Character analysis on Psychopath Joe Goldberg in the “You” series on Netflix

*NOTE* SPOILERS

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Hey, I plead guilty. For half (maybe 2/3) of the season, I was actually digging Joe. I was rooting for him. My heart thumped everytime someone was about to find Benji in the basement or when the two campers almost saw him in the woods burning Benji’s body. I’m just thinking to myself, Why am I rooting for him? He just committed murder! I mean I guess, because Benji necessarily wasn’t the greatest guy, but it really doesn’t give him the right to murder as he pleases.

Throughout the season, Joe kills, manipulates, and stalks to get closer to the main female lead, Beck. To the average person, his behaviors and reasoning may seem illogical, crazy, and to be feared, but the odd thing is, I understood his logic. He is right sometimes. Benji and Peach necessarily wasn’t all that good and both have done bad things, manipulated and treated Beck really poorly, but it doesn’t mean they had to die for it. For what he’s gone through, it’s reasonable he thinks the way he thinks, again not saying it is right. He lives by the values he was taught by his foster dad who locked him up every time he did something wrong. In his mind, everything he’s done was to give Beck the opportunity to be her best self and achieve her goals, of course with the idea that they would be together. He strongly believed he was Beck’s best disaster.

Let’s take a look at different aspects of Joe’s character.

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He is definitely a hopeless romantic. Besides him murdering Beck in the end, he treated her how any women wanted to be treated. He saw her truth and potential despite her promiscuity, bad choice in men and friends. He even said in his mind “You are better than that.” “You are worth waiting for.” All these things show that he has the potential to be a good person. He clearly tries really hard to fully understand her, love her, and support her to the best that he can. Unlike Peach and Benji, he never manipulated or tried to control her. He never put her down but always believed in her. He always told her the truth in situations she was in. The only lies he told was to hide his own evil doings, but overall he always exposed her to the truth of the people around her. He honestly just showed her his somewhat true self and was sweet to her.

Everytime he creeps on her, I never really got this creepy vibe from him. Because, usually the perspective on people creeping shows them getting off or perceives it in a super sexually exploiting way. I saw that Joe was more of observing her. He was interested in who she was and what she does etc, though yes he did creep on her inappropriately at certain times no lie. And eventually, I felt like he was becoming a more healthy person, when he broke her phone and stopped invading her private messages. He finally had “trust.” He finally felt like she was someone he could trust to love him fully. Let’s take a look to why he has this tendency of mistrust, and this unstable blow up when he finds out someone does not love him. Why?

Looking into his childhood, we know he never got the support and healthy love he needed as a child. He was put into foster care with no siblings or any other family and joe3was put into the care of Mr. Mooney who locked him in that glass cage throughout his teen years against his will. Joe had a twisted view of love and somehow came to accept that how Mooney treated him was real love. As he quoted to Paco, the little boy next door who experiences trauma daily due to his step father beating his mom, “Sometimes you have to do bad things for the people you love.” He was isolated from people all his teen years and was forced to read about people in books. He became the observer most of his life and the books became his friends. He looked at the world like a book. He found people truly interesting and was able to read people easily, but he was disillusioned by reality and the consequences. Reading books made him intelligent, but the trauma stuck with him and led him to do unspeakable things.

Mostly, he wanted to find real love, the love he never received. Yet even though he wanted to be loved, he understood he had to love the other person completely and truly in order to get that love back. Many people only expect love but sometimes never truly take the time to give love, and I think that’s what makes Joe’s character likeable. He is a loving person. He does everything that he can in the name of love, yet his actions are questionable.

joe1I also think another aspect of Joe that I found interesting to watch was that even in the act of stalking, he acts upon it in such a quirky and comedic way. For example, even with a concussion and deep gash in his forehead, he breaks into Peach’s vacation home to stalk what Peach and Beck was up to, and most importantly try to save Beck from Peach’s fantasy and love for her. He makes us start to believe that everything he is doing is actually right. But only because we are in his mind.

