Penn Badgley, famous for playing Dan in Gossip Girl, is very alarmed by some of the responses to his latest show, You.
You was picked up by Netflix after initially being broadcast by Lifetime in the US, and debuted on the platform late last month.
It’s about a bookstore employee, Joe, who lives in New York and is obsessed with romantic tropes. Joe sees himself as a good guy, a ‘nice guy’ if you will, and as someone women should want to fall in love with.
Joe is also an incredibly creepy stalker and, spoiler alert, murderer. In case that doesn’t make it clear: you are not supposed to root for Joe or find him attractive. He’s a deconstruction and dramatisation of the ‘Nice Guy’ trope, and, again, he’s a stalker and a murderer.
This hasn’t stopped people from thirsting over him though, because Penn Badgley is just too damn irresistible, I guess.
But Badgley himself is concerned by the things people are tweeting about his character. His Twitter is full of responses to fans who don’t know what to make of their crushes on Joe.
At least some people are reacting the right way.
Frankly, I haven’t trusted him ever since it was revealed that he was Gossip Girl the whole time. I realise actors are playing characters and not actually embodying them, but the reveal of Dan Humphrey as Gossip Girl affected teenage me very deeply.
Someone mentioned Badgley’s transition from teen crush to terrifying stalker, and Badgley’s response is interesting: perhaps our perception of his previous characters has changed as we’ve all matured.
Because seriously, you aren’t meant to crush on Gossip Girl. Gossip Girl ruined lives and caused nothing but drama, and it was all Dan’s way of getting Serena’s attention because he had a crush on her.
In hindsight, he wasn’t so different from Joe, aside from the lack of kidnapping and murder.
Evidently Badgley is interested in these types of characters – ones that put a spotlight on harmful tropes we’ve all grown up with, that many of us never really questioned. In addition, Badgley seems like a genuinely good guy, so maybe it’s time for me to forgive him for playing a character who was eventually revealed to be Gossip Girl.
If you haven’t seen You, it’s worth checking out, although bear in mind it’s a tough watch, particularly if you’re sensitive to issues of abuse and violence. But it does a good job of critiquing a lot of troubling notions about romance and dating that society has normalised, and Penn Badgley and Elizabeth Lail do a great job.