Netflix’s ‘You’ Raises Awareness About Social Issues

Netflix’s ‘You’ Raises Awareness About Social Issues

Arianna Nahim

“What is love?” What is love indeed? The famous line from the popular song, “What is Love” by the band Haddaway, poses a question many people, both young and old, ponder.

Is it roses left on a doorstep? Breakfast in bed? Promise rings? Perhaps burying a body together? 

The next line to that catchy tune happens to be, “Baby, don’t hurt me.” The song exemplifies the confusion of mixing emotions of love with hurt. Anyone who’s seen Netflix’s hit show You knows that the fictional husband and wife Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn, easily fit into that line. With the spontaneous and impulsive murders, they commit, it almost seems inevitable that they will turn on each other. Their Bonnie-and-Clyde love story has captivated millions, as fans on Twitter gush over their relationship and call it “goals.” However, aside from the crazy plot surrounding this show, there are also some important social topics surrounding ‘You.’

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Pretty Privilege

Aside from their (sometimes deadly) loyalty and devotion to each other, there’s one more thing that fans of the show are attracted to: beauty.  Whether people would like to admit it or not, pretty privilege, the privilege that comes from simply being perceived as attractive, exists. For the past three seasons, fans have been enamored by the looks of Joe Goldberg: is cool exterior, chiseled facial structure, and sultry stare drew the viewer in. Through Joe’s narration and charming face, he is able to gain the sympathy and understanding of the audience, but this can be seen past the tv screen.

In real life, pretty privilege lent a hand to the notorious killer, Ted Bundy. Bundy was able to lure women in with his bright smile, and once he was charged for murdering the women he lured in, he would use the same smile to disarm the courtoom and prolong his trial with his charming disposition. This is the same situation with fictional character Joe Goldberg. 

In a small survey given to Patriot Highschool upperclassmen, 46% of students polled felt a feeling of understanding or sympathy towards Joe. He is characterized as someone who protects people and only does wrong when he absolutely has to. To add on, his good looks may draw pity from his audience.

His narration and understanding of the way others work and how he can get his way adds to this percentage’s perception. Whether it’s video edits highlighting Joe’s looks or tweets dismissing his psychotic behavior, pretty privilege has tricked the viewer, ultimately leaving Joe Goldberg victorious. 

Feminism

Feminism, like any movement, is redefined over the years. It can be seen through women joining the workforce, refusing to shave, or killing the neighbor their husband has had a wandering eye for. The fictional character, Love Quinn Goldberg, has lured in many women through her loyal traits despite being a serial killer like her husband Joe. But what makes her different and empowering in a way? Her motives. With Joe, it’s all about “saving” women. He’s attracted to women who would depend on him. Love, on the other hand, is driven by protecting those she already has relationships with. 

Although she goes to extreme lengths many female viewers still see this take-charge attitude of hers as empowering.  There are posts dedicated to Love. In the Tik-Tok there are multiple photos of Love with the audio saying, “I don’t believe in the glorification of murder, but I do believe in the empowerment of women.” This post alone garnered 48.4k likes and hundreds of comments favoring Love. But the glorification of all things having to do with Love herself stemmed from something much larger, the westernization of feminism. This is when the voices of non-white women are ignored, and instead more frivolous issues are addressed. For example, in a Buzzfeed video posted in 2018, women of the production painted a blank canvas with their own period blood as a way of “empowerment”. The video has since been taken down however, what this does is paint feminism as a “quirky” phase a girl goes through. Although this is just a small layer to a big problem, it is still impactful. Portraying a psychotic serial killer as empowering weakens the point of feminism. It’s not taken seriously, and the idealization of Love Quinn Goldberg has added to this problem. 

‘You’ Plays a Positive Role in Increasing Knowledge on Social Issues

The effect that this hit show has had isn’t all bad though. Being able to recognize social issues like pretty privilege and the effect western society has had on feminism is a positive thing. These are societal issues and when a widespread show sheds light on these topics we as viewers have the power to change these issues.  In a way, the 21st century T.V. screen has morphed into a mirror. A mirror that reflects society.  

While this Bonnie and Clyde-styled killer show hasn’t clarified  the definition of what love is, it  has shed light on other important themes such as pretty privilege and feminism and started conversations worth having so we can define love in a healthy way.