Dear Reader, we have gathered here today to talk about the latest, greatest entry to the grand cinematic legacy of queer women who could step on me: Peach Salinger (Shay Mitchell). Arguably the best of the worst on YOU, a dramatic, soap opera-level comedic thriller in which a man stalks a not-so-innocent woman, Peach is one of the rare evil bisexuals on TV who doesn't leave me conflicted and heartbroken.
Like most queer women who grew up in the era of Disney villains who were far more complex and layered than their goody-two shoes counterparts, there are two distinctly different parts of my brain that start screaming when a woman like Peach graces my screen. Forebrain: Why must all this nuanced queerness be presented as unequivocally bad? When will I enjoy a narrative that doesn't reduce queer characters to a plot point that must be overcome? When will the queers simply be able to enjoy the onscreen queers without the Sisyphean burden of advancing representation? What if there was a queer love story that wasn't tragedy porn (bonus points if neither of them die)?
Hindbrain: Good lord... she's gonna shoot this trash man over a stolen book while wearing a black silk robe. I would die for you, Peach.
But against the florid emotional landscape of YOU, which gives us Penn Badgley as the natural evolution of his Gossip Girl character (stalking women, stealing identities, prematurely ejaculating in 8 seconds, murdering people left and right, as well as sincerely thinking that he is the only true feminist his reluctant girlfriend knows), Peach's sinister proclivities seem totally normcore. It's not that Peach's own bad deeds are negligible. Between a hard drive full of creepshots and playing gay chicken in a threesome in which the dude is completely extraneous to the equation, Peach is just as guilty as Joe when it comes to manipulating Beck (Elizabeth Lail). And her maliciousness toward others is clearly driven by her repressed feelings for her best friend and the need to feel special in Beck's life. But amongst the atrocities committed by all the characters — and we're talking Misery levels of locking people in cages and letting their brains fester with Stockholm Syndrome — my forebrain and hindbrain can become one galaxy brain that screams: Everyone on YOU is a bad person who deserves what's coming to them; at least Peach Salinger had a perfect blow out and was right (about Joe at least).
With a level of messiness even Jackson Pollock would be impressed by, YOU's true gift is that it unshackles me from considerations of representation. Peach's evilness stems from the same place as all the other straight characters on show: They are all people who want something they don't have and can't stand to be told no when they demand it. I'm free to enjoy her torrid rise as she catches Joe pulling the very same scam, only better, and revel in an iconic and dramatic death because Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci) and later Beck are killed for the same reason — simply because they're in the way. It's only because she, and all the other characters on YOU are such revolting specimens of humanity that I've been given the gift of watching this show as a carefree queer.
So while I mourn for Peach Salinger — particularly a nebulous future Peach Salinger who has gone to enough therapy to come out of the closet — my love for this tragic queer is fully cemented by the fact that she was allowed to be as detrimentally messy as the straights. She was the cruel and hilarious woman of my dreams, and I'll carry a torch for her well into Season 2, for which I only have two wishes. May queer girls be blessed with thotty Brown flashbacks as Candace doxes Gossip Girl 2.0. And may there be more queer characters to salivate over like I did with Peach, though I doubt any of them can reach the level of ubiquity that Peach does ("Salinger? As in JD?"..."I mean, yeah").
Actually, I lied there's one more: May Joe's body be discovered in the dumpster fire he clearly sprang from as Peach Salinger's gorgeous, perfectly coiffed ghost cackles in the distance.
YOU is streaming on Netflix.