Mental Health

Netflix’s “YOU” Normalizes Toxic Relationships. Let’s Talk About It.

There are a ton of red flags.

If you haven’t seen “YOU” – now available on Netflix– y’all really should start. The story focuses on Joe, a man who becomes obsessed with a woman named Beck to the point of stalking. Joe has some really creepy qualities, and makes incredibly questionable choices. But, what we find is that normalizing this behavior is what allows it to continue. So, how does Netflix’s “YOU” normalize toxic relationships?

Since the premiere of the show, fans had some thoughts about Joe. Many people were swooning over the character to the point where Penn Badgley (who plays Joe) had to intervene.

Some fans then clarified that she meant she supports Penn Badgley’s acting and not the actions his characters have made.

And, Badgley is right. We need to expand the conversation to understand how obsessive practices in toxic relationships are harmful, instead of romanticizing the idea.

“YOU” is highlighting how normalized toxic relationships are on television, and take it a step further. Strangely, many fans have been vocal about supporting Joe’s actions, and excusing them under the guise of “love”.

We are used to seeing people who are willing to do anything for the person they love. In many cases loosing their own dreams, hopes, and personality in the process.

Wanting someone to prioritize your needs in a relationship is good as long as you are also prioritizing their needs and feelings. A relationship is meant to be a partnership. Not something people get lost in until they become obsessed with their significant other.

So, for example, in a relationship you should be able to spend a healthy amount of time with your friends, family and alone doing the things that make you happy. If someone is asking for you to give those up in order to focus on them, that’s a red flag.

So, why is it so normal for people to believe that over protectiveness and borderline obsession are a reflection of love?

Dr. Thomas L. Cory wrote an extensive article on the complexities of toxic relationships for Health Scope Magazine. In it he describes that all relationships take effort. So, sometimes we confuse the effort needed to have a growing healthy relationship with the effort and emotional exhaustion it takes to keep up with a toxic relationship.

“By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy,” said Dr. Cory.

Toxic relationships feed off of the desire to make our partner happy, since we believe they are doing the same. There are different types of toxic relationships, so the signs can be different for everyone. Living in a society that romanticizes these actions instead of normalizing a conversation around support and healthy relationships can make it even harder to pin point red flags.

“YOU” shows the dangers that are particularly linked to social media. People are able to learn basically everything about us with a few searches. We are more vulnerable than ever. The show is scary because it is so relatable and real.

Sadly it depends on us to understand what we want from a relationship, and how we deserve to be treated. Relationships are meant to feel safe and uplift our self esteem. We deserve nothing less. If a partner is making you uncomfortable in any way, speaking up, communicating boundaries can be the first step to understanding your relationship better and making changes accordingly.

At the end of the day we need to remember our worth, and have challenging conversations about how we can improve our relationships as we grow. “YOU” might have started the conversation, but it is on us to continue talking about these issue and normalizing healthy, happy relationships.

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Maria is a senior at Hofstra University majoring in Journalism and Women's...