We are all familiar with this story. A boy-next-door meets the girl of his dreams and proceed to have the meet cute, a scene in romantic comedies where they first meet. They exchange a subtle flirty banter and click. The girl eventually gives him her number hoping the connection is genuine and he would call. The boy puts his best foot forward trying to win the girl. And then they all live happily ever after or at least end up having a nice summer fling. It is a formula we keep on seeing yet we all still fall for it.
But Netflix isn’t having any of it anymore. Enter its latest psychological thriller ‘You’ starring Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, and Shay Mitchell.
(Warning: spoilers ahead)
‘You’ is the streaming giant’s latest TV series hit that debuted globally last December 26, 2018 after acquiring rights from Lifetime channel. Based on Caroline Kepnes’s 2014 novel of the same title, it chronicles the story of two New Yorkers, Joseph ‘Joe’ Goldberg (Penn Badgely) and Guinevere Beck or simply Beck (Elizabeth Lail).
In the first episode, the formula of a classic romantic comedy is very apparent. Cute boy next door? Check. Pretty girl? Check. Meet cute? Check. Within the first five minutes, the viewers are taken through this romantic sequence where Beck meets Joe at this quaint bookstore where he works as the manager. They spend time talking about literature and why people shouldn’t be ashamed of buying a Dan Brown book in broad daylight.
A dreamy cinematography against New York neighborhood is complemented with Joe’s narration: his unfiltered thoughts, on how he would win Beck, and the lengths he would go through to make her happy.
But what started as romantic and cheeky quickly turns sour towards the end of the pilot. You, as a viewer, end up asking what the hell did you just watch. In the succeeding episodes, the show explores modern dating and how extremely dangerous it is when the lines between love, passion, and obsession suddenly become blurred.
To further expound the intricacy of the show, Penn Badgley, famous for his portrayal of Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl, sat down with MEGA Man. He talked about the show and why we, despite his good looks, hair, and obsession to read (which not all men these days share), should never fawn all over Joe.
Relax, It’s Only TV.
Fans across the globe have been going gaga over Penn Badgley’s controversial character. Some have even sent him inappropriate propositions despite his incessant reminders that the guy is basically a creep.
No thx https://t.co/VnBqJ3JoxG
— Penn Badgley (@PennBadgley) January 9, 2019
But while the fanaticism might be troublesome, he acknowledged that they, too, have a responsibility with this newfound fascination with TV’s latest anti-hero.
“Even though I’ve been encouraging people to consider Joe for all that he is rather than the way that he is when he is charming. I also know that we’ve made a television show here and there’s a very obvious reason why everybody is charmed by him,” he said.
“It’s a television show and I’m playing him so I actually don’t want to hold the viewers solely responsible. It’s also our responsibility,” Badgley shared.
Part of the reason why he thinks the show is very compelling is because of the strong female writers and creators whom he commends and fully trusts. “I was just listening to the women I was working with; it starts with the creators and I don’t know what they have in store but I trust them because they have gotten us this far and the showseems to have tapped into something,” he added.
“Love Does Not Do That”
Penn accepted the role completely knowing the character’s behavior because he wanted to raise important conversations around love and relationships. “Love does not do that,” he pointed out with regard to Joe’s obsessive pursuit of Beck.
From his point of view, society’s definition of love has become distorted that people end up in relationships for all the wrong reasons, “You end up in abuse if you’re grossly misunderstanding the purpose of a relationship. Love is much more than just a romantic relationship. It’s what exists between friends, between a teacher and student, between a brother and sister, or a parent and a child.”
Penn and Joe on Their Choice of Books
Penn has been reading a lot of books way before playing Joe Goldberg. Probably the only thing that he and his character share is their love for reading . He shared that traveling for press junkets is the perfect way to catch up on some reading. He even opted for a bag full of books than a Kindle. The actor grew up reading Kurt Vonnegut among other fiction writers. He eventually moved on to non-fiction titles with strong social and cultural point of views such as Arthur Hochschild’s ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ and ‘White Fragility’ by Robin DiAngelo.
Jack Kerouac (Photo Courtesy of National Review)
When asked what kind of books or authors the viewers can read to further dive into Joe’s psyche, he suggested Kerouac or, interestingly enough, J.D. Salinger.
”I think Joe is a typical, brilliant white man who thinks he’s the most brilliant man on Earth but forgets that there are other cultures like women,” he said. “He’s the center of his universe. He’s the typical American man that way. Thinking that Jack Kerouac is the first bohemian ever to live that life, like J.D. Salinger, do you think you’re the first smart person? It’s the extremely modern self-centered white guy.”
Penn Badgley has come a long way from his Gossip Girl days because, well, this time he’s actually murdering people. But that doesn’t take away the fact that he has also evolved as an artist by thinking and caring about the social ripples that his work is creating. Will there be redemption for Joseph next season? “Trust the process,” is the only thing that he can spill about season 2. That and they’re moving to West Coast in sunny Los Angeles to shoot the entire thing. Let’s see if the sun makes Joe less murder-ry.
Watch season 1 of You out now in Netflix.