Why You's Penn Badgley Says His Character Horrifies More Men Than Women

You Penn Badgley Joe Lifetime Netfilx
(Image credit: Lifetime)

You has been another hit for Netflix ever since the show was acquired from Lifetime. In a new interview, Penn Badgley is weighing in on why he believes his obsession-driven character actually horrifies more men than women. Offering his insight on the trend of men being more shaken by Joe, Badgley said:

In my experience, it tends to be men who are more horrified by Joe. I’ll go out on a limb and wonder if that is because it’s less of a novel idea to women. He’s like a nightmare that you’ve repeatedly had, whereas men are like, ‘This isn’t real!’ Women are like, ‘Of course it isn’t real, but it’s extremely representative of something.’

It is interesting to contemplate how men and women’s reactions have differed to You and Joe across the spectrum. Penn Badgley shared his take on the multitude of responses with The New York Times, and the actor's assessment pegs women’s familiarity with the innate fear that Joe represents as being the key to the gender-based difference of opinions. Hypothetically, women are more used to it, so they can move beyond it more quickly.

Both You and Joe have drawn reactions from viewers that are somehow completely devoid of horror. Many have gone on social media to actually express their affection for the character as a dream suitor. Instead of, you know, a stalker nightmare. WARNING: Season 1 spoilers for You are discussed below.

Continuing his assessment, Penn Badgley questioned a certain element of viewers’ experience. Discussing what fans' affection for Joe implies, Badgley says:

I wonder if, as a viewer, no matter how much you’ve enjoyed the frothiness of the show, you can’t get away with liking Joe without taking responsibility for being a part of Beck’s death. There are so many stories in the media about what we currently call 'toxic masculinity' and I feel like that still doesn’t get to the depth of the phenomenon. It’s just really interesting that this show of all shows is so popular right now.

Penn Badgley has not been shy about wading into You viewers’ more questionable responses to Joe, taking far more than one occasion to point out who Joe really is to fans on social media. One Twitter user reflected on how the actor was breaking their heart as Joe, to which Badgley bluntly stated that Joe is “a murderer.” Hard to argue with facts like that.

While many You viewers have been taken in by Joe, Penn Badgley has taken an inquisitive stand to the phenomena. The actor previously told E! that he is absolutely curious about why people like Joe as much as they do. Where does the answer lie?

Is it that You makes viewers watch from the villain’s P.O.V., instead of the victims'? Could that danger-laden approach be contributing to viewers’ feelings about its centerpiece? There have been films and TV shows that have stuck close to their central antagonists, but You puts the audience directly within Joe's mind and disturbing rationale.

If anyone ever figures out what drives viewers' positive reactions to You's Joe, it'll surely be the topic of countless think-pieces and debates to come, right? Especially since, despite its dark finale, the series will continue later in 2019 with a second season on Netflix, which is something that may not have been fully expected.

You’s first season saw Joe and Beck’s relationship end in shocking fashion when he ultimately murdered her after she learned his true nature. That move added Beck to Joe's pre-existing string of victims teased throughout the season, though he left Dr. Nicky to take the fall by getting incarcerated for Joe's crimes.

Having left an innocent man in jail, Joe will probably be dealing with some new characters in Season 2 who aren't yet aware of his true nature. With the first season setting up the character's truly vile nature, it will be interesting to see how viewers react to Joe in the second round.

The first season of You is currently streaming on Netflix, alongside many other TV shows. Netflix has not announced an official release date for Season 2 yet, so stay tuned. There will be a lot of new TV content to keep “you” busy during the midseason.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.