Joe Kills Like a B*tch: How The Subversion of Homicidal Gender Roles Makes 'You' the MOST Progressive Show Streaming Now
Joe: If I'm not 100% into you all of the time, you will keep killing people!
Love: If I'm not enough for you, you'll kill me!
In this tension-filled moment, Joe and Love stand The Notebook style, out in the rain, screaming at each other in fear, frustration, sadness, and equality. The main characters of the hit Netflix series You, played by Penn Badgely and Victoria Pedretti, are two creepy, murderous psychopaths that have, somehow in this crazy world, found each other. It would almost be romantic, if not for the body count. However, Joe and Love are not your run-of-the-mill murderers. They are both driven by incredibly nuanced characteristics that make the two, in the eyes of homicidal Hollywood, downright progressive.
How? Easy. Joe kills like a woman. Love kills like a man. Comedian Sam Morrill in his comedy album Class Act makes a joke that, "I think men and women kill the way they love. Men are like 'I will kill anything'. Women are like, 'I gotta get to know you first.'" In the dark, nihilistic recesses of our minds, we know it's true. Well, it's true everywhere but in the show You. Love will kill anyone. If someone crosses her path, she'll strike without a thought. Joe, however, is more thoughtful in his killings (I mean, as thoughtful as one can be when taking a human life, but stay with me). It's the people he is nearest and dearest to, or those that wrong the people he'd like to protect, that end up dead on the floor of his basement cage.
In a gorily horrific way, this represents progress. In the year 2021, we are finally confronting gender norms, what they mean, and how antiquated they are. Shouldn't this extend to murder as well? In a masochistic outcry of girl power!, You may accidentally be one of the most progressive shows streaming today. The subversion of homicidal gender norms between Joe and Love emphasizes the psychotic insanity of both while also laying the groundwork for more dynamic, homicidal gender equality in modern media going forward.
Joe's running monologue, which falls under the purview of stereotypical feminine overthinking, is expertly compared to love's impulsivity thereby emphasizing the disparity between their stabby styles. There is science behind the notion that women overthink more than men do. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that:
The brains of women in the study were significantly more active in many more areas of the brain than men, especially in the prefrontal cortex, involved with focus and impulse control, and the limbic or emotional areas of the brain, involved with mood and anxiety. The visual and coordination centers of the brain were more active in men.
With this scientifically proven predisposition for focus and anxiety, women are more likely to attack a problem from every angle, think through everything that could go wrong, and brainstorm countless solutions to make it go right. In You, however, this role falls to Joe. After Love kills Natalie, Joe immediately springs into action, taking the murdered woman's phone out of her pocket. "Her phone, Love. Her trackable traceable phone. Did you even think about that before you buried an ax in our neighbor?" Joe thinks of everything: the phone, the teeth, the body-hiding location, the alibi. This attention to detail accentuates the reversal of gender norms within the confines of the show's psychotic trajectory.
When Joe asks Love, on the other hand, "Did you even think about that before you buried an ax in our neighbor?," the answer is in fact simple: no. Love, much to her infinite chagrin, is impulsive. Her impulsive tendencies actually stand contrary to science. According to a study done by Kazufumi Omura and Kenji Kusumoto:
Males seem to be more impulsive than females. Behavioral measures provide some evidence for sex differences in trait impulsivity: males experience greater difficulty in controlling their inappropriate behaviors than females. Response inhibition, which is one the primary executive functions, is necessary for control of prepotent responses under changing situational demands.
Love's first instinct is what she goes with, and that instinct is typically to murder. When she finds out Joe is obsessed with Natalie, the neighbors are anti-vaxxers, and Theo knows too much, she strikes. She fights the way men fight. While women are known to fight through overthinking and endless streams of passive aggression, men are stereotypically known for hitting each other and calling it quits.
This system might actually work out for Love...IF there wasn't a dead body left in her possession after. Love murders like a man. There is a terrifying, limitless potential that Joe sees in Love and vice versa. Both realize that the other, thanks to the betrayal of traditional roles, is capable of anything. Man or woman does not matter. They both have the capacity to kill in ways that confuse and concern the other. That, in a sick, twisted way, is equality.
This subversion is also used as a tool to emphasize to the viewer just how absolutely NUTS Joe and Love are. The brains and the brawn trope is everywhere. However, traditionally, the woman is the brains and the man is the brawn. This applies to dynamic duos such as Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, Cersei and Jamie from Game of Thrones, and Jessie and James from Pokemon. In You, this is turned on its head. Love is the brawn while Joe is the brains. This mixup helps keep the viewer on their toes because, no matter how many times it happens, we will always be shocked that Love killed someone and that Joe managed to get away with it. It tests what we perceive as standard within the societal confines of our world. In this way, You promotes the progressive destruction of societal gender norms in media today, no matter how murderous they may be.
Rather than hiding these nontraditional roles within the subtle nuances of the show, the writers point to them with giant arrows and neon signs. In episode three of season 3, Joe refers to Love as "Lady Macbeth". When Love suggests framing the neighbor for the death of Natalie, Joe, in an overthinking voiceover says, "You're doing your Lady Macbeth thing again, like when you wanted to frame Ellie for killing Hendy." One of Shakespeare's most notorious women, she is known for convincing her husband to commit murders while she operates as the brains of the operation.
While this would suggest they are leaning into traditional gender roles, that is actually a red herring. Lady Macbeth's most famous speech involves a line where she calls, "Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here and fill me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood." She is literally calling upon the universe to take away her feminine qualities, allowing her to commit the atrocities at hand. Love, through her murderous qualities, does the same thing. This allusion points to Love taking on the male role in her and Joe's temporary Bonnie and Clyde style life.
Another bold, classical allusion to their switch of gender roles comes in the final episode of the season. After Joe kills Love, he frames her for murdering him by making it seem as if she baked him into a pie. This is textbook Greek mythology. In the Philomela and Procne myth, Procne cooks her son and feeds him to her husband. The cooking of a human being into food, at least within the confines of Greek mythology, tends to be the modus operandi of the woman. Joe's final actions still seek to frame Love, in the eyes of their cookie cutter neighborhood, as a traditional woman. However, he ultimately was the one that baked the pie cementing, once and for all, that he is not playing the traditional role that one would assume of a man.
You is simultaneously the most twisted and progressive show streaming now. At the end of the day, it really shows us we can all do anything we want to. Women can be impulsive murderers. Men can be calculated cannibalistic bakers. Once we stop clinging to traditional gender norms and making assumptions about the different actions people will take based on something as trivial as gender, maybe we will do a better job catching psychopaths like Joe and Love sooner. Just a thought.