From the P.o.v of a Killer/ a Review of 'You'
You is an enticing story about a young book store manager and his obsession with an aspiring writer. However, the plot is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are several intricacies that make the viewer question who to route for, and whether or not the main character, Joe is really as bad as he seems.
Within the first few episodes of the series, Joe is situated in his book store with his young neighbor Paco. Paco is reading a book that is said to be by Stephen King, and there is a POV from the monster in the story. The two characters discuss the perverseness of this and then another question is brought up. Does seeing the side of the “monster” change the way we feel about him? Does understanding the motive and history, allow us to empathize with the evil that has been done?
Clearly, this scene was created to address a running parallel between the book being read and the show itself, indicating that Joe’s P.O.V would leave viewers feeling unsure about how to feel. Would they empathize with the man who had a twisted past, a man who is seen in the show doing incredibly sweet things for his next door neighbor , a man who has a love so strong for a young woman that he is willing to do anything, a man who has been hurt. Or, will the viewers see only an angry, obsessive and abusive man. A killer. If you are anything like me, you will see a man that is a melting pot of all of these things. As a psychology student, I am trained to see the abnormalities, and things that are incorrect and criminal about this man. As an empath, I see so many things that led up to this point, that make me almost feel bad for Joe. Things that make me understand.
The Theory of Nurture: Why Joe’s Behaviour Makes All The Sense In the World
From early episodes, there is not much history to base Joe’s behaviour on. It is clear that he is a man who is troubled, seems lonesome, with little friends and a lot to say (in his head). However, there is not a clear explanation for why he is the way he is, until much later on in the season. What we do learn, about Joe, towards the end, makes so much sense for why he is the way that he is. It may even make some people question, whether or not what he’s done is truly his fault.
A large concept in psychology (and sociology) is the idea of “Nurture”. Often times, Nurture is put with the concept of Nature, and these two ideas are seen to oppose each other. The truth is, that in recent years, Psychologist’s believe that nature and nurture both have an important part in a person’s upbringing. However, in the case of You, Joe’s behaviour is very clearly linked to the idea of Nurture.
Nurture is basically the concept of how someone is raised. For instance, it as simple as: a person being raised in a wealthy family may grow up more entitled than a person who lives in the slums, and has to struggle to find something to eat everyday.
Being sent from home to home at a young age, is a prime example of what ‘nurture’, can do to someone. Joe in You experiences this first hand. It is eventually told that Joe was sent from home to home, after being separated from an abusive father and controlled mother. He eventually found a “home”, with a man named Mr. Mooney, who owned the book shop that Joe works at now. Mr. Mooney however, was not the traditional parent figure, and flashbacks provide proof of this, when they show instances where Mr. Mooney would lock Joe in the “cage” in the basement, that held the oldest and most fragile books. Mr. Mooney would tell Joe, that he would only do these things, because he loved him. This is when Joe learned to believe in a very prevalent concept throughout the show- that it is okay, to do bad things, for the people we love.
Joe was quite young when he was adopted by Mr. Mooney, as we can see in the flashbacks, and at a young age one is very impressionable. Not only this, but when a person has gone from family to family, house to house, and finally, there is someone who decides to keep them, to “love” them, the person may be even more likely to confirm to the ideologies of the new caretaker.
So needless to say, when Joe grows up and meets Beck ( the aspiring writer), he thinks that the behaviour he has grown up with, is not only acceptable but proper.
Another instance of this would be the fact that Joe thinks he was cheated on by his previous girlfriend Candace. Joe treats the new relationship with Beck cautiously, and he actually investigates her before planting himself into her life. What is interesting as that the ‘stalking’ begins virtually, in a way that many people themselves have likely ‘looked into’ a love interest-through social media. However, when Joe plants himself into Beck’s life, by saving her when she is drunk and fallen onto train tracks, he manages to steal her phone and this is when stalking becomes something serious.
He takes her phone and keeps logged into her icloud, and so he can read all her text messages. He begins all of this as a way to protect himself, only later does he do things to protect her from everyone else.
After the stealing of the phone, offenses only get more serious. Joe ends up stealing pieces of her clothing:even her underwear. More things turn up but we can address that later. Not only this, but since Joe has her phone he can see that there is a threat in her life right now- a man named Benji, who is basically an ass hat that is using Beck for sex.
After this, Joe decides to eliminate Benji. He puts him in the box in the basement of the book store and when he cant figure out whether to let him out, Benji tries to earn his escape by giving Joe some leverage on him. He shows him a video where Benji and some others accidentally kill a man who is drunk, by dunking him under the water. However, Joe then sees himself as almost a vigilante and decides to kill Benji because he isn’t a “good” person.
This points even further to the idea of nurture. This means that Joe must not feel that he is a bad person, and that what he is doing is not wrong. This begs the question even further: is Joe really at fault for the way he is? He thinks he is being good, and protecting Beck.
The Thin Line Between Love and Insanity
The thing that I enjoyed so much about this show was that it showed how far love can go. It is not completely unrealistic to love someone so much you’ll do anything for them. In fact, its extremely common. It is just that some people, identify “doing anything” as something much more sinister.
