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. 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 ›
We know you kind of want him to trap you in his glass box.
If you took the early-aughts phenomenon of the Twilight series as evidence, there's nothing hotter than a pale-skinned dreamboat who is obsessed with you to the point that he kind of wants to kill you.
While the Twilight series sparked something of a moral panic among concerned parents who didn't like the idea of their daughters and sons experiencing their sexual awakening via glittery succubi, there are similar concerns with the Netflix series You. Though, in this case, the pale, murderous dreamboat in question is not driven by a lust for blood but by plain ol' lust.
If you haven't watched the series, in season one we first meet Joe Goldberg as an introverted bookkeeper in New York City who falls in love with (and ultimately becomes toxically obsessed with) a grad student named Beck. Well, things don't end so well for Beck, and Joe has to go on the run from another ex-girlfriend, Candace, who knows too much. Joe's exodus from NYC leads him to Los Angeles, where we meet back up with him in season two. There, he plans to lead a quiet life while things blow over in New York. But he soon gets up to his old antics again when he meets Love Quinn (yes, she really is named that, and no they never explain why), an heiress and chef whom he ultimately stalks and dates—with plenty of time leftover to commit a murder or four.
Many fans have already binged watched it in its entirety, resulting in a slew of memes and posts on social media about the hotness of stalker-turned-murderer Joe Goldberg.
Joe is so hot i still want a bf like him idgafffffffff #YOUSEASON2 #YouNetflix— 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘯 (@𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘯)1577388263.0
me fully aware that Joe is a sociopath but still low key rooting for him anyway #YOUNetflix https://t.co/Jc5CH98qB7— nicole (@nicole)1577726878.0
which part of my brain makes me fancy joe so much, he’s a literal murdering psycho but he’s fucking HOT #YouNetflix— Charlotte Jade Morton (@Charlotte Jade Morton)1577710881.0
Even though Joe/Will is a crazy ass stalker/killer, I can’t help but find him hot as hell🥰 #YouNetflix— Han💛 (@Han💛)1577461985.0
Don’t care what anyone says, Joe is still hot af. Try to prove me wrong, I’ll wait. #YouNetflix https://t.co/jrWrWXFo7j— b🤍 (@b🤍)1577735107.0
Anyone else find joe hot? 🙈😂#YouNetflix— Sian Tarr (@Sian Tarr)1577567935.0
But not everyone felt this way. Other fans of the show took to social media to scorn anyone who finds Joe attractive despite his terrifying behavior.
Everyone else after watching #Younetflix: “sure joe is a psycho but so hot pls kidnap me” Me and @PennBadgley: https://t.co/JwKqaHiOtR— abbi (@abbi)1547172772.0
penn badgley is hot, but that doesn’t mean you should be romanticising joe goldberg #YouNetflix— ’mina (@’mina)1577346740.0
Even Penn Badgley, who plays Joe, has been outspoken about how dangerous it is for people to romanticize his character.
Ditto. It will be all the motivation I need for season 2. https://t.co/fy2hojauDG— Penn Badgley (@Penn Badgley)1547062791.0
And while, intellectually, many of us may want to reject the idea that a guy like Joe could possibly be attractive, that doesn't change the fact that he is. The show is structured in such a way that it assumes his attractiveness, and it wouldn't work if it didn't. As a viewer, you find yourself rooting for Joe, wanting to believe that he is trying to change, or even that from some skewed moral perspective, his actions are justified. A large part of that is because we are privy to his thoughts via voiceover, which are self-justifying (as every person's innermost thoughts tend to be), and as Bitch Media points out, "...In his mind, all of his behavior can be rationalized by his own traumatic past." He is so convinced of this, in fact, that he inevitably sows empathy into the audience.
But it's not a negligible factor that Penn Badgley is classically handsome, with sculpted features, dark curly hair, and broad shoulders. He is, in many ways, the image of the knight in shining armor that his character imagines himself to be. On a purely aesthetic level, of course we find him attractive. But then there's the factor that is making so many people on Twitter uncomfortable: Part of why we find Joe attractive is because of his obsessive and violent tendencies, not in spite of them.
In their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire, computational neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam find overwhelming evidence that heterosexual women are attracted to extremely dominant men. One example they refer to over and over again is the genre of romance novel, which, largely aimed at women, almost always tell a story of an aggressive, virile male sexually dominating an initially resistant female. But, you may be thinking, surely that's different than being attracted to someone who is dominant to the point of actually killing people? Yes and no.
As Douglas T. Kenrick, Ph.D. outlines for Psychology Today, "The Nobel Prize winning ethologists Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen demonstrated that an animal's instinctive drives could often be triggered by stimuli that were unnatural amplifications of the normal cues for which their sensory systems were designed to light up." For example, "Birds who normally sit on their own small light blue eggs will preferentially sit on much larger eggs that are painted a brighter shade of blue." This theory applies to human desire, as well, Kendrick goes on to say: "Research in evolutionary psychology has outlined what it is that women naturally find desirable in prospective male mates. Across cultures, women tend to prefer men with resources (e.g. money)— and men able to protect them and their potential offspring (e.g. Buss, 1989, Li, et al., 2002). As it turns out, vampires often represent exaggerated versions of the features women find attractive in real life." For example, Edward Cullen, the vampiric love interest of the Twilight series, was extraordinarily wealthy and supernaturally strong, characteristics he shares with other vampiric characters spanning over centuries.
Edward Cullen played by Robert Pattinson in "Twilight"
But while this explains the allure of violent male figures like vampires well enough, what about Joe in You? He is neither financially stable nor particularly physically strong. But there is one amplified attractive feature he does share with vampires: abnormal devotion/desire to the object of his affection. In the case of vampires, their sexual lust is exacerbated by their lust for blood. In Joe's case, he often proves the absolute depth of his devotion to his beloved by murdering for her sake. Essentially, we're programmed to respond positively to signs of lust and devotion from a potential male mate, and if their lust and devotion is amplified to the point of the obsessive, toxic devotion that we see from Joe, there is a part of us that is going to react more strongly than normal. Summarily, we're going to find murder hot.
Look at the scores of women who sent Ted Bundy nude photos of themselves while he awaited trial for his heinous crimes (Bundy, like Joe, claimed his murderous bent was linked to a traumatic past). Look at the endless tropes of the hyper-masculine soldier returning from a bloody war and sweeping the maiden off her feet. Or we can return to vampires for a moment: Between Twilight, Anne Rice's vampire series, and shows like True Blood, it's evident that people find vampires sexy. While this makes sense on a purely animalistic level according to Lorenz and Tinbergena's theory of supernormal stimuli, we all know that human intellect interferes with our baser instincts, and surely women don't actually want an obsessive, violent, and insensitive mate, right?
As Dr. Leon F Seltzer writes in a piece for Psychology Today that attempts to analyze the many women who have become obsessed with serial killers, "The fantasy that seems to be operating in such devotees, and that constitutes the plot of virtually all erotic/romantic novels written with women in mind, is that the 'misogyny and jerkdom' they might have to battle within such super-dominant males is only temporary. That it doesn't really represent the man's innermost reality." In other words, we find violent, dominant men attractive, and to justify this attraction, we tell ourselves that really he just needs someone to bring out his more tender qualities, a challenge that is in and of itself attractive to many women. Not only that, but once the beast is tamed, so to speak, we still know that there's a part of our kind and sensitive man that could become violent and aggressive again should the need to do so present itself, ultimately fulfilling our biological need to feel protected.
Ted Bundy's admirers at his trial
There is, of course, more than a little social conditioning at play here, too. Laura Elizabeth Woollett, who tries to understand the psychology of real-life women who were attracted to killers in her book The Love of a Bad Man, put it well when she told Refinery 29, "It's hard to say where the figure of the 'bad man' ends and the 'antihero' begins. There's a huge crossover there and, as a result, bad men are often romanticized — tragically flawed, but human; dark and sinister, but exciting. As long as antiheroes are seen as attractive, bad men will be too, on some level." This is more or less another way to describe the phenomenon of believing that a violent, aggressive man is only that way on the outside, that really he is a sensitive man waiting to be "saved" from himself. It's also a feature of the misogyny so ever-present in our culture that women feel an obligation to care for toxic men they feel were "wronged" by society. As Penn Badgley himself said in a recent interview, You is in large part about,"how far are we willing to go to forgive an evil white man."
So yes, you find Joe Goldberg attractive because Penn Badgley is classically handsome, but you also find him attractive because of the very reasons you think you find him repulsive: His willingness to kill for his beloved, his unhealthy devotion, and even the dominance he shows in repeatedly besting and killing other people in the name of love. But don't worry, this doesn't mean that you're likely to end up marrying a serial killer in real life.
