If you are active on any social media platform, or have any kind of connection with the outside world, you have most likely heard about the new Netflix series You. The Gossip Girl himself Penn Bagdley has taken on a more sinister role as a societal monitor. Keeping current with every text, DM, outing, and conversation, our villainous protagonist Joe closely follows Beck, a writer in New York that he comes across in his bookstore. As the plot progresses, Joe slowly abandons the Gossip Girl archetype, and quickly glides into a Dexter-esque murderer. Though we witness Joe take a life early on, we somehow keep rooting for him in spite of this. Among the many Twitter threads and viral gifs going around, it seems You's fans are united in the affirmation that Joe is in fact a psychopath—except for one superstar fan.
Just last week, the Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown posted a video to twitter regarding the show You. Among the outrage towards Joe's insidious actions, Brown's video went sharply against the grain. Her video divulged into her own theory that Joe is in fact not a psychopath, he is "just in love with her". This video caused immense outrage, sending fans into a tailspin. Though Brown prefaced her video by telling her fans she has not watched the entire season, one may argue Joe has done enough by episode 2 to cause fans to admit they are supporting a psychopath. Though the outrage is understandable, there is one major point that a lot of these confused tweeters don't understand—she's 14 years old, of course she does not understand what healthy love is. How can you expect a recipient of toxic on-screen relationships to detect toxicity in a relationship? This plot line has been done over and over again, this time around it's just rough around the edges.
Brown is definitely one of the most refined, mature 14 year olds there is. She has to handle fame, digest hate, and keep up with a rigorous acting career, but at the end of the day, she's 14. At 14, I thought my freshmen year relationship that lasted 1 month and was comprised of long text conversations and sitting together at lunch (sometimes) would last forever. I thought Bella and Edward were the ideal couple. I had no idea what love meant. Though some 14 year olds may recognize Joe's actions as the epitome of unhealthy, Brown's response should force us to take a look at how we're portraying love and relationships to the younger generations.
Romantic Comedies and fairytales have been giving young girls false expectations of men and dating for decades. Think of how a 14 year old would see Joe and Beck. Joe is doing all of the things the Troy Bolton and Channing Tatum's characters have done, just with an interesting, murderous twist. Just because Brown is in the media, does not mean she is somehow exponentially more mature and chalked full of life experience than the average tween. While it is important for her to understand Joe and Beck are not in a healthy relationship, maybe this is the viral example we need to prove to Hollywood and all of its fans that toxic on screen relationships are doing more damage than we have realized. It is time to stop aging child stars.
Between predatory scandals with older men in the media, to societal expectations for image and diplomacy in a pop culture realm, child actors are not children. These stars are sexualized, scrutinized under an adult lens, and are expected to have the maturity of the majority of Hollywood's demographic. It is time to take a closer look at how our cinematic art is affecting the youth of America. While I encourage the silver screen to display more healthy relationships, I do not expect toxicity to leave media—it makes for very entertaining plot lines. Responsibility must fall into the hands of parents. If you do not believe in regulating what your child watches, I urge you to keep up the conversation of what is healthy when it comes to romantic relationships. Sexual education and topics alike are conversations a large portion of today's parental figures are shying away from talking about. These are tough to break to young kids, but we need to recognize what sweeping things under the rug is doing to the newest generations. Let your daughters know that while You is a great television series, but that is what it is, television. Scripted. Artificial. Not real. Love is perplexing, do not leave your children to fend for themselves and use Hollywood as their guideline.