Things felt a little different on this season of You. Instead of presenting us with the same old moral dilemma—serial killer Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is so hot…but also a serial killer—the show's fourth season softens the edges of its antihero and gives us a new villain: the ultra wealthy.
The realization hit me halfway through the first episode of part one. “It even smells rich,” drawls Joe's condescending voiceover as he steps into an elite night club in London’s posh Soho neighborhood. “If a bomb dropped on this place, Britain's GDP would drop by 10%, but it might be worth it.” I had a feeling of deja vu—You is doing the “eat the rich” trope too.
The past few years have seen a slew of works that satirize the wealthy and, ultimately, relish in their turbulent, shocking downfall. You's showrunner Sera Gamble told us it's easy to see why this trope has emerged. “There’s an interesting thing happening right now with the ubiquity of information about people on social media, and the fact that there are now immensely wealthy people who don’t seem as interested in being private about it,” she said.
These forays attempt to capture and skewer the corruption that comes with (and often begets) extreme wealth. But with each new work, I can't help but feel that this method of critiquing the rich is hollow.
The past year gave us films like Triangle of Sadness, Glass Onion, and The Menu, along with HBO's miniseries The White Lotus, all of which follow the same formula: A group of oblivious and self-centered rich people find themselves trapped together in some remote location—a yacht, an island, a restaurant, and a hotel, respectively. Before long, things dissolve into manic, unbridled chaos. Almost every “eat the rich” project of the past year (except, perhaps, for The White Lotus) features what is essentially an ensemble of heightened caricatures. There's the Instagram influencer. The billionaire tech or finance bro. The actor, the model, the socialite. These are people we have all seen before; these are the ignorant, self-obsessed ultra wealthy. After seeing just how awful they all are, we sit back gleefully to watch their collective downfall.