Love (Netflix): Why Gus is so toxic

Netflix has been recommending Love to me for years. Having slowly run out of good TV to watch over the lockdown, I finally decided to give it a chance, and I wish I hadn’t.

There were early warning signs for me about Gus: he tells his ex he wishes she were dead, which frankly gave me shivers, and then weirdly states he can’t comprehend why she might not want him around.

He seems to think that acting nice to people’s faces entitles him to date them – even when he’s a jerk when they’re not around, and even when his ‘mean nice guy’ routine actually causes people a lot of suffering.

We learn relatively early on that Mickey is quite vulnerable – an alcoholic, a drug addict, and probably living with borderline personality disorder – but Gus doesn’t take any extra care with her or her feelings.

He makes her go to the Magic Castle, even though she doesn’t want to. He picks out a cold outfit for her and doesn’t offer to get her a coat. He doesn’t let her people watch, as that’s something she enjoys – instead, he wants her to enjoy what he enjoys, in the way he enjoys it. Without a doubt, this is controlling behaviour.

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When they get kicked out of Magic Castle because he finally gives her his jacket, he doesn’t support her and seems embarrassed. That’s not any way to treat a date.

Gus doesn’t support Mickey when she flounders in front of his friends at a party he invited her to – twice. It would be easy enough to laugh at her jokes and try to put her at ease, but he spends the whole time isolating her and sitting next to Heidi – right in front of her! This is classic abusive behaviour.

At the first opportunity, he jumps into bed with Heidi. Then he gets a blow job off her at work. While Mickey obviously struggles with boundaries, Gus simply doesn’t care.

Mickey appears at his work, which is a daft move, but he allows it to become a huge spectacle by brushing her off instead of taking her aside and letting her down gently. He refuses to talk about their relationship, even when that’s what she needs most.

Gus literally never cares about Mickey’s feelings. He never takes the time to really listen to her or explain how he feels, except when he occasionally throws her a bone to say he likes her (designed to keep her coming back for more, of course, without providing any actual commitment).

Gus brushes her off as ‘crazy’ when she’s clearly struggling with his behaviour, which is pure gaslighting. He publicly puts her down in front of his work colleagues. He has to know that his actions are worsening her mental health? Or perhaps he simply doesn’t care. Maybe making her suffer is the whole point.

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The irony comes when Gus gets sacked for his awful behaviour, and he calls his employers toxic – yet it was his own unprofessional and childish behaviour that caused the problems. His job gets rescued by a child – because he doesn’t recognise how inappropriate it is to put that weight on her.

Then when Mickey comes clean about her addictions, he immediately kisses her. He is attracted to her vulnerability. He gets off on her suffering. It’s gross.

So yeah, Gus is trash. Radioactive, noxious trash. And I was unable to continue watching the show, even though Gillian Jacobs hits it out if the park in every single scene. She’s really great, and puts a lot of nuance into her portrayal of Mickey.

I can only hope that in the end, Mickey ditches him and finds a much more healthy relationship with someone else. Someone who will love and support her, instead of playing endless mind games. But as I see from the episode descriptions, she’s with Gus right until the end of season 3, so it looks like it’s going to be a cavalcade of emotional abuse right until the end. No thanks, Netflix!

Overall, Love feels like wish-fulfilment for a toxic nice guy who wants to justify and romanticise his awful behaviour. This is most definitely not what love is.