Listen, we understand that Penn Badgley is a good-looking guy. It’s why he was allowed to appear in all six seasons of “Gossip Girl,” a show that aired on the CW, a network known for casting attractive 20-somethings as mischievous teens.
But will someone please, for the love of all that is good, explain to us why some fans are falling for his character in “You”? Joe Goldberg has straight-up murdered people.
The feelings these fans have developed for Joe are the intense, let-me-tweet-at-the-actor sort. One person tweeted that they thought Badgley was “sexy” as Dan Humphrey, but that Joe “is a whole new level.” Badgley responded, “. . .of problems, right?” Another asked Badgley to “kidnap me pls.” The rejection was swift: “No thx.”
For context, “You” is a series that premiered on Lifetime in the fall and was picked up for a second season by Netflix, which recently added the first to its library. Social media would indicate that a massive number of people have since been binge-watching the series, therefore watching many hours of disturbed bookstore employee Joe stalking Beck (Elizabeth Lail), a rather bland graduate student, and pretty much everyone she interacts with. After many twists and turns, his obsession with her eventually leads him to commit homicide – more than once.
And yet! The obsession with him persists.
Badgley is having none of it. With a broken heart emoji, a fan tweeted, “Said this already but @PennBadgley is breaking my heart once again as Joe. What is it about him?” He answered, “He is a murderer.”
The fans could be drawn to the danger. As the Cut’s Gabriella Paiella noted in an article published Thursday, titled “Why Does Everyone Want Their Crushes to Run Them Over?” stans frequently express sentiments that convey “a catastrophic level of desire.” (“Stan,” a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan” that Eminem originated, has evolved to describe very passionate fans.)
Declaring that you’d like Timothée Chalamet to run you over with a truck is one way to do this. Maybe declaring that you’re attracted to someone because he’s hot and plays a murderer is another.
“While the phrase may have origins as a hyperbolic way to communicate the most extreme shades of celebrity worship online,” Paiella wrote of run-me-over tweets, “the joke’s popularity may also have to do with the fact that we’re living during a time when we’re constantly being reminded that the Earth is going to be virtually uninhabitable by the end of the century, that capitalism is wholly unsustainable, and that we’re just one push of a button away from perishing in a nuclear war.”
Or perhaps those who want Badgley-as-Joe to kidnap them have their Dan Humphrey blinders on. Some would argue that Dan, who begins “Gossip Girl” as a middle-class Brooklyn kid who attends an elite school on the Upper East Side to secure his future, had a horrible personality – and these people would be correct, in this reporter’s humble opinion.
But he was still an okay person for viewers to crush on. The worst thing he did was spill his so-called friends’ darkest secrets to the entire world via a mean-spirited gossip blog, after all! No biggie.
Joe does come across as rather Dan-like – nerdy, in love with a blonde girl at first sight, mostly harmless – in the first scene of “You,” during which Beck browses the bookstore where he works. But we eventually realize that both he and Dan are “stalker dudes obsessed with reading and writing,” as a viewer pointed out on Twitter, adding that this similarity could make it seem as though Badgley is the same way in real life.
Hmm, good point! Badgley thought so, too: “Yeah I really should consult with my agent about this huh.”