“You” Showrunner on Subverting the Lifetime ‘Stalked Woman’ Trope

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Lifetime in 2018 has become a very different network than the “woman in peril” movies of its 10-years-ago reputation, which makes it an ideal time to premiere , a twisted rom com between an overly obsessed bookstore owner (Penn Badgley) and the aspiring writer (Elizabeth Lail) he sets his sights on.

And coincidentally, sexual assault, harassment and the lines that should not be crossed is a huge hot topic in the current #metoo zeitgeist.

“We spent a lot of time in the writers’ room talking about the expectations on men,” showrunner Sera Gamble said of the new thriller series at a panel during the Critics’ Association’s winter press tour. “Let me be clear, we’re not saying the character Penn plays is a normal guy – he’s not. He crosses some lines I don’t think anyone in this room would cross that’s delightful television, but would be creepy in real life. We talk about what we call the ‘white knight syndrome,’ the idea that you should save women. That you should save women who haven’t even asked you to. Because I don’t know how to write characters you can’t understand, we all in the writers’ room developed a great deal of empathy for the confusion everybody has over what you’re supposed to be, or what is masculinity in 2018. Is chivalry something we care about now? These are the things that have blended their way into the unconscious of this character.”

Of course, painting a stalker or his victim as multi-dimensional characters goes beyond typical Lifetime movies of the week – with such titles as The Stalker Club, Stalker’s Prey and The Perfect Stalker – and Gamble sees that as part of the fun of the series.

“One of the really fun things about this show is that he is watching our female lead, Beck, first from afar and then up close and our first experience of this woman is through his eyes,” Gamble continued. “we get a picture of her that’s based on his understanding of her and of women in general. The great thing about doing this as a show is we don’t stop there, we end up going much further into the life of Beck. We sometimes go places that Penn’s character can’t. So the way in is the ‘stalked woman,’ and yes, there is like a subversive juiciness to that, but I think you’ll see within the first ten episodes of the season that what we end up getting to do is painting a really complete, multi-dimensional portrait of this young woman.”

You will premiere in 2018 on Lifetime.

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