Penn Badgley on season two, episode seven of "You."
Netflix

Editor's note: This story contains spoilers for the television show "You."

  • Netflix's original thriller series "You" follows serial killer Joe Goldberg as he stalks, obsesses over, and wins the love of different women.
  • Goldberg also kills various people in his love interest Beck's life as a way to get closer to her.
  • At times, the show accurately depicts serial killers, like the fact they often kill their victims using the same technique.
  • But unlike Goldberg's character, serial killers aren't always motivated by love and sex.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

On December 26, Netflix released the highly-anticipated second season of its original thriller series "You," which centers around narrator Joe Goldberg, a young man who has a pattern of becoming obsessed with certain women, stalking them, winning them over, and killing anyone around them he believes has done them wrong.

In both seasons, Goldberg goes on killing sprees over many months, which could classify him as a serial killer, or someone who repeatedly commits murder and usually does so in a pattern, like killing all of the victims in the same way or killing the same types of people, according to the American Psychological Association.

In Goldberg's case, he tortures and kills his victims using the same method: forcing them into a glass box.

Although "You" gets some facts about serial killers correct, like their their ability to charm unsuspecting victims, the show also generalises serial killer traits and actions through its depiction of Goldberg. As a result, viewers may misunderstand what a serial killer actually is.

Here's what "You" gets right and wrong about serial killers.


Fact: Serial killers tend to appear charismatic and charming.

Netflix

Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, is handsome and charming. In the beginning of the show's first episode, he has no trouble getting the attention of his soon-to-be obsession and love interest, Beck.

Additionally, fans of the show haven't been shy about sharing the fact they're enamored by Goldberg, even though he's a serial killer.

Non-fictional serial killers do indeed tend to use their wit and charm to win over others' trust and manipulate them into getting what they personally want.

They're also often able to use these traits to fly under the radar. According to the FBI, many now-known serial killers previously went unnoticed because they appeared, on the surface, to lead normal lives with families, homes, and steady jobs.


Fact: Serial killers tend to have underlying personality disorders.

Netflix

Although the show never reveals what they are, mental health experts previously told Insider Goldberg exhibits certain traits that suggest he has antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder, Insider previously reported.

According to the National Institutes of Health, people with antisocial personality disorder lack empathy, and as a result, may act in ways that society considers morally unsound, like manipulating others to get what they want or violating another's privacy.

People with narcissistic personality disorder have an inflated sense of self-importance and lack of empathy for others, which are typically mechanisms used to mask their low self-esteem, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It's true that real-life serial killers tend to have underlying mental illnesses that drive them to act the way they do.

According to the FBI, known serial killers have been diagnosed with various mental health disorders including antisocial personality disorder, which is often referred to as sociopathy or psychopathy, although the medical community doesn't recognise these terms.

Having a personality disorder, however, doesn't cause you to be a serial killer, and people with mental illness in general are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.


Fact: Serial killers find a way to justify their actions.

Netflix

In season 1 of "You," Goldberg hit a man named Benji, his love interest Beck's boyfriend at the time, over the head with a mallet, locked him in a glass box, and killed him a few days later.

Later in the season, Goldberg also killed Beck's best friend Peach because he didn't like how Beck and Peach's relationship interfered with his and Beck's relationship.

Goldberg justifies these murders by telling himself that the people he killed weren't good enough for Beck and needed to be out of her life.

Non-fictional serial killers are also able to guiltlessly justify their crimes because they lack empathy, a hallmark trait of antisocial personality disorder.


Myth: All serial killers commit murder because they're addicted to love or sex.

Netflix

In season 2, flashback scenes to Goldberg's childhood make it apparent his tendency to stalk and obsess over certain women is rooted in trauma from the way he was raised.

The flashbacks show how Goldberg's mother neglected him and his father acted violently, for instance. As a result, Goldberg grows unhealthily attached to certain women he encounters as an adult.

Some mental health experts have even said it's possible Goldberg has a love addiction, or a desperate need to find someone to love that's fueled by the irrational fear of being alone or being rejected, according to The Ranch Treatment Centers.

But not every serial killer commits their crimes for love- or sex-related reasons, according to the FBI. Anger, thrill-seeking, financial gain, and attention-seeking are also common motivations.


Myth: White men are more likely to be serial killers.

Netflix

Like many well-known real-life serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, Goldberg is a white man.

But not all serial killers are white men, according to the FBI, and rather, the demographics of serial killers mimic the general population and include people from Caucasian, Asian, African American, and Latin backgrounds. Women can be serial killers as well, but the majority are men.

It is possible, though, that white male serial killers get more media attention.

Criminologist Dr. Scott Bonn told The Atlantic that one reason white male serial killers get the most attention is because serial killers tend to kill people in their same demographic, so white serial killers tend to kill white people.

And, since, unfortunately, law enforcement tends to favor protecting affluent white neighborhoods over poor neighborhoods where minorities lives, Bonn said, it could explain why white serial killers appear in the news more often than non-white serial killers.

"This [tendency] negatively impacts the ability of law enforcement personnel to pursue serial murder cases in poor racial minority communities," Bonn said.

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