Staunch Test FAIL!
You is a hugely successful Netflix series about a serial stalker/killer. Here’s his game: obsess about a particular woman, stalk her, engage, break into her home and steals trophies, be attentive and caring enough that she falls for him, then violently kill her. What’s not to like?
Here at Staunch, we have a favourite hashtag – #rapeisnotentertainment. In case you think we’re cool about stalking, obsession and femicide sold in YOU as ‘darkly humourous’, (with a weird sex in the city voiceover vibe), let’s just clarify, those aren’t great material for entertainment either.
Some reviewers are congratulating the makers of Season 3 for shaking up the odds by pairing Joe Goldberg with Love Quinn, a woman with a tendency for killing people in fits of pique. And their baby. What could possibly be missing from a sick set up like this but a baby to witness and justify a toxic marriage.
The use of internal monologue gives us Joe’s creepy, self-interested, thoughts which in this series purport to show us a man battling his demons to become a good father. But it means that it’s Joe that controls the narrative, whether via his cynical, scathing contempt for the people in his new community, his attempts to control Love’s murderous ways, or his obsessing, stalking and gas-lighting of firstly, next door neighbour Natalie, then the new focus of his attentions, his boss, Marianne.
This series wears its misogyny proudly. Love’s unbearably selfish and overbearing mother Dottie, and Sherie, the local influencer and queen of the mummysphere are ludicrous characters built with a sneer. The local men are indistinguishably stupid and shallow, with the exception of Theo, the next door neighbour’s son, (murdered by Quinn, who he adores) and Dante, Joe’s blind gay colleague on whom he dumps his baby son.
Come on, where’s our sense of humour? Surely the laughs save this series from being simply crass? Well, they might if it were funny. Joe’s fascination with unfortunate women treads old ground, and the idea that every attractive woman who interests him would fall for this guy is absurd – although we can kind of imagine it working if it was someone with the charisma and humour of, say Cary Grant, who might just pull this off. But Penn Badgely brings none of that fizz to the screen. Literally, none. He’s pure creep.
Monetising violence against women – because despite its subplots and side-hustles, that’s what this show is literally doing – is nauseating on this scale. Consider the many millions of dollars spent on concocting this guff, and imagine it spent on survivors of male violence, or on making the streets safe for women, or on trying to educate men not to stalk, rape or murder. Why not divert the profits of the first three seasons and budget for the fourth (already greenlit) into something that’s actually worthwhile?