But, one could argue, that maybe everything he’s done was for himself. That loving Beck, killing everyone that could ruin their relationship was all for him to feel secure that their relationship would last. The only puzzling thing that questioned this theory is when she wanted space, and he listened to her therapy sessions with Dr. Nicky, he allowed for the break up to happen. He allowed her to be free and allowed her to figure things on her own. That is the part that puzzles me, because would any psychopath really let their girlfriend who their obessessed with go that easily? This was the one part of his character that showed me that maybe he really loved her. He does hold compassion to an extent through this act and through his relationship with Paco, but I guess his compassion is selective.

joeAnother quality he has, is the intelligence to read people and the ambition to fully know someone. He wants to know all the information of a person. He wants to be able to read the personality, the wants and desires of each person he encounters. He is a type of person that wants to know someone fully before diving in, hence all the stalking etc. As we listen to his thoughts about Beck, he really is not a bad guy. He just truly wants to give a girl all of him. He didn’t have trust in her before, so that’s why he checked all her social media, text, and followed her to different places. Many times, he just wanted to see who she really was. He was always looking for the truth in all people, though he overlooked himself. And most of the time, he was the only one that could see through the façade of all the characters. He knew the truth about each and every one of them and saw them for who they were. I think this was a great trait he had, the ability to know peoples’ intentions and thought processes.

He’s an introvert so it’s reasonable he would rather observe a person to learn about them versus interacting with them. And if we look at it in a non-creepy lens, fans break into celebrity’s rooms to steal something of theirs when they are super obessesed, but Joe is just doing that to a women he is infatuated with. The only off thing is that he doesn’t understand that it’s wrong to steal things and break into peoples’ homes to watch them. Boundaries Joe?

In his mind, he wants to know all of her and he wants to know who she is. That’s why that drove him to watch her and stalk her.

In a way I’m really glad this series came out. It shows the general audience, that there is a human-ness to people who have committed murder. Though the act they committed is bad, maybe the person is not bad? As the quote says, “Hate the sin not the sinner.” Maybe this series is showing us, that maybe not all killers are cold blooded, just impulsive and average. Like seriously, lock this person somewhere and get him some help. He needs help! Like major.

joe2Torturing and raping are a whole different topic because when a person is doing that, they are enjoying the thrill of hurting others. Joe did not ever really seem to enjoy killing or had the thrill of hurting someone and I think that’s also another reason why Joe was likeable. He honestly never planned on killing anyone in the first place, he usually acts on impulse and triggers. He was scared to bash Benji’s face in. He was haunted by the memory of killing Benji and he had nightmares of Candace and Elijah. This shows that, he is haunted by the acts that he did, which shows that somewhere inside him, he has a conscience. He knows he had done wrong, but he chooses to shut the conscience out like most of us do and that’s going to drive him deeper and deeper into darkness.

We all to an extent identify in some way with him. Admit it, we’ve done some things Joe has done to an extent. We stalked cute crushes on social media, we’ve stared obsessively at our crush or followed them around to see what they were doing, and we’ve probably even tried to be at certain places they were to “coincidentally” meet them. He just does it to an extreme in a highly logical way.

There’s not that many shows out there that gives us the perspective of the killer or murderer. In many shows these villians are viewed as cold blooded killers, but in shows as these and “Dexter” we see the human-ness of the killer. We see that he really isn’t as different from us as we think.

I was honestly truly sad after finishing the series, because I believed Joe could have been a good person. Joe is not someone to fantasize about or go gah-gah over. He had the potential to be such a good person and the ability to use his great skill of reading people to do more good than bad, but he chose the dark road. And in many cases in reality, people do choose the dark road. Everyone has a darkness and a light inside them. You have to choose which one to act on. The fact that he has no remorse about killing any of them just shows that he could honestly even kill Paco if he somehow becomes a threat to Joe. In the end, no matter how much he loves someone, it seems like he will always choose to save himself no matter what. He is a conflicting character, but I really enjoyed him as a character. CHARACTER everyone, not as a real person. I rooted for him because I believed he could turn out to be good. But in the end, he didn’t.

Wabi Sabi

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