Netflix’s You has introduced us to one of our newest favorite serial killers: Joe Goldberg, also known as Will Bettelheim. He is cute, friendly, and murderous. You get the picture.
Played by Penn Badgley, the character often expresses his inner thoughts in the second person. It all depends on the object of his affection. In this case, the object is Love Quinn. You could say everything that he does is in the name of Love (pun intended).
All justifications are thoroughly explained to the viewer. And we all have no choice but to agree with whatever it is that he says. It doesn’t matter because it all makes sense. This is scary because this guy will kills anything he considers to be an obstacle. It’s as if they were just gnats in his way. What, then, makes Joe so likable? Are we attracted to serial killers in general? If so, what attract us to them? Well, let’s find out.
The Silence of the Lambs was one of the first productions to portray the American obsession with serial killers. By the 1990s, the genre had become the Queen Bee in pop culture, mainly because it created feelings of fear, disgust, enthusiasm, and relatedness. Again, scary. I blame the FBI: they gave us the structure to help us make sense of this kind of crime. While the Feds were getting funds from congress to fight serial killers like Joe, America’s pop culture drowned us in serial killer merchandise.
I also blame Ted Bundy. In 1979, the poster man for serial killing was sentenced to death in Florida. Not only was he suspected of murdering 100 women, he also skillfully portrayed America’s desires in a man: attractive, charismatic, and educated. It was hard to associate his charming behavior with the heinous one. However, the discrepancy between physical appearance and diverse facets of the mind has been recognized as one of the most well-known traits of serial killers. This made it all the more difficult, and interesting, for law enforcement.
Nothing could beat law enforcement; they were on top of the world. Just until some guy thought it’d be nice to start a murderous trend, of course. The media saw this as an issue (for the wrong reasons). Therefore, the birth of the serial killer came with a fraternal twin: the profiler. This archetype is somehow very well furnished to battle this criminal. Actually, the character inspired most of our favorite police shows, such as Law and Order: SVU. These shows came to stay, for they are sources of information regarding law enforcement and the psychology behind criminals such as serial killers, like Joe. In other words, mass media wants you to be fascinated with the idea of a serial killer, as long as you also root for the detectives.
By now you are still wondering how pseudo mentally healthy people can identify themselves with killers. Me too, dude. Once again, the only ones that can cross my mind are Dexter and Joe. Dexter kills those who are serial killers like him, while Joe kills anything that is in the way of his source of affection. There is a method to their madness, literally. It’s not as much as having the viewer recognize themselves in our favorite guys. It’s more of an understanding. Dexter is a righteous man, who frees the world of people as dangerous as him; he is a hero. Joe will do anything for love. And if his love doesn’t want him back, nobody else may have it. And it all makes sense.
My own personal reason for being obsessed with serial killer is in the dark side. The dark side of human nature is still an aspect of human nature. I want to learn how a serial killer gets to that point of murder. Do they enjoy it? What traumas took place before? For me, it is really about learning how their childhood affected their lives, and I am okay with that. Well, sort of. I think it may be time for me to go to a psychiatrist.