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How The Show “You” Sheds Light on Unhealthy Relationships

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“You,” a book-turned-TV series, has quickly become a favorite Netflix thriller. Originally created by Caroline Kepnes, the TV show adaptation stars Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Shay Mitchell, John Stamos, and many other iconic actors. The many plotlines are expertly portrayed and surround real-life issues. Things like drug use, abuse, codependent relationships, sexual harassment, and grief and loss make up a good number of the plots created.

When it comes to abusive relationships, “You” covers many versions of abuse. The main character, Joe Goldberg, is connected to other characters dealing with physical, emotional, and mental abuse. One, in particular, is the relationship between his neighbors Ron and Claudia, and their young son, Paco.

This relationship perfectly encompasses what it’s like being stuck in an intensely abusive relationship where a person is too fearful to leave.

Having been in a situation like this, myself, I was able to relate (to an extent) to Claudia. She is in a relationship with an abusive, alcoholic man named Ron. He provides financial stability for the family which is why Claudia feels like she can never leave the relationship. Despite being abused, she’s afraid that if she leaves Ron, she’ll lose custody of her son. It is later shown that Claudia is an addict and uses after Ron is abusive.

Let’s get this straight: no matter the situation, getting out of a relationship like this is the hardest, yet healthiest move a person can make.

How often can we relate or know someone who can relate to this? Unfortunately, more than we’d like. Not only does Claudia suffer, but Paco suffers, as well. Not even in his teens yet, Paco is forced to live with the abuse that his mom lives with. We get to know Paco when we see him sitting outside his door while Ron and Claudia scream at each other. Joe finds him after he gets home from work and takes him under his wing by giving him food and books to help him through. In that sense, we can find ourselves falling in love with that side of Joe.

Not only does the show portray a person trapped in abuse, it shows how it affects others that are indirectly affected, as well.

Another unhealthy relationship shown is that of two other characters: Beck and Peach Salinger. Beck is the main character that Joe falls in love with, and Peach Salinger is a daughter of an old-money-rich founding family in the area. Peach has everything in life… Money, fame, social status. But she is also in love with Beck, which is a no-no in her family.

Thus begins the abusive relationship between the two women.

Peach needs to get attention from Beck by any means necessary which means spoiling her with things like trips to Paris, expensive clothes, and lavish parties. She even loans Beck money when she needs it. At first glance, these seem like great things.

However, the thought and emotion behind them reek of toxic codependency.

As the story progresses, Joe tries to shed light on the issues that he sees in Peach that Beck doesn’t… Like how Peach stores hundreds of pictures of Beck on her laptop, follows her around, watches her bathe, and many other privacy-violating things. When Peach doesn’t get the attention from Beck that she needs, she’d fake illnesses and phony suicide attempts.

Let’s get another thing straight: faking these types of things to get attention is point-blank unacceptable.

Another abusive relationship in “You” is the relationship between Joe and his ex-girlfriend, Candace. Candace was an ex that cheated on Joe and then mysteriously disappeared after he found out. There are people who assume that Candace is dead, specifically that Joe killed her. We see at the end of season one and through season two that she is very much alive and has come to make Joe’s life hell.

Talk about a toxic ex.

The fact that Candace is out for blood – quite literally – shows just how harmful revenge in a past relationship can be. If broken up in a healthy way, a person should not feel the need for revenge, let alone let it totally dictate their life.

Finally, we have one of the most toxic relationships of all: Joe and his father figure.

Although we don’t necessarily see this in the first season, the second season of the show talks about Joe’s childhood and the mess that it was. He had abusive and neglectful parents and ended up in the care of Mr. Mooney, the man who ran the bookstore before Joe. We see flashbacks in Joe’s mind of his childhood, starting with the physical and emotional abuse that Mr. Mooney showed Joe.

He locked him in a glass box as punishment which is where all of Joe’s craziness got its beginning.

Because of Mr. Mooney, Joe has the glass box that he then kills people in. He was conditioned, in a way, to think and act the way that he does because that’s all he knew. Imagine someone in a parental figure teaching you these things and even punishing you with them? Daddy and mommy dearest aren’t in the picture and never have been.

In the end, “You” expertly portrays the flaws that relationships can hold.

This isn’t to say that the show normalizes it, because it doesn’t. What it does is show these qualities in ways that we are unfortunately able to understand and even relate to. It even sheds light on how often this happens all around us.

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About The Author

Emmie Pombo is a latte and tattoo-loving Tennessean who specializes in mental health and beauty writing. She holds a degree in Journalism and a certification in Makeup Artistry and Airbrushing. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


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