Many terms come to mind when one thinks of Joe Goldberg, the lead character in Netflix's hit thriller YOU. He's obsessive, controlling, delusional, murderous, repulsive ... the list goes on. For me, "Arab man" flashed in fluorescent colors. I simply couldn't help but draw parallels between Goldberg's attributes and those common among many Arab men.
In case you haven't watched the show yet, and I strongly recommend that you do, YOU follows a young man who goes to extreme measures to insert himself into the lives of women he is transfixed by.
#TeamMen will probably get defensive, so let's make a couple of things clear: In no way am I suggesting that Arab men are obsessive serial killers, nor am I implying they are all horrible partners. So yes, "not all Arab men" adopt such attitudes, so this post is strictly referring to those who do.
We simply can't deny that some of Goldberg's traits, regardless of how exaggerated they might seem to some people, are not so far away from reality. In fact, many Arab guys cross the fine line between being a caring, attentive partner and being a jealous, controlling one.
Before you call me a bitter, single feminist (where's the lie though?), please hear me out:
1. Pushing his partner away from friends and loved ones
Throughout the series, Goldberg attempts to distance his love interests from their loved ones, such as Guinevere Beck's friend Peach Salinger and Love Quinn's brother Forty. Goldberg falsely believes being in a relationship with a woman means entitlement to her undivided attention at all times and qualifies him to become the sole important figure in her life.
Likewise, an Arab man may tend to low-key isolate his partner from her friends and family because he wants her all for himself. He makes her feel guilty for hanging out with her friends or doing some activity on her own while he is free and generally tries to control how she spends her time and whom she spends it with.
2. Reeking of hypocrisy and double standards
*Warning: Spoiler Alert!
Towards the end of the second season, we see Goldberg lose interest in Love Quinn, with whom he had been infatuated all season, after finding out she has similar obsessive, homicidal tendencies as himself. Goldberg thoroughly justifies his wrongdoings and constantly tries to validate them, yet he does not extend the same courtesy to Quinn and is quick to judge and condemn her.
The same hypocrisy and double standards are common among many Arab men who chastise their partners for the same things they are guilty of. For example, such men expect their partners to have no sexual history and slut-shame women who do, despite these men having anything but clean slates in their pasts. Similarly, such men police every aspect of their partners' lives but take offense when their own lives are meddled into.
3. Victimizing himself like a true narcissist
If you've been unfortunate enough to have dealt with narcissists like Goldberg, you are probably aware of their tendency to play the victim and manipulate the narrative.
Similarly, thanks to their massive egos, some Arab men only see things from their own narcissistic lenses and are quick to victimize themselves, rather than admit their flaws and mistakes. They project their insecurities in an unhealthy manner, going above and beyond to assert that there's a cosmic plan rooting against them. They constantly justify their actions through a rationale that is pretty flawed but alarmingly convincing.
4. Treating women like fragile creatures in need of constant guidance
Goldberg - along with many Arab men - has a distorted image of what being a partner entails. He treats his significant other as a damsel in distress who requires constant guidance and protection. He appoints himself as her guardian, undermines her maturity and autonomy, and feels emboldened to take matters into his own hands without consulting with her first. Fragile masculinity, much?
5. Handling rejection is not his strong suit
"She's single and doesn't want to go out with me... then, she must be playing hard to get." This is what goes on in many Arab guys' heads whenever they are turned down by a woman because her being simply not interested is out of the question.
Goldberg exhibits the same inability to handle rejection and is quick to get clingy and fanatic at the first signs of dismissal.
6. Using violence under the guise of romance
When things get tough, even remotely, Goldberg doesn't mind getting his hands bloodied under the pretext of love.
Along similar lines, some Arab men would get into violent fights for the sake of "protecting" their partners, often triggered by petty reasons stemming from jealousy and insecurity. In more severe cases, a small portion of Arab men are willing to commit murder in the name of protecting the so-called "honor" of the women in their lives. Yep, machismo is alive and well, both on Netflix and in the Arab world.
7. Normalizing all these toxic attributes in the name of love
Goldberg rationalizes his worst deeds by claiming he did them all out of love. Along similar, yet less intense lines, Arab men justify their toxic traits by claiming it's "their own way" of expressing love.
The reality is that some toxic relationship habits have become so normalized in our communities that many women believe they simply have to put up with their controlling partners.
Here's to steering clear of all the Goldbergs out there
These habits and attributes might not seem as severe and detrimental as Goldberg's, but the small red flags are definitely worth pausing at and contemplating about.