The Choice to Invite or Reject Male Energy
As someone who is engaged at the ripe old age of 23, people I meet often assume I have the whole dating thing figured out. They presume that my fiancé and I have been together for years and known each other through many stages of our lives. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In college, I spent about three years tirelessly trying out every dating app imaginable, and I often joke that I only found the right man by dating all the other possibilities in the area.
In the show You, the female characters have different and sometimes complex approaches to their interactions with men. Shay Mitchell’s character Peach Salinger explains to her best friend Beck how she doesn’t see the need for males in her physical space; in fact, she doesn’t want them there at all. She says, “Male energy in my healing space just isn’t optimal.” In this scene, Peach is recovering from an attack on her life during a morning run in Central Park. Of course, little does Peach know that Beck’s boyfriend Joe is that very mystery attacker. The 10-episode story unfolds from Joe’s point of view, and we learn that he has an unhealthy obsession with Beck, that he has killed people in the past out of jealousy, and that he is willing to do so again in order to keep his relationship with Beck moving forward. Sounds like a typical soap opera, right? Well, not quite.
While watching the show in the span of two days, I couldn’t help but think of the other characters’ perceptions of Joe, especially the ones who are entirely unaware of his problematic approach to dating Beck. These unsuspecting people form either positive or negative opinions of him based on his entry-level job, his caring attitude toward his neighbor Paco, and the other facets of his personality besides his stalking and murderous tendencies.
Upon finishing, I quickly messaged my friend who had begged me to watch it so we could discuss. We both agreed that while physically, Joe was dreamy, and the writing made him somewhat likable, his character downright scared us in a way that wasn’t confined to television. How many male “creeps” had we come across in our dating endeavors, or just walking by on the street? Joe and Beck met in a bookstore. How much more “normal” and “safe” could it get? I’ve found myself wanting men who had Joe’s tendencies, and convincing myself that none of them could resort to physical violence.
Before watching, I came across a Rotten Tomatoes summary that said the show “works its way under the skin and stays there.” Once I finished the show, I found this description a little dramatic. Sure enough, though, as days passed, I hadn’t stopped thinking about everything from tiny plot points to outright disturbing scenes. I won’t say that the show altered the way I interact with men, but it may have made me more self-aware of certain choices. In college, a few failed male friendships and a swift freshman fall “friend zoning” followed by a few years of low standards held me back from opening up to men on any level. But I still choose to complain that I don’t have male friends. I understand that many people have similar experiences and that I don’t need to “let” these experiences make me distrust men, but they do.
As I settle back into my hometown and try to make new friends at work and elsewhere, I am realizing I have extreme jitters when talking to strangers of any gender. Watching You helped me recognize my inner back-and-forth—the balance between caution and kindness, or full-out avoidance, when it comes to inviting people into my life. Recognizing a problem is the first step in addressing it. You might not have solved this problem for me, (hell, the show focuses on a male serial killer with little to no remorse) but it validated my struggle to give people a chance, if not a cautious one. -Meghan Gresk
Meghan Gresk is a recent graduate of Northwestern University who has relocated to her snowy hometown on the west side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a creative writing major with a focus in poetry, she has now taken her specialty in manipulating words back to the college sphere, working at a local university that focuses on empowering young women in the city. When she’s not at work, Meghan can be found catching up with her Chicagoland friends, watching movies with her fiancé, and knitting gifts for loved ones.
You is available to stream on Netflix.