Why Netflix’s ‘You’ Wouldn’t Exist Without a Tom Hanks Romantic Comedy
Netflix’s You isn’t a romance in the traditional sense of the word. Rather than focusing on a wonderful man like Prince Charming or Mr. Darcy, You centers on Joe Goldberg, a serial murderer and stalker who falls head over heels for women to the point of obsession. While You certainly has comedic moments, it’s not exactly a romantic comedy.
However, a certain romantic comedy played a role in its creation. The Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie You’ve Got Mail might not be the most obvious point of comparison for You. However, author Caroline Kepnes has revealed the movie partially inspired her to write You.
Joe Goldberg from ‘You’ verses Joe Fox from ‘You’ve Got Mail’
You’ve Got Mail is one of the better-remembered romantic comedies of the 1990s. It revolves around a bookstore owner named Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks). Through the internet, he talks to Kathleen (played by Meg Ryan). He spends lots of time online doing what he can to learn about her and her interests in an attempt to woo her. He also communicates to Kathleen through his anonymous online persona and hides he’s the man behind the online persona when he meets Kathleen in real life.
Joe Goldberg from You operates in much the same way. He, too, owns a bookstore in New York City and falls in love with a blonde writer. Then, he uses the internet — particularly social media to learn more about her. Like Hank’s character from You’ve Got Mail, Joe is hiding something — he’s a heinous criminal.
Caroline Kepnes on ‘You’ve Got Mail’
Kepnes notices the parallels herself. She told The New York Times “There are so many parallels with You’ve Got Mail. It’s one of my favorite romantic comedies that I have watched a million times. When I was younger, and very hopeful and in good spirits, it seemed just absolutely, utterly sweet. ”
In addition, Kepnes told The Brown Daily Herald she wrote You partially as a way to dissect why she liked romantic comedies. “Writing You became my way of … working out why I loved those perfect narratives so much. Like, why did I want to watch You’ve Got Mail eight billion times? As a woman watching those things, unconsciously, you’re like, I could never be that (much) like an angel, so I wanted to write a story with real people.”
Many fans like You because they feel it takes conventions of romantic comedies and subverts them in order to highlight toxic male behavior. Ketones told Book & Film Globe “In another dimension, [Joe’s] behavior is romantic. Minus the murder, obviously. But that’s the point. Where do we draw the line?”
Netflix’s You has been understood as a dark satire of romantic comedies. By the same token, some fans have fallen in love with Joe despite his crimes. Perhaps this proves that romantic comedy clichés are incredibly powerful.