When you think about the concept of a stalker, what comes to mind? Someone dressed in black, following a person around and lurking outside their home, probably. Which is understandable, but somewhat anachronistic. The reality now is often quite different.
Technological advances over the past decade or so have completely changed the modus operandi of a person obsessed with someone else. The internet – social media in particular – has really blurred the lines. Before now, attracting a stalker was rather unlikely. After all, it takes a lot of effort to follow someone around all the time. Now, though? It’s possible to chart a person’s every move quickly and easily using one of those little computers we all carry around in our pocket.
Obviously, occasionally checking your ex’s Instagram feed with a mixture of disdain, annoyance and guilty lust doesn’t make you a creep. But it’s important to realise that in this age of information, our access to everything with just a few swipes of the thumb gives us a level of power. And we all know what comes with power, don’t we? That’s right… responsibility.
How easily could we slip from being interested to preoccupied to obsessive to downright dangerous? When does ‘stalking’ someone’s Facebook profile become actual stalking? It’s an interesting thought, one cleverly and wittily explored by Caroline Kepnes in her 2015 crime thriller novel You and its subsequent small screen adaptation, which is due on Netflix after Christmas.
Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgley is Joe Goldberg, a handsome young bookshop manager who initially seems to be quite the catch. Charismatic, funny and charming, when we first meet him, he appears to be the perfect romantic lead. But we soon learn that there’s a thin line between romance and unhealthy fixation as Joe’s interest in Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail, Once Upon a Time) gets well and truly out of hand.
You is primarily seen through Joe’s eyes, which is a slightly risky move. On the back of the #MeToo movement, it could be seen as somewhat patriarchal to frame the story of a man stalking a woman as the ‘man’s issue’. But it seems as if You uses the prism of the stalker’s experience in a smart way that seeks to explain the psychology not only behind the individual’s thoughts, but also how the whole ‘romance industry’ helps nurture and profligate such unrealistic and quite dangerous ideas around the topic of love.
Here’s the trailer…
You comes from the producers of Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, so very few viewers can go into it expecting a dry and subtle exploration of the nature of obsessive love. But judging by the critics’ write-ups, it’s a far more nuanced, clever and timely drama than it has any real right to be.
Its refusal to paint obvious clear-cut good n’ evil archetypes (or at least its willingness to humanise ‘The Bad Guy’) has won over many reviewers, with Badgley’s Joe being compared to the likes of literary heavyweights Patrick Bateman and Holden Caulfield. Which, if nothing else, sounds pretty intriguing.
With internet and mobile phone addiction, digital paranoia and the idea of instant gratification at its peak, our stories need to reflect the new world we live in and the different way we now think and interact with one another. While we wouldn’t be so crass or hackneyed as to suggest that You might well be ‘Romeo & Juliet for the Snapchat generation’ or anything quite as tacky (unless the producers would like to use that quote for the posters of series two, of course…), the point still rings true. It might be as close as we’re going to get to a truly modern love story for a little while.
All ten episodes of the first series of You land on UK Netflix on Boxing Day.
Can’t wait for Netflix’s You to land? Loved the book? Let us know in the comments below!