When you think about it, most of the famous true-crime serial killers were charming as hell.
There’s Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer to name a few. These men were famous because they broke the notion that serial killers look scary. Even in pop culture, the media has a history of portraying psychopaths as characters who possess high intellect, good looks, and charm. Books, movies, and shows with psychopaths are often so successful because whether we admit it or not, seeing a different side of a person who killed dozens creepily piques the viewer’s interest… Especially if they’re attractive.
Whether that is the case or not, it’s no surprise that Netflix ‘YOU’ has had the same success since its premiere last December. Based on the book by Caroline Kepnes, the story revolves around two New Yorkers, Joe Goldberg played by Penn Badgley and Guinevere Beck, played by Elizabeth Lail.
At the beginning of the series, Penn’s character easily becomes everyone’s ideal guy. He’s handsome, his voice is dreamy, his hair is straight out of a Prince Charming movie, he loves to read, and to top it all off, he’s a ‘feminist.’ Now, who would ever suspect that this character–who’s supposedly just a manager of a quaint bookstore–is capable of murder?
What started as a potential love story quickly became an exciting psychological thriller of a man who would do anything for the person he loves. Even if it means getting everyone out of the way.
It’s always the one you least suspect.
‘YOU’ gives us exactly what we want; having the antagonist narrate his dark internal monologues to show his intentions before killing people. The writers of ‘YOU’ offers depth to a character whose intention is creatively driven by Joe‘s romantic conquest to be with the woman (Beck) he loves.
However, is Netflix YOU really romanticizing a psychopath/sociopath or is it the audience missing the point because the antagonist happens to be a gorgeous white male aka Penn Badgley?
Even Millie Bobby Brown, a 14-year-old actress, has been charmed by Joe Goldberg while watching ‘YOU.’ She felt for him so much that she posted an Instagram story, defending Joe and saying he was only in love, not creepy. Her opinion at the start of the show has sparked concern and disappointment from her fans.
Someone needs to have an actual conversation with her about grown men who are abusive POS's rather than insult and alienate her. Making fun of her for making excuses for an abusive man is worrying even when there are rl men contacting her.
— Mair 👽 (@MairSaysNo) January 16, 2019
In the midst of online criticism, there is more to ‘YOU’ than what meets the eye. And ‘YOU’ actors Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell, exclusively reiterates to MEG the points that some might have missed.
Penn mentions his white male privilege as Joe which has made people like his character. “People on social media seem to enjoy the show and appreciate my performance. Not only that we’re all willing to forgive him, but we’re all used to finding something to forgive in someone like him. Particularly for a successful, American, white man. So, it seems like everybody is really interested in that and I don’t think anyone has actually said, ‘Oh, I just love Joe,’ they’re really saying, ‘Dan Humphrey (Gossip Girl) is on TV again‘ [He quips].”
When you think about it, the whole point of the show is to make Joe Goldberg as charming as possible. The audience might even find themselves rooting for him because, in his narrative, he was only doing what was best for Beck.
“Sometimes, I wonder why he had to be that charming,” Penn says. “I really wanted to make him much less of a human. But you know, I was just always trusting the writers and the directors–most of them are women.”
Shay Mitchell who plays the toxic best friend, Peach Salinger, tells us the show’s depiction of social media and the significant lesson to learn from it.
“This is not a cautionary tale by any means but I want you to be a little bit more careful. We don’t usually think about the people on the other side of that screen and who are watching us. You don’t think about that because you are only talking to your screen but if you think about the people in their living rooms and bad people who are looking at your content, that makes you a lot more aware of how you post or what you post.”
According to Penn Badgley himself, the main concern of the show is Beck (Elizabeth Lail), an objectified woman and an innocent victim who finds herself in the hands of a stalker.
“It’s a story of a woman not escaping, a victim to a lot of social forces. It’s very intense in that way. You see all of his charms as unconscious manipulation which is the way people do manipulate. A lot of people are trying to be good while they do terrible things.”
Penn Badgley gave a piece of advice to all the fans who have finished the show and are still rooting for Joe: Try to watch the show a second time and think of it as a tragedy more than a thriller.
Would you still root for him? Share this post with your thoughts!