Courtesy of Netflix
Netflix released season two of its binge-worthy psychological theory series “You” on Dec. 26. The show stars actor Penn Badgley from “Gossip Girl” and Victoria Pedretti from “The Haunting of Hill House.” Fans praised “You” for its twisted and bloody portrayal of the phrase “What would you do for love?” but the underlying resolution people need to realize is that the show promotes unhealthy relationship images for young adults.
Although witty widow Love Quinn is often needy and fragile, she catches the heart of love-obsessed Joe Goldberg. In addition to Joe’s obsession with finding the perfect mate, he also possesses controlling and manipulative tendencies demonstrated throughout the show. In episode six, Love discovers Goldberg lied to her about his false identity as “William Betelheim.” Goldberg’s behavior after he is confronted displays his untrustworthiness; however, Love does not follow through with her decision to leave Joe, setting herself up for future heartbreak.
Behavior like this misinterprets what healthy companionship looks like to people who are inexperienced with romantic relationships, such as teenagers. In most relationships, lying about your identity would be a red flag, yet the writers of “You” normalize this. Although it may seem insignificant to the plot of the show, plots like these in popular television shows can cause young women and men to tolerate dishonesty in relationships.
In an article by Time magazine, Therapist Sharie Stines describes manipulation to be an unhealthy psychological strategy used by people who are unable to ask for what they want. Shortsleeve said that significant others demonstrate manipulation through three strategies: fear, obligation and guilt. It is through these three strategies that people are psychologically coerced into doing things that they typically wouldn’t want to do. Love and Joe both demonstrate these behaviors in the show, which encourages fans to lie and manipulate their partner into doing their bidding, maybe even thinking that this is a normal way to interact.
Another example of the show’s poor representation of healthy relationships for young audiences is seen in the concluding episode of the series. The plot twist of the show comes to a head in the final episode of season two when Joe discovers that the person who murdered his neighbor, Delilah, and ex-girlfriend, Candace, is Love.
After learning Love is a serial killer, the show surprisingly takes a turn for the better when Joe and Love move into the suburbs and begin their lives together. In the midst of moving, however, an unknown woman catches the attention of Joe, causing him to revert back to the same toxic patterns found in his previous relationship.
Former domestic violence victim advocate and journalist Teresa Newsome writes, “The more you recognize manipulative behaviors, the more you’ll be able to shut them down.” However, Newsome added that the best thing to do in a manipulative situation is to leave the manipulator.
Overall Netflix’s inclusion of this content into mainstream television, it signals a message to young viewers about the incorrect choices people should make when it comes to relationships.