DISCLAIMER: The article, in no way, normalizes stalking. The article is only an attempt to discuss Penn Badgley's character traits across two different seasons and the audience's response to it. Stalking is a serious offense.
So last year, one of the many shows that I binge-watched (does anyone even 'normal-watch' shows anymore?), was the Netflix original You, based on Caroline Kepnes's novel of the same name.
You know the show - the one where Penn Badgley became one of the most dangerous (and lusted after) fictional bookstore owners, Joe Goldberg. (Almost like a character leap from his role of Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl)
While the practical side of my brain knew that Joe was a dangerous stalker and murderer, the other side of my brain (read: hormones) could not help but fall for the irresistible charm that Penn Badgley brought to the role. And I wasn't the only one.
I can’t stop thinking about Joe Goldberg and I think I love him, am I insane— Nickela Murphy (@NickelaMurphy) January 2, 2019
Now, in all fairness to the actor, he did school people crushing on his character. And once season 1 ended, even I took my time to reign in my hormones, get back to my senses, and reiterate to my brain that falling for Joe Goldberg is wrong.
But then, season 2 happened. And I discovered a more sinister version of Joe Goldberg - Will Bettelheim. I think you know what happened next - I fell for him, again!
As Joe aka Will tries to navigate through life in LA, a new 'love' interest, and a killer past (pun intended), I am trying to navigate my rioting hormones - the ones that start jumping in joy every time Penn Badgley smiles that mysterious smile. The one that hints at how he knows everything about you - which, in the case of You, is actually true.
The show creators pepper just enough 'good deeds'--like looking out for a young neighbor (much like the first season)--in his significant list of crimes to hoodwink us into falling for him completely. The second season also gives us glimpses of Joe's childhood, which obviously played a role in shaping him.
Because, of course, the show builds on the audience's conflicting emotions. We are seeing the story from Joe/Will's point of view, and tend to get convinced with his version of the world, even when it is deeply problematic.
I really thought that I would fare better with season 2. After all, unlike the first season, I was heading into season 2 with ample knowledge. But, like Britney said it ages ago, oops! I did it again.