The Netflix hit show You now has every woman looking over her shoulder when she gets in her car and thinking twice before accepting a walk home from that seemingly sweet coworker. The show exposed the many ways people, particularly women, put their safety at risk through simple acts like common social media behaviors. MADAMENOIRE detail those here. In the show You any woman can become a target if they smile at Joe just the right way – or the wrong way.
Netflix’s inclusion of Black content on its platform and casting of Black actors in their original content has been the subject of much debate in recent years. Forbes praised the platform for being the first of its kind to start making a mega-grab for Black content. On the other hand, Netflix has been criticized for how Black characters and the topic of race at large have been represented on some of their original shows. USA Today reported on the issue that only light skinned Black actors snagged major roles in Bridgerton, and that it suffers from some subtle but unfortunate stereotyping. So did Netflix nail it with their inclusion of Black actors and characters in “You”? Let’s meet the Black women of “You” and learn a bit about their character arcs.
The most recent season left us almost thinking that Joe’s current obsession, Marienne Bellamy, was safe from his pursuit until the very last moment. Marienne, played by Tati Gabrielle, is a single mother and recovered drug addict who oversees the library where Joe works in the show. All in all, there is an interesting and complicated mix of good and bad, stereotyping and breaking stereotypes, in Marienne’s character. As the manager of the library, she is the superior to several white men in her workplace. Though she is an addict and single mother, she is a successfully recovered addict while her ex (a white man) is still using and hiding it while he acts as the town’s local news anchor and poster child. Marienne is a loving mother and fights hard in a custody battle for her daughter throughout season three. There are comments about the system being rigged against her, but the writers don’t have any character come out and explicitly say it is due to Marienne being Black. Marienne does have a speech in the show about “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” in which she educates Joe on the gross discrepancy of care and interest shows when a white woman goes missing versus a minority female. Joe and Marienne do have a fling but it doesn’t get too serious because, well, Joe is married at that point. He lies to Marienne and tells her he’s separated from his wife – and she doesn’t sleep with him until that alleged separation has occurred.
Shalita Grant plays Sherry Conrad, a pseudo local celebrity with a popular mommy blog. In the suburban hell/heaven of Madre Linda, California where season three takes place, Conrad is the Queen B Mean Girl and, put simply, a rich bitch. All of the other moms want to be in her good graces – not because they like her, but because if she doesn’t like them, they could wind up the subject of one of her blog posts. Sherry is keto and peppy and gossipy and married to Cary Conrad (yes their names rhyme), a white man who seems like he would have been president of his fraternity or captain of his volleyball team. Props to the writers for making the head socialite of Madre Linda a Black woman. She has dozens of white women at her feet doing anything to gain her approval. But there is no denying that other than Sherry, the season regulars making up the suburbanites of Madre Linda are predominantly white. Sherry and Cary are in an open marriage and eventually try to sleep with Joe and his wife…which lands Sherry and Cary in the creepy glass cage Joe throws his victims into when they misbehave. Sherry and Cary do eventually make it out and build a multi-million-dollar brand centered on the book they write about their experience as hostages. So in the end, the lunacy of a white male serial killer spurs the empire of a Black woman, which has some poetic justice.
Natalie Paul plays Karen Minty, a rebound girlfriend with whom Joe has a short-lived relationship during his on-and-off thing with his target Beck in season one. In the sea of self-absorbed, impulsive maniacs on “You,” Karen almost doesn’t catch your attention at first, but that’s the very thing that makes her great: she’s possibly the most stable, well-adjusted and good human in the entire show and has become the unsung hero of the series. Karen has a stable job to which she’s dedicated, she is a good girlfriend to Joe during their short relationship, she saves a friend’s life during the show and cares for the neglected young son of Joe’s drug addict neighbor. She knows who she is, she is good with boundaries and she’s deeply empathetic without being codependent. And when Joe leaves her to get back with Beck, she handles it like an adult, accepting it, calmly packing up her things, and leaving. No tantrum. No revenge. No nasty words. She moves on with her life (and even graciously tries to warn Beck, Joe’s victim of that season, that Joe might be a little off…) All in all, Karen is a boss and diehard fans of the show love her.
The Black women survive
To this point in the show “You,” Joe has only killed white women – white men, too. Only white characters up until this point have made the mistake of being drawn in by Joe’s charm and moving quickly into the type of ultra-clingy relationship that ultimately results in…murder. Karen Minty dates Joe, but not with the obsession or clinginess seen from his white girlfriends. She always maintains her independence and doesn’t dive into something serious with Joe – withholding the very intensity that typically brings out his murderous qualities. Marienne does get involved with Joe but she also takes things at a slow pace and maintains some distance because her main concern throughout her season is gaining custody of her daughter, so she doesn’t have time to get all wrapped up in Joe. And, as a mother, Marienne is someone Joe wouldn’t consider killing…for now. He has a thing about moms. Sherry Conrad was never technically a love interest of Joe’s (though they do have sex for a minute when they swing as married couples). But she does become a near-victim, and she actually masterfully manipulates Joes and his wife from inside of her cage, which is ultimately what keeps her and her husband alive.