In this week’s installment of CloserWeekly.com’s Classic TV Podcast, we’re talking about You. No, not you, but You as in the debut novel by Caroline Kepnes about sociopath, psychopath, serial killer and bookstore manager (hey, everyone’s gotta earn a living) Joe Goldberg, who stalks his way into the life of aspiring writer Guinevere Beck and turns it upside down without her even realizing it. You is also the subject of the hit TV series starring Penn Badgley as Joe and Elizabeth Lail as Beck.
And while we’re talking about You, we’re talking to Caroline, who provides some insight on how this all came about and reflects on why serial killers — both real and fictional — seem to connect with a large audience on some level.
You began its run on Lifetime, but with that network shifting its focus back to its roots in terms of television movies (Tori Spelling’s Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? immediately comes to mind), Season 2 will be airing on Netflix (which is also streaming the first). The second year, like the novel from Caroline it’s based on (Hidden Bodies), shifts the locale from New York to Los Angeles.
As Caroline relates to us, part of the inspiration for the character of Joe and the novel was born out of painful emotional experiences she was going through with her parents being ill. But, at the same time, she says, “It’s always hard to pinpoint how your imagination works, because while we were living social media at the time, it wasn’t what it is now. But it was still a major thing and my dad was always, like, ‘Don’t put me on Facebook.’ And then, when he was gone and also when we were going through all of it — when you’re sitting in a hospital room, my mom’s in one wing, my dad’s in another — do you go on Facebook? You do, and everyone’s having their best day ever, and you know they’re not having the best day ever. Hopefully, some of them are, but all of the mental gymnastics that social media has introduced are really fascinating to me. So part of my creative exercise is that Joe is someone who uses social media not to socialize. He’s antisocial and he uses it to incriminate other people and judge them. I think we all have moments of being in that place, and it was kind of my creating this character who dwells in that place, who never wants to be equal with people; he wants to be a little bit removed.”
He also rationalizes every twisted thing he does; never taking responsibility and blaming others for everything that befalls them at his hands. “We all do that on some level,” she muses. “We just don’t take it to that extreme, so you find yourself identifying with that, aware of the times that you do it. But then he’s killing someone and you’re, like, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t do that.’ One of my favorite lines from the movie The Big Chill is when the guy says, ‘Could you get through one day without a juicy rationalization?’ We all do this and we all feel sometimes like the world is against us and that we are the victim. So it’s really just amping all of that up until it becomes the defining energy in his life.”
Check out the Classic TV podcast for much more.