Penn Badgley Has an Oddly Terrifying Theory About His ‘You’ Character

With the recent return of You, star Penn Badgley has been making the talk show rounds. Many questions focused on his relationship with the show’s main character: the murderous Joe Goldberg.

The show does everything it can to paint Joe as a homicidal maniac, willing to murder again and again to get close to the women he obsesses over. After a lackluster first showing on Lifetime, You season 1 appeared to be the end of the show’s story.

But season 1 moved to Netflix and gained a massive new audience and a second season, with a third on the way in 2021. Some of the new fans can’t get enough of Badgley’s character. And to him, that’s as terrifying as any of Joe’s TV machinations.

Why are fans falling in love with a killer on ‘You’?

The Netflix world discovered You in early 2019 and Badgley had to deal with descriptions of his acting and character as “creepy.” It wasn’t easy for Badgley to adjust to the criticism but he likely preferred that to his current fan reception: Thirst City!

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Badgley explained that playing the character himself stressed him out but the true horror was seeing how fans reacted. Joe spends the first season working out plans to get the girl he wants, and then mercilessly killing people to achieve his goals.

In Season 2, fans see Joe move from Brooklyn, N.Y. to Los Angeles, Calif. While, at first, it seems he’s turning a new leaf, fans quickly realize he’s found a new woman to fixate on. Though, Joe shows restraint in his murderous ways.

Badgley raised additional points during the Colbert interview about privilege. He explained that his gender and ethnicity — and Joe’s, by extension — let fans perceive many of his acts as passionate or devoted when someone who looked different would get a different reception.

“If anything, I feel like Joe is an allegory for white supremacy, and the way governments or anybody in power behaves in that construct,” he said. “Not to get too heady–it’s also just a show–but it’s definitely there.”

Penn Badgley’s theory on why people like Joe Goldberg on ‘You’

Penn Badgley attends "You" New York series premiere.
Penn Badgley | Jenny Anderson/Getty Images

Maybe it is because Badgley is a white man or maybe it’s just because his character is just flawlessly written. But it’s not the script full of horrors or the obsessive fanbase that scares Badgley the most.

One of the best parts about scary TV is that they’re just characters on the screen. Joe is sadistic and terrifying but he’s fictional. But Badgley suggested in a recent VICE interview that perhaps we all have some of his trends.

“Joe potentially exists in all of us,” Badgley admitted. “It might not manifest as Joe, but we all have a tyrant judge latent within us if we choose to awaken him.” The scary part is that he’s not wrong. Even if it’s not murder in a bookstore basement, most of us have fantasized about giving people what they deserve one way or another. Of course, Joe shows sociopathic tendencies over and over and most people understand why those urges are wrong and keep them under wraps.

Penn Badgley is holding fans accountable

In addition to the media tour that landed him on Colbert’s stage, Badgley spent a good amount of time on Twitter trying to dissuade fans from romanticizing Joe. Some fans drew comparisons between his role as Dan on Gossip Girl to his current character.

“Okay but @PennBadgley was sexy as Dan but lord Joe is a whole new level,” one tweet said.

“……of problems, right?” Badgley responded.

Whether he’s on the talk show couch or bursting toxic fantasy bubbles on twitter, people can’t get enough Penn Badgley. Netflix recently confirmed Season 3 is definitely coming in 2020, but there isn’t an exact release date for the third season.