You allow yourself to lust after Joe because a large part of you knows he's not real. It's important to point out the difference between sexual fantasy and genuine sexual attraction, particularly in cases where, on the surface, it would seem women want violence and other unhealthy behaviors from their sexual partners. Paul Joannides, author of The Guide to Getting It On, notes that a vital part of fantasy is the woman's knowledge that she is in control, "because she's the one scripting the scenario." For example, a rape fantasy by no means indicates that a woman wants to be raped; and, in the same way, lusting after a fictional murderer in no way means that a woman would really find murder attractive in real life.
So go ahead and calm down, Twitter, just because we keep tweeting that we want Joe to trap us in his glass box doesn't mean we actually want a stalker to murder on our behalf. We know that murderous men are bad; we know that we should desire a healthy, functioning relationship that allows both parties to maintain their autonomy… But that isn't going to keep us from dreaming about this creepy, delicious smile. We'll see you in season three, Joe.
An ode to songs that would sound great while getting murdered.
On Monday morning, I entered the office, and, as usual, found myself in the midst of a conversation about a strange Internet phenomenon.
Over the past few years, apparently amateur audio engineers have been remixing songs to sound like they're being played through the halls of an empty mall, or refracted into other physical spaces, like bathroom stalls. Someone had Slacked the link to Toto's "Africa" but "playing in an empty shopping centre."
Toto- Africa (playing in an empty shopping centre) www.youtube.com
The sound of "Africa" reverberating through an abandoned mall is as chilling as you'd imagine. It's also profoundly sad and comforting at the same time, either because of the nostalgia it evokes for old times spent wandering through physical spaces that have been replaced mostly by digital ones, or because of the sad hollowness of mall capitalism, or because of a confection of both.
This reminded me of my favorite book I've read recently, Severance by Ling Ma, which is about a post-apocalyptic world where the few survivors of a deadly fever wind up taking shelter in (spoiler alert) an abandoned mall. Like me, the main character in that novel lived in Brooklyn and worked in Times Square—until the fever hit. The song also reminded me of my favorite New Yorker writer, Jia Tolentino, who writes so beautifully about the cursed alienation of late capitalism and social media and who of course has written about the empty-mall version of "Africa."
After I finished listening to "Africa," the next video that YouTube's algorithm had queued began to play. It was "Redbone" by Childish Gambino, except also altered to sound like it was playing in an empty mall. While I listened to it, I scrolled through the comments as I normally do, and I stumbled upon one that resonated strongly. It read, "I don't know if I'm being soothed or murdered right now but all I know is that I'm jamming out in the process." And it's true: Some songs just sound like they'd be perfect soundtracks to murders.
Childish Gambino - Redbone (playing in an empty shopping centre) www.youtube.com
Because the Popdust offices are fundamentally chaotic, soon enough we all quickly began discussing the best songs to listen to while being murdered. This was somehow happening at the same time that my coworker (and noted k-pop aficionado) Dan Kahan and I were debating the merits and ethical implications of a violent revolution in the case that Trump gets re-elected. Though I'm firmly against violence, my coworker got me thinking: Maybe going out with a bang would be the ideal way to depart. After all, aren't billionaires killing millions by hoarding their wealth instead of offering us affordable healthcare?
While thinking about all this, I looked over at the skeleton on my desk, a relic of the Halloween decor my charmingly morbid coworker Meg had brought to the office last month. Popdust's General Manager Brent had placed it there one night, apparently; when I asked him why, he chimed in with one of his weird moments of clarity that happen when he's not speaking in SEO and the virality of Baby Yoda, and said simply, "It's a reminder of your mortality."
"Hey There Delilah" but it's played in an empty Toys R Us at 2:37 pm with moderate traffic outside www.youtube.com
Maybe it was the combination of that skeleton's presence, thinking about violent revolution, reading Jia Tolentino and Severance, and that Youtube comment. Maybe it was the climate crisis activism I'd spent the weekend researching but not taking part in, or the fact that I recently discovered the phenomenon of hauntology, or the fact that I actually love my life maybe more than I ever have before right now; but as I listened to the rest of the tune, I couldn't stop thinking: This song would be the ideal song to be murdered to. Preferably in a dark mall sometime after midnight. Preferably by the government, during some kind of heist or failed act of ecoterrorism, but any average serial killer would do. Something about the song made it feel like it would be the ideal tune to accompany my not-so-gentle departure into that good night.
