It is the new series that everyone has been talking about.
It is the show that I started watching around two weeks ago because one person suggested it – and now everyone else seems to be watching it too.
It is the TV series known simply as YOU is about a simple normal dude who works in a bookstore and quickly becomes obsessed with a customer who happens to wander in – and that is putting it simply.
Very quickly while watching the show I found myself in a very confusing set of emotions. While Beck was digging through his “secret hiding spot”, I kept begging her silently to just stop – and then I realized just what I was saying. Why was I rooting for a guy like Joe, after all he had done?
Joes character isn’t the stereotypical man in a trench coat walking down a dark alley way.
Joe is an average guy – attractive (but no body building sports model), educated (seemingly), works a normal job, isn’t attached to his cell phone or social media (but uses it in very different ways haha), and lives in a normal apartment. We see the entirety of the show through his eyes and through his voice – we grow with him, we see him struggle, and slowly see him lose his sanity.
Joe, while very obviously isn’t a good guy and we know this by the first episode, doesn’t immediately show his manipulative tactics to Beck. Then once he gets crazier, she refuses to take note or to leave him – permanently. These are the spirals that many women (and men) fall into. One where they do not realize they are being manipulated until it is too late or until long after the fact and they have time to reflect on the experience they went through.
It wasn’t until I had experienced many failed relationships (both friendships and romantic ones) that I escaped from that I noticed the exact same tactics that were once used on me are being used by Joe in YOU. These are the signs that sort of hit you and you can say “Yeah. I know what that feels like.” And it is the sad truth – a truth that is hard for me to admit.
What is important to note is that it doesn’t always have to be an abuser isolating their spouse from friends and family. In fact, it can be the exact opposite.
In the show we can see Joe even going out to lunch and meeting up with Becks friends, sometimes without Beck even there (so much so that it doesn’t seem unusual whenever he comes to them at the end of the season). He seemed obsessed in the first few episodes with getting close with them – “For you, Beck” he would say.
An abuser doesn’t need to tell you that you can’t talk to your friends and family for it to be isolation. In fact, they can get so close to the people you love most and they will be able to see no wrong in your abuser, or simply refuse to believe the idea that they could “ever be like that”. This is sometimes how an abuser works – isolating you to the point that you feel like no one would believe what you said, anyways.
One of the biggest red flags I can remember specifically hitting me in the gut was whenever Beck and Joe got into a big fight towards the end of the season. After all was somewhat forgiven, Joe took Beck to meet the father figure in his life and to meet an important person to him – the bookstore owner. (He also brought her downstairs to the cage early in the season to give her the whole “this is who I am and this is my home monologue.
Of course, for those who haven’t been through similar experiences, it seems like a kind gesture. Maybe it was, but knowing Joe, it was a manipulative tactic – one that I have experienced way too many times.
Manipulators can use things like taking you to their “most special places”, gift giving, emotional apologies, etc to not only put you in a vulnerable position, but to also get you to sympathize with the person that is most dangerous to you – your manipulator. You not only feel special in the moment but whenever they play these cards you feel sorry for your manipulator and you sympathize with them. I mean, how can I leave him now if he just took you to his secret place? How can I leave them if they just bought me all these nice things?
Manipulation doesn’t always have to be your manipulator throwing a pity party for themselves so much that you don’t go out with your friends. Manipulation doesn’t always have to be withholding affection or money for the manipulator to get what they want.
Manipulation is shielded stealthily by “If you don’t do this then you don’t really love me.”, and “I’m not telling you what to do… but it would really mean a lot to me if you…”, and “Let me just take you to this place I’ve been wanting to take you since we met – it’s the most important place in the world to me. Then we can continue this discussion after I’ve taken you there.”
Manipulators are the most charming people out there – the people you least suspect. They don’t always have to be a dark and mysterious figure hiding under a hood. They don’t always have to be that kid in school that no one really talks to. They can be a plain Jane and average Joe. Just like anyone can be emotionally manipulated everyday – and you would never know.
While I am saying this – please note that I am NOT saying that if significant other is close to your friends and likes taking you to special places he is automatically an emotional manipulator. There is a lot of good in the world – but also a lot of bad and red flags in an already unhealthy relationship are always good to be mentioned.
While I think it is interesting that YOU has opened up a world of discussion about why we shouldn’t support characters like Joe, I think the most important thing that this show can do is open up a world of discussion.
Maybe the show, or this post, is the wake up call someone needs to realize they need to get out of the situation they are in. The quicker you realize the red flags, the quicker you can use your resources to get out and to escape.
If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence or abuse, you can seek help by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233