The Inexplicable Lure of Joe Goldberg

On the Netflix series, You, the serial killer lead character is attracting women instead of repelling them.

Netflix’s You has drawn a lot of attention online not only because it is a character-driven suspenseful show, but because Penn Badgley’s character, Joe Goldberg, is a polarizing figure.

It’s not unusual to suspect that the audience would despise Badgley’s character. I mean, he’s a serial killer. But that’s not what is happening. Could it be his “charming” looks or his manipulative personality?

Maybe it’s the fact that he portrays his character as the victim rather than the villain.

“I think that he has some redeeming qualities to make the show more interesting,” junior Dylan Stern said.

For example, Joe played the big brother role with his neighbor’s son Paco, by not only manipulating the characters but also convincing the audience that he was a good guy. He protects Paco from his mom’s abusive boyfriend and acts as a friend, even giving him books to read and a place to stay if he needed one. He made us believe that he was a nice guy who had some “attachment” issues. 

In season one, Joe was obsessed with a  local girl named Guenivere Beck, who he met in a bookstore and was instantly infatuated with. After their meeting, he stalks her for weeks through social media, as well as watching her outside her house and eventually entering her house and taking some of her belongings. 

He was so obsessed that he kidnapped and killed her ex-boyfriend and then murdered her best friend, claiming he did this to protect her because he was in love with her and wanted what was best for her. In short, Joe never realized what he was doing was wrong.

“…he was ensconced in his denials, delusions, and self- aggrandizing justifications.”

Joe had a rough childhood, dealing with his abusive father and neglective mother. Every day he witnessed his dad beat his mom and his mom would ditch him in random public places for long periods of time to hang around with a variety of men. 

It was traumatizing to watch all of this happen to him. To make matters worse, he was eventually adopted by Mr. Mooney who gave him frequent harsh punishments. The trauma Joe has suffered through makes the audience sympathize with him, but this is not what we’re supposed to do. 

There is no excuse for him being a sociopath, obsessive and hurting innocent people. 

“He is attractive, but what makes a man more attractive is respecting women’s boundaries,” sophomore Ella Turner said.

In season two, we are introduced to Love, Joe’s new obsession. He realizes that he is in love with her and was only infatuated with Beck, so automatically, we are excited when we find out Love feels the same way about Joe. 

However, at the end of the season, we find out that Love is also a sociopath with the same intentions as Joe, killing others to protect him just like he did with Beck. Throughout these episodes, Joe attempts to put aside his murderous ways, but instead, he has to deal with several murders Love commits. 

In the end, you may think Joe is a good guy deep down, right? 

Considering his traumatizing childhood, how he kills for love, and eventually meets and falls for Love, we sympathize with him and believe he does what he does for love. In reality, though, he’s just insane. By killing Beck, along with several others, he still didn’t recognize his faults and continued, convincing himself he was doing the right thing.

On top of that, he gains a new infatuation at the end of season two for the next-door neighbor, despite Love almost having a baby. Even after having his “happy” ending, he still continues with his frightening ways, proving he is downright psychotic.

Joe shouldn’t be viewed as a “nice guy” when in reality he’s a murderer.