Courtesy of Tasneemo

October 31, 2021

‘You’ Season 3: Memes and Meaning

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TikTok creators have been posting hypothetical scenarios in which their significant other engages in some jealousy-inducing activities such as texting someone else, hanging out with them behind their back, etc. The video would then quickly cut to a clip of Joe Goldberg or Love Quinn, the protagonists of the hit Netflix series You. And if you know anything about the show, you know that they are a whole lot of crazy. 

The eagerly anticipated third season to You has just released on Netflix and has been attracting the attention of audiences everywhere. A story that started in 2018 with Joe Goldberg’s dangerous obsession with Guinevere Beck has now evolved into one about his marriage with Love Quinn, the equally dangerous female protagonist. The show is filled with the same creepy stalking, violence, and thrill that made it so popular in the past. Yet, with this season having two psychopaths instead of one, there is arguably double the fun. 

I’ve always noticed an interesting phenomenon when it comes to You. Although the general consensus amongst audiences is that almost everything that the protagonists do in the show is horrible and disgusting, people have time and time again refused to turn away and continued watching. Despite our inherent tendency to avoid looking at things that make us uncomfortable (and I’m assuming that creepy stalking and creative murder techniques can make almost everyone uneasy), You seems to be the exception. Not only are people simply tolerating the show, they are reveling in all of its gory detail in comedic fashion. Just this past week, there has been a mass influx of TikToks and memes about Joe and Love, which is not something you frequently see with real-life stalkers and murderers. 

Speaking of You’s meme-game: It’s good. I mean, just look at these

But going one step further from simply making jokes out of Joe and Love, I believe that there is a part in all of us that vicariously lives through them. Like, haven’t you ever met someone seriously annoying, who just ticked you off in all the wrong ways and just wouldn’t stop talking? Haven’t you ever thought, Gee, I wish I could hit them with a bat and they’ll drop off the face of the earth. I can remember multiple instances where things just weren’t going my way. Ever had someone hate you for no reason? Well, they wouldn’t be able to hate you anymore if they were dead, could they? 

Now, I’m not arguing that we all have innate murderous and stalkerish tendencies. We don’t. But I think the larger theme that Joe and Love embody is control. The desire to control every facet of your life so that things go perfectly. Reality, if you live it equitably, doesn’t work that way. At the end of the day, there is no way we can handle every situation from going wrong, or avoid the consequences of our actions by killing whoever will impose it upon us. This control over our lives and our futures is something that can only exist in our wildest imagination, or in You. 

But I think another interesting aspect of the show this season is that it delves deeper into the past of the protagonists, allowing us to understand them on a deeper level. In this season, we delve deeper into Joe’s turbulent childhood filled with violence, abuse and neglect. The show does a great job in weaving in parts of Joe’s past with his present, allowing the audience to clearly see how his present is largely derivative of his past. Love is also given a lot more dimension than you would normally expect from a standard ‘evil’ character. I think that a lot of her struggles are something that many people can relate to. Coping with the death of a family member, finding satisfaction with one’s place in life (in her case, domesticity), struggling to grasp on to her partner who is slipping away from her emotionally, etc. are issues that people deal with everyday. The complexity of Joe and Love and the multi-faceted dimensions of their character is what makes the show so intriguing and perplexing. 

Who are we rooting for? Is it okay to feel bad for the killers?

You is a wonderful escape from reality. Although the story takes place in a modern setting (and I’m talking real modern: COVID-19 happened for Joe and Love too?), it genuinely feels like an alternative universe because everything the characters do seems so foreign to how we would behave in real life. The memes and the TikToks are arguably just as entertaining as the show itself. But apart from the murders and the jokes, I think You draws out a hidden desire for control that many of us have. And while none of us would copy the behavior of Joe or Love in any way shape or form, it’s fun to live vicariously through them every once in a while. 

Audrey Ahn is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected]