In the new season of "You," serial killer Joe befriends a group of young aristocrats in the UK.
A man who grew up amid the rich says "You"'s depiction of wild parties and aimlessness is accurate.
Other aspects, like weekends at lavish country estates, aren't so glamorous in real life.
In the season-four premiere of Netflix's "You," serial-killing psychopath Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) finds himself thrust into the middle of a hedonistic night of debauchery at Sundry House — an ultra-exclusive members' club for what he describes as "London's unfathomably fortunate and privileged."
Joe's wealthy colleague Malcolm, an Eton alum who boasts of being "royal adjacent," has dragged him out for a wild evening of partying with his posse of upper-class socialite friends. It's a sea of designer dresses, flutes of champagne, shots of absinthe and pills slipped under the table — not exactly the stuffy professorial life Joe's sought out since retiring from killing after the blood-soaked season-three finale.
This group of characters ticks off every single stereotype about the young British elite: shallow, image-obsessed, fixated on lineage and status and often using their class status to become social-media influencers or tabloid stars. As Joe puts it upon entering Sundry House: "If a bomb dropped on this place, Britain's GDP would drop by 10%, but it might be worth it."
But while Netflix's portrayal of these young aristocrats may seem over-the-top (after all, they are — small spoiler alert — getting picked off by a mysterious killer), it turns out it isn't exactly that distant from the truth. People who've been behind the doors of exclusive London clubs say things can get just as wild as they do in the show.
Like Malcolm, Mok O'Keeffe, a historian focused on LGBTQ+ and royal history, grew up in "royal-adjacent circles," even rubbing shoulders with Princes William and Harry as a child. In his experience, the upper class does tend to make partying a priority.
"I'm a member of Home House, which bills itself as London's most exclusive member's club," he told Insider. "When Home House first opened, it was the only place you could drink till 3 a.m. And the upper classes do like a drink!"
Especially, says O'Keeffe, if there's an excuse to dress up. "They like nothing better than donning a costume and partying away – as long as there are cocktails or champagne available."
The British elite do have an 'us and them' attitude, but they're not usually cruel
In "You," the young aristocrats show a great deal of snobbishness – most of them bristle at Joe's presence as an outsider, demanding to know about his family connections. O'Keeffe says that's accurate.
"I cannot tell you the amount of times I've been asked what school I went to," he told Insider. "People make an automatic kind of judgment based on your school – whether it was a day school, whether it's a boarding school, whether it was a minor public school, whether it's a major public school, and so on." (In the UK, "public school" is the term for what Americans would call private schools; students must pay to attend.)
According to O'Keeffe, there is a pervasive sense of "us" and "them" amongst members of Britain's elite. If you're admitted into the right club, he says, you're accepted socially. "When you're in and when you're there, you're sort of seen as a 'PLU' (people like us), just based on the fact that you've gotten through the door."
"You" also suggests that the upper class are not-so-secretly dismissive of everyone below them. Malcolm, for instance, refers, unironically, to the lower class as "peasants," while another friend even goes so far as to force a servant to act as a human croquet hoop, as she laughs on cruelly. It's a stereotype that's fun to watch, but isn't all that accurate in practice.
"While some individuals from the upper class may hold elitist views, it is not representative of the entire class," said Lalitha McSorley, a physical therapist in Canada who once had a practice in Phillimore Gardens in Kensington, an upper-class neighborhood of London. There, she frequently worked with members of the city's elite.
"I did have one interaction with a client who was extremely elitist and had a condescending attitude towards others," recalls McSorley. "This shocked me, as it was not representative of the majority of the individuals from the upper class that I have had the opportunity to interact with."
O'Keeffe suggests that when we do see the upper class acting their worst in the real world, it is sometimes a case of people playing into the stereotype. "You either go with the stereotype or you make it your own," he said.
Lavish country estates are actually 'almost like theme parks'
Later in the season, Joe attends an elaborate weekend away at an aristocrat's family estate in the country. There, the group spends its time luxuriating in the stereotypical pursuits of the rich – hunting, eating, playing croquet and taking part in an over-the-top murder mystery game, all while being waited on by a large staff wearing what could easily be costumes from "Downton Abbey."
According to O'Keeffe, these estate stays, or "statelys," do happen – but they are far less glamorous in real life. He recently stayed at Belvoir Castle, an "incredible estate" that stands in for Windsor Castle on another Netflix show, "The Crown."
But with estates becoming increasingly expensive to run, the aristocratic families who own them have to find ways to make them profitable. And that often means sharing the amenities with tourists.
"Most of those grand estates now operate almost like theme park venues," said O'Keeffe. "There's one bit the public pays to go into, but then there are the private rooms that the family will live in – and they're not all that glamorous."
The most accurate aspect of the elite in 'You' is their search for meaning
What is perhaps most striking about "You"'s portrayal of the upper class is the pervasive undercurrent of listlessness and sadness among these younger millennials and Gen Zers. They have their parents' money, their parents' connections, but, under it all, no real sense of self.
McSorley agrees that characterization can be accurate. Some of the younger adults she worked with "seemed to be struggling with a sense of purpose, which makes sense," she said. "I think the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing things in your career, like getting a raise, landing a new proposal, wouldn't be nearly as intense if you already had everything in the world."
Without the need to find a job, many young aristocrats are turning to careers in influencing, just like the characters of Sophie and Lady Phoebe. "Look at people like Martha Sitwell, for example," says O'Keeffe, referring to the designer, model and ex-wife of baronet Sir George Sitwell. "And there's a lot of generational wealth influencers on TikTok."
Ultimately, that listlessness may be the truest aspect of "You." As the rich float from party to party, snapping selfies for Instagram along the way, there is, it seems, a definitive emptiness to it all.
"Inheriting large amounts of money can be problematic because it gives you no sense of purpose," O'Keeffe said. "I think it's dangerous."
Read the original article on Insider