazy... then he turned out to be right because she was fucking their therapist. How does one ever learn to trust themselves when they’re constantly lied to and gaslighted?
”Everything goes to shit when I don’t follow my instincts.”
The gaggiest part about this show was when I realized that Beck was just as trash as Joe in her own ways. Sure she never killed anyone but she did gaslight Joe for a while, cheated on him, purposefully pursued him while he was in a healthy, stable relationship, and was full of self-sabotage that effected Joe too. They were both terrible for each other if you can see past the pancakes and how Joe’s obsession with Beck could translate into loving devotion.
“You think Claudia knew Ron was a shitbag when she met him? No, she thought he was a prince.”
It takes an abuser to know one. Despite Joe being a fucked up individual with the soul of Norman Bates, he very much knows how the minds of women work. From the moment he laid eyes on Beck, he was sizing her up from the jewelry she wore to the skirt she was wearing. He practically did a psych evaluation based on her presentation and the worst part is that he wasn’t wrong. He’s never been wrong about Beck or any of her friends, he’s mastered being able to know people better than they know themselves which is ironic because he has no self awareness, like him wholeheartedly believing that his abusive and homicidal behavior was all for Beck, her safety, and her happiness.
“Everything I do, I do to protect you Beck. Peach and Benji left me no choice, they were dangerous. I think you might be in danger again.” He said these words as he thought about killing Dr. Nicky because to him, he perceives anyone who takes up Beck’s time and attention as a threat.
According to Joe, none of Beck’s friends were good for her, only his bookstore Patrick Bateman ass was. When it came to him trying to get rid of Ron, his abusive neighbor, he wasn’t doing it for Claudia or because it was the right thing to do. He saw himself in Pablo as a helpless little boy and saw this situation as his chance to get justice for his childhood self. His quest to conquer Beck and “heal” his trauma is far from over though, since murder doesn’t cure everything and he’s not as smart as he thinks.
This twisted tale of love is one that has huge potential to help change how we view abuse and engage in the act of dating. You shows the complexity of abusers and lays their blueprint out entirely while showing the important role friendships play in abusive relationships. It’s all one big game of who can manipulate who best as the audience tries to decipher who is the least crazy and annoying character. In a world of Joe Goldbergs and boring ass Becks, aim to be a Blythe; pretty, mentally stable, successful, and semi-obnoxious.