Less Joe, more Penn.
Netflix's You created a phenomenon for binge-watchers everywhere, sparking a conversation around our societal understanding of what we consider inherently good and evil.
You's first two seasons follow bookstore clerk Joe Goldberg (played by Penn Badgley) as he uses murder as a means to get closer to the women he fixates on. This is a major departure from Badgley's earlier roles.
Penn Badgley was born in 1986 in Baltimore, Maryland. He first gained notoriety in 2000 on The Young and the Restless, where he played Phillip Chancellor IV. After that, starred in the WB series Do Over, The Mountain, and The Bedford Diaries.
That was all before he become a household name, starring alongside Blake Lively in Gossip Girl on the CW, based off the popular book series of the same name.
Each of these characters were far more conventional heartthrobs than Joe Goldberg.
In 2006s John Tucker Must Die, Penn played John's brother Scott, rather than the Tucker that "must die." In 2009 Penn Badgley starred in The Stepfather a remake of the 1987 horror film. Even in this thriller he played a sympathetic hero, rather than a killer.
In 2014 Badgley had a minor part as the Prince of Monaco in Adam Green's Aladdin. Apparently he's a natural at playing royalty. You allowed him to show off a new side of his acting skills.
In the latest 10-episode season of the show, viewers follow Joe from New York to California where he ultimately meets Love, the latest woman he sets his mind on. Joe finds himself in another calm, calculated, yet clumsy murder spree as he tries to win her affections.
On the promotional tour for both seasons, and particularly on the tour for this latest release, Badgley discussed his connection (or lack thereof) to his character, who is adored by thousands.
In many interviews, Badgley is refreshingly aware of the white male privilege he shares with Joe. In numerous soundbites from the press run, the 33-year-old actor can be quoted probing the question, "How far will we [as a society] go to forgive a white man?"
1. Calling Out Male Privilege on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he expounds on his point. "How patient and willing to forgive we are [as a society] someone who inhabits a body that inhabits mine, [has] the color of my skin, my gender, these sorts of things, these sort of privileges," he said. "And how less forgiving [we are] of those who don't fit those boxes."
Using many press sit-downs and interviews to raise foundationally similar questions, Badgley is clearly utilizing his platform to bring awareness to these privileges and to further examine ideologies that question society's understanding of love and morality.
When speaking, Badgley is noticeably careful not to support the alarming attraction his fans already have to his character. Fans across social media platforms and live show tapings have displayed an overwhelming attraction not only to Badgley, but his sociopathic and narcissistic Netflix persona.
In the Colbert interview, he described his struggle to play such a likable person, especially someone who provokes such a "thirsty" reaction in so many people.
2. Responding to "Thirst Tweets" at Buzzfeed
Because of the open affection for Joe, Buzzfeed invited Badgley to read "thirst tweets" from fans. The tweets ranged from lustful declarations to murderous desires.
Aside from tweets aimed to ask about the plot of the show or the potential of a season three, Badgley gave quite a few of them short responses and passed on many entirely.
While Badgley makes it clear in repeated interviews that his responses to probing comments may seem tongue-in-cheek or downright snarky, the Gossip Girl actor has a clear discomfort with the open commentary.
The widespread attraction that many viewers feel for Joe brings to mind similar affections targeting the 1970s serial killer, Ted Bundy. Young woman were also unreasonably attracted to his charismatic charm and smile, even during his trial for the murdering of over 30 women across seven states between 1974 and 1978.
Then his story was reimagined and romanticized in 2019 when all-American High School Musical star Zac Efron reawakened the allure of the famed killer by playing Bundy in Netflix's Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
3. Killing Off Joe on Entertainment Tonight
Badgley didn't mention Bundy (or other romanticized serial killers, for that matter) in his press run; perhaps he didn't want to offend Zac Efron.
On Entertainment Tonight, Badgley was asked what he would like to see happen to Joe, and Penn immediately responded with "death" (which he, of course, laughed off politely).
4. Talking Justice on Buzzfeed's AM to DM
During his sit-down with Buzzfeed's talk show AM to DM, Badgley elaborates on his realization that Joe is "irredeemable." He toys with the notion that there needs to be justice in Joe's story but not for the fictional character—more so for "the rest of us in the world."
Given Badgley's hope that Joe will receive a fair punishment for his murders (whether it be jail, a mental institution, or death at the hands of a failed conquest), the audience should also feel hopeful that there may be a just ending to this story, which ultimately is a tale of a man using today's advanced technologies to invade women's privacy.
As viewers, we deserve to see a righteous end to this technological dystopian nightmare.
Badgley shared that he was constantly conflicted when he was not in front of the camera, even though he was essentially doing his job. "I'm a full puppet," he explained with a laugh. "That is the job of the actor, you're a vessel for these things."
Badgley has been more publicly outspoken during his run as Joe than he was during his five-year run on the hit series Gossip Girl.
With age, Badgley has become more self-aware and understanding of his position and platform, and he seems to want to utilize it only for the greater good.
Performing a fictional, but also realistic, character like Joe gives him the space to share his understanding of morality and justice. While Joe is seemingly difficult to play, hopefully Badgley will find peace in knowing that his performance has sparked difficult conversations about how society views predatory (white) men.
- "Kill Me, Daddy": Venom vs. Ted Bundy vs. Joe from "You" - Popdust ›
- Why Its Okay That You Find Joe Goldberg From Netflix's "You" Hot ... ›
- Penn Badgley (@PennBadgley) | Twitter ›
- Penn Badgley - IMDb ›
- Penn Badgley (@pennbadgley) • Instagram photos and videos ›
- Penn Badgley Talks Hit Netflix Series 'You' | TODAY - YouTube ›
- Cool things you didn't know about Penn Badgley from You & Gossip ... ›
- Penn Badgley Gets Away with Murder | The New Yorker ›