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20.09.2018

How creepy ‘You’ shatters the lie of rom-coms.

Your first instinct will be to like Joe Goldberg. The protagonist, played by “Gossip Girl” star Penn Badgley, of Lifetime’s new TV series “You” is handsome. He’s funny. He manages a charming old bookstore in the West Village. He gives sandwiches to the neglected kid in his building. He also believes in love at first...
Time: 18:21     Date: 14.09.2018
US Living News: How creepy ‘You’ shatters the lie of rom-coms. NY Post 24 - US News

The protagonist, played by “Gossip Girl” star Penn Badgley, of Lifetime’s new TV series “You” is handsome. He’s funny. He manages a charming old bookstore in the West Village. He gives sandwiches to the neglected kid in his building.

That makes him your typical romantic hero, right?

No, it turns out. As “You” demonstrates, it makes Joe a stalker with terrible boundary issues. In fact, the show is a perfect subversion of the romantic comedy genre: proof that if a man really showed up blasting a boom box outside a woman’s window, he’d be a creep, not a hopeless romantic.

Movies such as “The Notebook” present such dogged, don’t-give-up-until-you-get-her devotion as swoon-worthy. Joe, with his cynical charm and great taste in literature, is seemingly someone we’re conditioned to cheer on. In real life, that entitlement can end up in murder, not a big kiss.

“We’ve all been brainwashed for years by these romantic movies to think that being loved is being obsessed over,” says Caroline Kepnes, the author of the novel “You,” on which the series is based. “That’s why it was so much fun to make this show. The guy standing in the rain not taking no for an answer — there’s a dark side to that.”

Unlike some Lifetime movies where a male antagonist is a largely one- dimensional villain, Joe does have a lot of good traits. He doesn’t just exist to jump out of the shadows and inspire the heroine to take a kickboxing class. He’s someone that you be friends with. You might even defend him if a woman told you he was creeping her out.

One of the aspects that makes “You” so fascinating is Joe’s complete conviction that, no matter what boundaries he crosses — whether it’s kidnapping his would-be girlfriend’s ex and beating him up, or masturbating while peeping through her window — he’s just driven by a desire to be a good boyfriend.

Privy to his interior monologue, we hear him fantasize about how he’d help Beck clean her apartment and do her laundry, and how he’d cook her healthy meals. He knows she isn’t eating very well because he’s breaking into her house to spy on her.

After hiding in her shower to avoid detection, Joe muses, “I’ve seen enough romantic comedies to know that guys like me are always getting in jams like this.”

It’s true. Kepnes recalls the scene in the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” when “Kirby [Emilio Estevez] crashes a party and he’s sobbing, and he’s been rained on, and it’s kind of scary. He doesn’t get the girl but he gets his moment with that girl. We see that behavior rewarded. All men have seen that, too.”

Romantic comedies from “Love Actually” to “500 Days of Summer” all involve male characters making grand, life-disrupting protestations of love to women who don’t seem especially into them.

We’re very accustomed to rooting for guys like this to get the things they want.

Except that women are not things.

Through #MeToo, countless women have discussed how detrimental it is for them to encounter men who won’t not take no for an answer. They’ve talked about how it made some women quit their jobs and cost others their sense of safety. And watching the number of guys who have fallen from grace this past year has shown that men who don’t take no for an answer do not, in fact, make great partners to the women they persist in pursuing.

The situation “You” depicts isn’t that uncommon. Fifteen percent of women have been stalked in their lifetime, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Stalking victims are defined by the NCVC as people who “felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed as a result of a perpetrator’s stalking behaviors.”

Off screen, the idea of a man you’ve spurned showing up in front of your house in the middle of the night with a boom box no longer seems cute. It seems like something you should maybe call the police over.

That doesn’t mean that we’re experiencing a death of romance. It just means that we’re experiencing a death of the Joe Goldberg notion of it: something a man does to a woman, rather than something two people both happily participate in.

Hopefully, we can head toward a future where romance isn’t defined as obsession with a distant “You.” Instead, it can be about “us.”

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Living

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Metro

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Sport

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