by Dillan-James Carter
There are two types of people that watch The Apprentice: some do it for the battle of 16 candidates to win the affection and investment of Lord Sugar, and others to bask in the failures of the most incompetent people put to screen. The same can be said for the audience of Netflix’s new drama You. Some seem to consider it a cutting-edge psychological thriller showing the faults of narcissistic millennials; others like myself were bound to the bewildering plot which was as detached from reality as much as Piers Morgan is to the modern world.
You follows the life of Joe (Penn Badgley), a bookshop owner straight from the r/niceguys forum, as he meets aspiring NYC writer and all round cliché Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail). Attraction leads to obsession, and we are soon treated to a cringe-worthy scene in which Joe masturbates across the street from Beck’s apartment, leaving viewers to shout, “Why aren’t her blinds closed!”. This scene alone highlights the main problem at the heart of You: the characters are not real.
Every character seems to avoid depth as much as they avoid dairy and carbs. From Beck’s BFF’s ‘divorce party’ to her current boyfriend Benji’s ‘artisanal soda company’, it all adds to make You closer to Tumblr erotica than American Psycho. Gone Girl (2014) managed to perfectly balance the sociopath with reality, making the façade of the perfect couple an engaging, believable lie – whereas in You, your jaw is constantly gaping at how unbelieve the plot becomes, so much so you end up shaking the screen trying to make it see sense.
This is the only reason why I could not stop watching You – the feeling of anticipation of how outrageously low it could sink while still maintaining its perceived cynical realism on contemporary relationships. If You wanted to be the psychological thriller which it claimed to be, it would have had to make its characters authentic, its scenarios genuine and the stakes far more hard-hitting.
If the next season starts with Joe growing in his neckbeard, doffing his fedora all while ‘m’ladying’ his way into the bed of the next social influencer, I won’t be surprised, nor will I be watching.