The two halves of my heart collided when Netflix released You: a terrifying and nail-biting thriller that seems designed for the English major in all of us. Originally based on a book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes, You is about Beck, an NYU MFA-candidate, and Joe, a bookstore clerk who’s pursuit of her is deeply unsettling. His dorky affinity for literature adds to an overall charm that renders his stalker behaviors even more startling. But the best parts were the literary easter eggs that spark hours of conversations and the craziest analyses I’ve ever seen.
To start with an obvious call-out, Peach Salinger, descendant of the famous J.D., is Beck’s best friend. In an effort to avoid spoilers, all I’ll say is that her character develops along an interesting track. But the show’s overall obsession with lust and the pervasive treatment of people as objects to fill selfish aims, in complete dismissal of their individual agency, harkens back to J.D.’s hallowed hero: Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye. Holden sees everyone around him as a “phony” with an unrelenting, judgemental eye. Similarly, Joe takes it upon himself to decide the sincerity of Beck’s friends, often stepping in to right perceived wrongs. Holden and Joe also share a preoccupation with lust and, more specifically, the sanctity of a relationship. Joe wants everything to be perfect, and I’m sure Holden would agree.
You also boasts an overt Charles Dickens shoutout in the form of a Dickens Festival, where Beck reunites with estranged family members before confronting her father for his years of abandonment. Unsurprisingly, Charles Dickens prioritizes the value of a nuclear family in many of his works, notably the Cratchits in A Christmas Carol and, to a greater extent, the fifteen different families in David Copperfield. Having this emotional scene of familial distrust and animosity occur within the context of a Dickensian world underscores the turmoil and tragedy of Beck’s character.
Moments of literary subtext flow through the entire show, and whether or not you’re a “thriller person,” it’s worth a watch just for the shout-outs. Or, in true English major fashion, read the book first.
Cassidy Sattler is a junior in Columbia College studying English.