To an extent, this show reminded me of Gone Girl. When I watched that movie I had such an incredible realization. The whole idea was that many times people will say things like, you broke my heart, I feel like dying. I feel dead. Of course, these sayings are only symbolic. Gone Girl made these into a reality, and You, did something similar. Pain creates pain. Joe’s first girlfriend, supposedly had an affair. He still hasn’t recovered, it seems he never will. Initially I figured maybe he was just a man who felt pain. Who felt heart break. That may not even be such a ridiculous belief, because there are crimes of passion all the time. People have the power to destroy you. But then I realized that the onset of his madness, must have began when he was young, around the time of Mr. Mooney. Psychologically, if not born with it, things occur with a trigger. There’s no indication that Joe was an extreme boyfriend with Candace, until she was having an affair. That would have been the second trigger. After this, his deepest fear was that Beck would do the same. When she did.. another trigger.
He was ready to take her back when she told him she loved him- and then, she found his ‘box’ of items.
Paco as a Young Joe- The Good He Does
Part of the P.O.V from Joe, includes many added details that have little to do with the main plot, but clearly have connection to the story. Paco, for instance, is Joe’s neighbour who is clearly made to represent Joe as a young boy. It could be argued that Joe is a good person, when you see how he treats his young neighbour, however, he may only be like this because he sees himself in Paco. The little we know about Joe’s family, indicates that Joe’s father is abusive and mother did nothing about it. This is exactly, Paco’s story and Joe acknowledges this and tries to create a difference in his life. However, their close relationship creates a much larger issue.
The Cycle of Madness
Likely the most concerning factor of nurture in this show, is how it continues. Towards the end, Paco becomes, very clearly the spitting image of joe, and Joe, becomes Mooney. When Joe kills Paco’s abusive step father,he tells Paco exactly what Mooney told him. That sometimes we have to bad things for the people we love. This is a pivotol moment in both Paco’s life AND the story. Right after this, Beck escapes Joe’s cage and runs upstairs to get out of the book store but when she opens the door, there is another cage preventing her from escaping. She just needs a key. Paco hears her yelling and runs to see what the issue is, and then when he sees her behind the door, begging to get out and away from Joe, Paco turns around and leaves her. This is what kills her. After this, Joe manages to butcher her.
However, again, Joe telling Paco this, is him thinking he is being a teacher and a father figure to a young boy who has never had a proper one. It is a continuous cycle that causes a demise.
What is Inexcusable about Joe’s Behavior- The Box
Sure, Joe was raised to believe that abuse and extremity is love, and not just acceptable but appropriate. However, something that exceeds this, is his box of items. It is a well known fact that serial killers/rapists etc, collect ‘treasures’ from their victims. At first, it seemed as though it was just a box of Beck’s things, which wouldn’t be so weird if the items were only like a shirt in his closet. However, that’s not what it was. Joe had many, disturbing things in that box that indicate that he has some psychopathic tendencies. For instance, besides having her stolen phone in the box, he also had a dirty pair of underwear, and an old shirt, AND- a USED TAMPON. That is just Beck’s things. He also had a necklace of Candace’s and Peach’s phone. Also, a jar of Benji’s teeth.
Now, to be fair, perhaps some of these things were kept as a means of protection, and taken to rid evidence. The teeth for example, are the only thing on the body that dont decompose. Perhaps he touched Peach’s phone, and didn’t want to leave his fingerprints at the scene of the crime. However, the remainder of these items are evidence that indicates Joe is not just a young boy who has been wrongfully influenced. This- as far as it is shown- is not learned behaviour. This behaviour was done on his own accord.
With all of this evidence presented for why Joe is the way he is, and the fact that he believes he is acting correctly, it still begs the question of whether Joe is really completely to blame for his actions. And does, the fact that the story is told in his P.O.V invoke any empathy from the viewer?
Something else that should be noted though, is that Joe is a pathological liar, and he cannot be trusted to be completely honest. If he has any kind of psychotic tendencies, anything that is wrong in his mind, is his P.O.V even completely accurate? He seems pretty imaginative, doesn’t he? Besides what we see, and perhaps even some of that, could be bias.
It’s also interesting to think, that Mr. Mooney has had a “stroke”. A flashback indicates that the relationship between Joe and him were maintained after Joe grew up. Joe actually ran to Mr. Mooney after Candace left and Joe killed the man she had an affair with , and Mr. Mooney looked after Joe, telling him , that some people deserve to die. fast forward to the present, and Mr. Mooney is in a wheel chair, and he cant speak at all. Joe tells Beck what happened infront of him,and all Mooney does is give them a thumbs up. I dont know about you, but this seems insane to me. Such a strong willed man, not trying to say anything else. He seemed almost afraid to try to communicate anything else. Either that, or he is so extremely damaged now that that is all he can do.
Who knows, do you think Joe had something to do with this?
Overall, does his P.O.V help you to feel not so terrible for him? Does the monster deserve any empathy?