It may be relevant to mention here that the aforementioned Jia Tolentino has also written about the strange trend that is people on the Internet asking famous people to kill them, blaming it on an almost alchemical convergence of desire, loneliness, and guilt that's unique to the neoliberal age. "On the beach, flooded with joy, I felt the tug of that familiar undertow. "F*cking kill me," I thought, suddenly desiring a sensation strong enough to silence itself," she writes, "which is, I suppose, one way of defining love."
wii theme but its playing in an empty shopping mall www.youtube.com
mii channel but all the pauses are uncomfortably long www.youtube.com
Lest anyone grow too concerned about all this rumination on death and being murdered, many of the world's wisest philosophers believe there are innumerable benefits to contemplating death and that thinking about the end can greatly enhance one's brief time on Earth. "Virtually every great thinker. . . has thought deeply and written about death; and many have concluded that death is inextricably a part of life, and that lifelong consideration of death enriches rather than impoverishes life," writes Irvin Yalom.
Therefore, though it could indicate that we're all just typical writers, perhaps the views we have towards death in this office are actually quite healthy, or at least understandable in light of how the world is. Maybe American society is changing in that respect too; depression memes are the rage and murder podcasts are in vogue. Are all these trends simply a reflection of the truth that our lives are surrounded and shaped by death on every side? Do they embody the implicit knowledge that our planet is dying, or the fact that a lot of our old ways of life will need to die so we can survive? Or is this literal foreshadowing that I'm going to get murdered tonight?
In case that happens, I'll definitely spend the night listening to the collaborative Spotify playlist we made of the best songs to be murdered to (and you, too, can listen to it via the link below). My editor, notorious film-kid critic and most socially adept member of the entire Popdust team Brooke posted a call on Instagram for recommendations, and so this erratic list is thanks in part to the creativity of her friends. Also, if I actually die, please hack into my computer and posthumously release all the novels and music I've been hoarding away until "the right time"; and if you're reading this and it's too late, know that I love you, and (this is the hill I will die on) Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
Songs to Be Murdered To: A Popdust Special
Songs to Be Murdered To open.spotify.com
- Africa (playing in an empty shopping centre) — Toto
- Redbone (playing in an empty shopping centre) — Childish Gambino
- The Georgia Boy Choir — Silent Night
- Once Upon A Dream — Lana Del Rey
- Blue Velvet — Bobby Vinton
- O Superman — Laurie Anderson
- Placebo – Running Up That Hill
- The Show Must Go On — Pink Floyd
- Is That All There Is? — Peggy Lee
- Mr. Sandman — The Chordettes
- Je m'amuse — Caravan Palace
- Hide and Seek — Imogen Heap
- House of the Rising Sun — The Animals
- Good Vibrations — The Beach Boys
- Carnival of the Animals, XIII. Le Cygne — Clara Rockmore
- You Are My Sunshine — The Civil Wars
- War it Like A Crown — Rebecca Karijord
- Riverside — Agnes Obel
- Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) — Arcade Fire
- Road to Nowhere — Talking Heads
- The Less I Know The Better — Tame Impala
- Lovebug – The Jonas Brothers
- The Christmas Song — Nat King Cole
- Crazy B*tch — Buckcherry
- Wide Open Spaces — Dixie Chicks
- Drip, Drip, Drip — Chumbawawas
- Between the Bars — Elliott Smith
- Monster Mash — Bobby "Boris" Pickett, The Crypt-Kickers
- Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites — Skrillex
- Into The Ocean — Blue October
- A Case of You — Joni Mitchell
- Take It Easy — Eagles (but just the 4-part harmony)
- Mombasa — Hans Zimmer
- Graduation — Vitamin C
- Hot Chocolate — Tom Hanks
- Closing Time — Semisonic
- Kim Gordon - "Murdered Out" - YouTube ›
- Alfred Hitchcock Music to Be Murdered By - Hitchcock, Alfred Music ... ›
- Poor Murdered Woman (Roud 1064) ›
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents Music to Be Murdered By Side 1 - YouTube ›
- Hear 'Murdered Out,' Kim Gordon's First Song Released Under Her ... ›
- Killdren: Glastonbury drops band with song calling for Tories to be ... ›
- 25 Songs That Are Truly Terrifying – Rolling Stone ›
- Songs to be Murdered By / Minor Chord Mayhem - WMPG ›
- The 10 Creepiest Soundtrack Songs to Be Murdered By ›
- Worst Songs to Get Murdered To on Spotify ›