Joe Goldberg: What Caused Him to Go Nuts?


Hannah Barham

Joe Goldberg is the.. Protagonist? Is he a protagonist if he carries out the actions that an antagonist would carry out? Either way, he’s the main character in the original Netflix series, You. He carries on a cycle of obsessing over a specific woman and stopping at absolutely nothing to make sure that he keeps her in his life. From Guinevere Beck, to Love Quinn, to Natalie Engler, to Marienne Bellamy, Joe has a way of manipulating and lying his way into women’s hearts. But what exactly is wrong with Joe? What kind of trauma did he suffer through that started his sick twisted mindset? Here, we’ll take a look at the psychological disorders and standpoints of Joe’s mind, and figure out what drives him further and further in the circle of killing and lying. 

Our first step is to take a look at Joe’s childhood. Joe’s mother was named Sandy, and she was being abused by Joe’s father, who would beat Sandy and put out cigarettes on Joe’s arms. Sandy was unloyal to her husband, and she would cheat on him countless times, even leaving Joe alone in public to go see the men she wanted to go see. She would try to leave Joe’s father with the men she cheated on, but she would come back. She kept a gun in the closet, and when Joe was nine, Joe grabbed the gun and killed his father. His mother told him the murder wasn’t his fault and that he was a good person. We don’t get a full scene of Joe’s mom leaving, but we do know that Joe was left to be raised in a boy’s home. While there, Joe was severely bullied for his attachment to his mom, and that’s where he met nurse Fiona, a woman who was also in an abusive relationship and reminded him of his mother. Joe spent every day with Fiona and sort of developed a crush on her. Which, at a young age, is something concerning for a young orphan. Joe felt like he should have protected Fiona from her boyfriend, and he blamed himself when she stopped coming to work. Then Joe decides to look for his mother, and when he finds her, she has a new son and is focusing her attention on him. This could be the start of where Joe has his abandonment fears in his adult life. His mother left him behind when she was the only person in his life that he could trust and look up to. 

According to an article by PsychCentral, the top 19 side effects in adult children of abandoning/emotionally unavailable parents are “Abusive relationship, anxiety disorders or symptoms, attachment disorders, borderline personality disorder, care-taking and codependency, chaotic lifestyle, clingy/needy behavior, compulsive behaviors may develop

depression, desperate relationships/relationships that happen too fast, disturbances of mood, cannot self-regulate and experiences emotions in extreme, extreme jealousy and possessiveness, lack of confidence, self-esteem issue, may be poor at self-soothing, people-pleasing behaviors to detriment of self, poor coping strategies, promiscuity, relationship problems, trust issues.” Now, I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but it seems like Joe has half of these issues when it comes to his relationships with women. If any man comes into any woman’s life that he’s pining over, he does everything in his power to eliminate him, as shown by Benji, Peach, etc. in Season 1. Joe seems to snap at the end of Season 1, when Beck finds his box of things that he stole from her, and she tries to leave. He knocks her out and keeps her in the glass cage, before she manipulates her way out and he eventually kills her. 

We can very obviously tell that Joe has had some serious trauma in his childhood that led to his.. Psychotic behavior. Well, to be honest, psychotic is a brutal understatement. Joe Goldberg is an obsessive sociopath who will do horrible things to the people around him, only if it means that he can get the woman he loves. Can we fully blame his mother for his actions? Well, to be honest, I don’t want to fully blame his mother, but his mom could have done the humane thing and NOT give him up to social services. I think the show You proves that the butterfly effect is, in fact, a real thing.