Culture

'You' Thinks Anti-Vaxxers Are Worse Than Literal Murderers

By Ellie Holt··  7 min read
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Hello, You. That's right, season 3 is here and that means your favorite serial killer, Joe Goldberg, is back for another season of stalking, hiding bodies, and overwrought literary quotes in the Netflix hit, “You.”

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

In the third installment of the addictive thriller meets soap opera, Joe, his new wife, Love, and their baby boy move to the suburbs to get away from their past crimes. But the quiet life of the 'burbs ends up creating more problems when they encounter the vapid, narcissistic, wealthy residents of Madre Linda. 

While the show maintained the salacious quality that made the first season addictive and the second season tolerable, the writers weren’t afraid to cash in on the series’ success in order to branch into hot topics like vaccines. 

You Went To Bat against “Anti-Vaxxers”

Many viewers were dismayed to find that season 3 acknowledges the existence of Covid, something that most other TV shows and movies have been reluctant to do given that in general audiences want escapist entertainment that takes them out of the real world, rather than reminding them of it. But the issue wasn't merely that Covid was a thing, but that it was used as a punchline against the "unvaccinated." 

In episode 3 of season 3, Joe and his wife Love find out that their infant son, Henry, has measles and must be hospitalized. At the hospital, a healthcare worker condemns the stupidity of those who don't get vaccinated, especially "in the era of Covid.” Love refers to anti-vaxxers as "brain dead" and can be seen reading an article on her phone regarding the "anti-logic" of anti-vaxxers. Later on, we find out that her husband, Joe, also has the measles because his mother didn't have him vaccinated. She’s subsequently described as a "bad" mother.

When Love finds out that Henry was infected by two unvaccinated children they encountered at a birthday party, Love confronts the father, Gil, and proceeds to hit him over the head in a fit of rage (he later commits suicide, and Love and Joe frame him for another murder they committed). 

The point seems to be that those who don't get vaccinated have less respect for human life than actual serial killers.

While the messaging is clear, the storyline itself bears several logic gaps that play against the propaganda. For one thing, how do we know that Joe didn't get the baby sick? In fact, how do we know that Joe wasn't the one who got the other children sick rather than vice versa? Likewise, it’s never discussed where and how the other children got sick and who patient zero was, rather Gil's children are treated as though they contracted measles through spontaneous generation. The delivery is clunky and condescending, and the messaging far too heavy-handed. 

But the most appalling aspect of all is the self-righteous consternation that deems "anti-vaxxers" to be worse than literal murderers. The point seems to be that even the most odious people still have the decency to get vaccinated, and those who don't have less respect for human life than actual serial killers. The intent is clear. Netflix is eager to create content that aids and abets bias against so-called anti-vaxxers in order to service a current political narrative about vaccines. 

The Problem with the Term “Anti-Vaxxer”

The truth of the matter is that the term "anti-vaxxer" has been wildly reframed and broadened to include those who don't agree with vaccine mandates, are skeptical of vaccines due to past injury, those who might have had some vaccines in the past but are skeptical of others, parents who wish to spread out vaccines for their children over the course of many years, and parents who don’t want wish to have their children inoculated with all 70+ recommended vaccines. 

The term "anti-vaxxer" has been wildly reframed and broadened, even weaponized.

The term "anti-vaxxer" has in many ways become a rhetorical device meant to delegitimize and stigmatize those who don’t subscribe to the approved narrative regarding vaccines as "crazy conspiracy theorists." Word games such as these make it difficult to talk about controversial subjects in a meaningful way, and instead provide fodder for insults and punchlines at the expense of those we disagree with. Bating those on the other side of the aisle with insults and turning escapist shows into venues for the political issues de jour is a much better strategy for turning people away from your message, rather than towards it. If the objective is to get people vaccinated, Netflix certainly isn’t helping to change anyone’s mind. 

Is Netflix Actually Making Fun of the Liberal Elite?

In many ways it might be easy to mistake the entire show as a satire, making fun of vapid, liberal elites who engage in open marriages, flee from anything that's not keto-approved, and major in "gen fem studies." Joe's snide criticisms and scathing judgments of his wealthy, narcissistic neighbors could be interpreted as social commentary against their real-life counterparts in Silicon Valley and The Bay Area. 

For example, Love's vapid, hippie mother makes a comment about her love for Rachel Maddow, and Theo, the “gen fem studies” neighbor, refers to his father's obsessive nature as being akin to a "QAnon nut." 

It might also be easy to interpret Love’s violent outrage against “anti-vaxxers” as just another excess of wokeism – perhaps even satire. Clearly beating people over the head isn’t the way society ought to handle “anti-vaxxers.” Or is it? One need only turn on CNN or MSNBC to see that many in the legacy media share Love’s outrage. 

Clearly beating people over the head isn’t the way society ought to handle “anti-vaxxers.” Or is it? 

The show is more of a blind self-parody than a riveting social commentary. The writing reflects the approved Hollywood agenda with disdain for those who disagree, and the unlikeable characters and their nauseating self-indulgences expose the excesses of wokeness with little awareness. 

What Is Netflix’s Objective?

Netflix is one of the most partisan tech companies, with 98% of all campaign donations going to the Democratic Party. One doesn’t need to question where their political and ideological sympathies lie. But what is the intention behind strong partisan storylines that ultimately alienate audiences? 

I think it lies in Netflix wanting to lord their cultural cache over viewers. They have a huge international audience, and they want to use that tremendous power to push certain narratives. They don’t want to change minds, they don’t want to engage in reasonable dialogue, they don’t want to exchange ideas – they just want to yell at you. They also want to appeal to the woke audience segments and prove their own partisan allegiance so as to avoid future censorship and government crackdown (as is the case with Facebook and Twitter). But this has negative consequences. Netflix has lost subscribers in the last quarter due to what viewers cite as “going woke.” Netflix now must face whether they want to narrow their audience appeal for the sake of ideology.  

Closing Thoughts

With every corner of the legacy media dedicated to insulting the “unvaccinated,” and telling them what horrible, no good, very bad people they are, is it any wonder that many viewers are dismayed to find their favorite TV show(s) embracing the same talking points as a CNN host? Most people turn to TV as escapist entertainment and a way to unwind from reality, not to be talked down to, scolded, or propagandized. 

While You season 3 is another iteration of past seasons, filled with dark humor, gore, and drama, this season is full of patronizing lines that cater to only one side of the aisle and instead alienate audience members.

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