BY SOPHIE KEYWOOD
So, I have just finished the Caroline Kepnes Netflix series You and I am honestly shook to the core.
I have read articles about how ‘Joe’ is sexy and romanticizes being stalked & kidnapped; maybe some dark fantasy, 50 shades thing? I don’t know? I have read about how people believe that he is not a stalker but a romantic. People on Twitter are asking Penn Badgley to kidnap them…
In episode one it was difficult for me to make a separation between him and his actions; the first person narration draws us in as if he is a personal friend or in fact our own voice. His behavior is completely normalized, he is grounded and could be anyone you meet everyday and that’s what makes it so terrifying. We follow his voice gliding over the topics of love and literature, he shrouds us with ‘real talk’ and encourages our following as he compartmentalizes Beck’s life. It’s not until he says “Jesus, it’s like you’ve never seen a horror movie” that we realize we are in one. Joe shows us how easy it is to stalk someone; through social media, he manages to break the walls of Beck’s life down until she is exposed to him utterly. When he looks through the window at her in her towel it is just the objectification of what he has done with her information in his head.
We all know that Benji is “EVERYTHING that’s wrong with America”. For this reason, we don’t want him to be with Beck, we follow Joe’s hatred for him and are turned against him with Joe constantly whispering in our ear. His cocaine & fucking, the fact that he bullied and killed a homosexual boy with his friends, all leads up to the climactic moment of his death; which was inevitable, but we still can’t quite believe.
Beck is the personification of all the female victims; she has her suspicions, but Joe represses them for her; he pushes her distrust back onto herself. He makes her believe that she is being ‘crazy’ or that she’s ‘tired’ or ‘sad’ and that’s why she is doubting him, and then she’s doubting herself.
It’s ironic that we follow Joe’s disgust at Ron’s behavior towards Claudia throughout the series. Joe’s protects Paco and is irrationally angry towards the situation when he accuses Claudia of being weak, expressing his opinion that she should do more like a mother to protect her child. But Joe is quite the sadist himself… why are Beck & Peach any different to Claudia?
“How the hell did you end up here?
You used to wrap yourself in fairy tales like a blanket but it was the cold you loved. Sharp shivers as you uncovered the corpses of Bluebeard’s wives. Sweeter goosebumps as Prince Charming slid one glass slipper over your little toes, a perfect fit. But by the schoolyard, real princesses floated by you on fall winds. You saw the gulf between you and the rich girls and vowed to stop believing in fairy tales but the stories were in you, deep as poison. If Prince Charming was real, if he could save you, you needed to be saved from the unfairness of everything, when would he come? The answer was a cruel shrug in a hundred fleeting moments. The sneer on Stevie Smith’s face when he called you a fat cow. Uncle Jeff’s hand squeezing your ass in the Thanksgiving Kitchen. The accusation in your father’s eyes when you told him what happened. From every boy masquerading as a man that you let into your body, your heart, you learned you didn’t have whatever magic turns a beast into a prince. You surrounded yourself with the girls you’d always resented, hoping to share their power, and you hated yourself. And that diminished you even more. And then, right when you thought you might just disappear, he saw you. And you knew, somewhere deep, it was too good to be true. But you let yourself be swept because he was the first strong enough to lift you. Now, in his castle, you understand Prince Charming and Bluebeard are the same men. And you don’t get a happy end unless you love both of him. Didn’t you want this? To be loved? Didn’t you want him to crown you? Didn’t you ask for it? Didn’t you ask for it? Didn’t you ask for it? So say you can live like this. Say you love him, say thank you, say anything but the truth.
What if you can’t love him back?”
I don’t know if there are words to emphasize how good this piece of writing is? I don’t want to demean it with a breakdown or an analysis. I have felt these words, I have said them and probably written them down somewhere on a crumpled, coffee-stained piece of notepaper. Maybe in a different jumble of letters, but the same broken fairy tale.
There is a moment when we think Beck will escape; willing with every inch that she will run & run & not look back until Joe is rotting in jail, but we also know that that is not realistic and if writers, producers, directors want to portray something that is real and that happens to real people every single day, then Beck needed to die.
Following Beck’s story, being a part of her life for 10 episodes, watching her fight, using her strength and intelligence to break free. The feminist in all of us is kicking and screaming when she stabs Joe with a key from her typewriter. It is then heart wrenching to see her black and white picture on the front of the book, like a memorial shrine to someone who was never actually there, a broken memory reduced to a black & white picture that Joe chose, to claim that its the ‘last thing they did together.’
Joe back in his uniform sweeping the shop floor as if nothing has changed is a mirror for society; on the surface looking as if it is doing everything to support victims when actually it’s just sweeping them under the carpet with the rest of the debris.
I have added a link in here for an article published in 2018 about male violence in the UK, “last year, 139 women died in the UK as a result of male violence. This misogyny is not inevitable, it’s preventable.”