DISCLAIMER: The article, in no way, normalizes stalking. The article is only an attempt to discuss Penn Badgley’s character arc across two different series and the audience’s response to it. Stalking is a serious offence. 

Netflix’s latest original series, You, has caught the internet by storm, with people loving not just the show – but also the quintessential bad boy, Joe Goldberg, played by American actor Penn Badgley. 


And let’s admit it, despite everything that the creators have done to make his flaws glaringly obvious, there’s a part of the audience that just can’t resist his innate charm. 

Which is a completely opposite reaction for those ardent viewers who grew up hating his ‘good boy’ persona on Gossip Girl

Yes, it was on Gossip Girl that we were first introduced to his shy smile, expressive face, and emotive eyes. 


All that is still here and is the reason we can’t help but fall in love with him. But his onscreen personas – and our reactions to it – could not have been more different. 

As Dan Humphrey, he was ‘the moralistic outsider’ who the young viewers – vicariously living out their fantasies through the show – loved to hate on. 

Yes, he did turn out to be the ‘Gossip Girl’ in the end, and it does seem that You’s Joe was the perfect career jump for his reel life, but when the audience was first introduced to the overanalytical, slightly arrogant writer-in-making, Dan Humphrey, the character did not win hearts. 

Especially when there was the rich, spoilt, Chuck Bass to not-so-secretly crush on. (Seriously, what is with the unwitting attraction to bad boys?).

And all the hate that Penn garnered for Dan Humphrey, seems to match right up to all the love he’s receiving for Joe Goldberg. 

Clearly, the audience loves the actor, but they love him as a bad guy just a tad bit more. The problematic, slightly psychopathic Joe has people hooked to their screens, because he is good with kids?

It’s literally Dexter all over again. And consciously, we – as the audience – are aware of it. 

But let’s admit it, Penn Badgley’s effortless performance has made even an altogether evil character appear grey – convincing people to like him a little, even as he hacks into a girl’s phone and kills off her ex-boyfriend. 

Apparently, when it comes to unwitting attraction, logic has little role to play. And suffice to say, the trajectory of Penn Badgley’s reel life – and our interest in it – has been nothing short of addictive. 

But we really hope he plays a guy-next-door in the next series he is a part of. It’ll make (openly) liking him so much easier, and not have us question our sanity.