joe you on netflix
photo: Netflix

The Lifetime-turned-Netflix show You has now been watched by over 40 million people since its debut on the streaming site in December. Besides being insanely addicting, the show has left people feeling, well, conflicted. You see, its leading man, Joe Goldberg, played by Gossip Girl alum Penn Badgley, is somehow both endearing and completely psychotic. And people are not sure how to feel.

Badgley himself has joked with fans on Twitter about how problematic it is that they're attracted to his character. I mean, duh, he's a stalker and a murderer! But now, he's finally explained to everyone that we're supposed to feel conflicted. In other words: we're not crazy after all.

As you probably know, Badgley's character Joe is not exactly a good guy.

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Despite his motives, he not only stalks Beck and anyone associated with her, but also kidnaps and murders a handful of people.

Nobody can truly wrap their head around how they feel about him.

He's somehow both lovable and truly despicable, and everyone wants to know why.

Though many of us might not think of his character as a rom-com stereotype, according to Badgley, those tropes are actually the core of who Joe is. And now everything makes sense.

During an interview with TODAY's Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, he spoke in depth about how Joe embodies those romantic comedy tropes and why we all relate to or empathize with him.

When discussing his character, Badgley told Kotb and Guthrie that while Joe is "completely obsessive and compulsive," he also believes "that he's operating by the logic of a true romantic."

So, basically, in Joe's mind, this is how men are supposed to act toward women they love. He believes he's doing everything right and his intentions are good. 

But by actually following the rom-com hero tropes so closely, he ends up going too far.

"What he does is he takes the tropes that we've seen in romantic comedies ... and totally subverts them by actually following them closely, and he comes to this really kind of terrifying conclusion," Badgley explained.

In the interview, he also says that there's parts of Joe's character we're meant to identify with. And that's why we're all conflicted.

"He's meant to garner a conflicted reaction,'' Badgley said. "I don't see him as a portrayal of a real person. I see him as a representation of the part of us that identifies with him. The part of us that is a troll, the part of us that is victim blaming, the part of us that is privileged and blind. We're meant to identify with him."

Check out the full clip from TODAY below and maybe it will make a bit more sense.

BTW, Badgley isn't actively seeking creepy roles (Gossip Girl, You); the roles just find him.

Shay Mitchell, who plays Peach Salinger in the series, gets it. She said it makes sense to romanticize certain elements of his character but not the character as a whole.

"I can see it, when somebody really cares a lot [and] they just look into certain aspects of your life, but I do think there is a fine line with that," she said in an interview.

If you're still confused about how Joe embodies typical rom-com tropes, however, allow me to explain.

photo: Columbia Pictures

First of all, if you break down the premise of most romantic comedies, they're all basically the same: one person will stop at nothing to be with another person. 

If you really stop to think about it, many fan-favorite rom-coms are actually pretty creepy. Take the classic film While You Were Sleeping, for example.

photo: Hollywood Pictures

Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a lonely metro worker who has a massive, stalker-ish crush on a commuter she's never actually met. When he has a horrible accident and falls into a coma, she pretends to be his fiancée, and his family accepts her with open arms. That's most definitely something Joe Goldberg would do in You.

Shoot, even Badgley's former Gossip Girl character, Dan Humphrey follows the same rom-com tropes with Serena Van der Woodsen (Blake Lively).

They will stop at nothing to be together, even though, technically, Dan is a creepy stalker. See a pattern?

Basically, Joe's character, and the entire premise of You, exists to show us just how destructive some of these rom-com tropes can be.

As writer Ani Bundel put it in a You review published by NBC, "Expected, clichéd stereotypes are revealed to be creepy when viewed through the lens of a controlling man like Joe."

With all the rom-com nonsense we've been fed over the last decade, we've sort of become immune to creepy, stalker-ish behavior as long as it's posed as two people falling in love.

It all is starting to make sense now.

Tracking a girl down, not taking "no" for an answer, showing up late at night, etc. are all romantic comedy tropes that are beyond creepy when they happen in real life.

So, um, perhaps You is actually even more genius than we thought.