This post contains spoilers for You, and also discusses violence against women.
I admit it, I watched all of it. The entire series of Lifetime and Netflix’s (it’s confusing) You, starring Elizabeth Lail and Penn Badgley. It drew me in because, I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a show that features a bookstore owner and a writer as the two main characters? That doesn’t happen often and we bookish people love shows that feature us. But I have a really big problem with You: the whole plot hinges on a man violating a woman’s entire life and ultimately psychologically torturing and killing her.
From the first episode, Badgley’s character, Joe, stalks MFA-to-be Guinevere Beck. He steals her phone, and her underwear. (Just yuck.) He monitors her every text and phone call from her stolen phone. (Which, by the way, is not uncommon in real life.) He follows her, spies on her, decides which of her friends should live or die. All because he “loves” her.
And even though she doesn’t catch on right away that Joe is a murderous stalker, Beck does suspect him. Toward the end of the show she even confronts him about the deaths of her friends Benji and Peach. But she trips over her own feet to apologize for even thinking of him in that way when he comes up with some BS excuse.
Then, in the most chilling scene of the whole show, she finds The Box. The one where he keeps Benji’s teeth and Beck’s phone and underwear and all the innocent things he took from his victims and turned into creepy murdery objects.
Instantly, Beck knows.
But she can’t escape Joe. He locks her in his terrible book dungeon and we have to watch for a whole episode while she tries to outwit him.
Tries to convince him to give her her freedom.
She almost gets it. She’s so, so close. But Joe outsmarts her in the end, and that pisses me off.
Because here’s the thing: women are stalked and tricked and followed and raped and killed every single day.
Just recently, sickening details emerged of missing Colorado mom Kelsey Berreth’s Thanksgiving Day death at the hands (allegedly) of her fiancé. His name doesn’t deserve mention. But the parallels to Joe are unmistakable: like Joe, he (allegedly) took Berreth’s phone, pretending to use it so her family wouldn’t get suspicious. He (allegedly) destroyed evidence of her body like Joe gets rid of his victims in You.
The killer is (allegedly) quoted as saying, “You don’t know how hard it is to have Thanksgiving dinner after killing her.”
Excuse me, but what? This is the most hateful, contemptible, disgusting thing to say.
It’s an example from real life. And it is also the theme of You.
Joe’s inner monologue goes something like this: “Oh poor me, Beck, I had to kill you because I love you so much. Look at everything I did for you! I am suffering so much because of all the terrible things I had to do.”
He’s never challenged on this, except by Beck herself before he murders her. Even then his mind does not change. Viewers are left with his perspective on the murder of Beck.
His perspective on stalking her.
His perspective on killing her friends.
His perspective on lying to her.
His perspective on getting mad at her for lying to him even though he lied to her every minute of every day.
His perspective. His perspective.
And it’s been harmful and I’ve had enough. I’m done with male perspectives on violence toward women. I don’t want to know what’s going through a man’s head when he ends a woman’s life, blots out her hopes and her dreams and her laughter.
I want to hear the woman’s voice.
I want to know about Kelsey Berreth’s life, about what she dreamed for herself. I want to know what Savanna LaFointaine-Greywind laughed about and lived for. I want to know about Nia Wilson’s plans to be a rap star.
I want to know more about Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland. I want to know about Sushmita Banerjee, and Kelly Anne Bates and Jetseta Marrie Gage and Brianna Zunino Denison and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
I want to know about the women finding safety in shelters across our nation and the world. I want to know about the women who want to flee, so badly, but can’t. I want to know about them. Not what was done, and is being done to them, and by who.
No, I want to know the women’s names and the girl’s names and I want to hear their voices.
Give me their stories and give me their rage. Give me their points of view and their inner monologues.
Reshoot You with Beck getting every single bit of inner monologue instead of a measly half hour and let me weep when she dies because I knew her so well that she was like a dear friend.
I have had enough of the Joes of this world. I’ve had enough of violence against women as a popular plot line in fiction. I get that it’s realistic, that violence toward women happens. Every single woman I know has a #MeToo story or a hundred.
But it’s time to give woman characters perspectives even if they don’t live to the end of a plot line.
It’s time to make women human.
Always. All the time. Period.
Start the shift in perspective by reading these powerful memoirs by women.