Explaining Why We Love Joe:

Explaining Why We Love Joe:

Sofia Cannon, Health & Relationships Editor

“Why the hell do I love Joe Goldberg?” A line said frequently after Netflix aired a T.V series called YOU. To try and win her affection, Joe, the protagonist of the show played by Penn Bagdley, stalks a girl he falls in love with – and kills anyone in her inner circle who he thinks will ‘hurt’ her or seemingly uncover what he’s doing. The show, based on a novel written by Caroline Kepnes in 2015, was aired first on Lifetime, but came to gain much popularity after being aired on Netflix in December 2018. The show itself is fairly dark and gives the viewer an insight on the life and unhealthy obsessions that linger in the mind of Joe Goldberg. Season one starts off with him doing this to a woman called Guinevere Beck.  His thoughts and actions cause uneasiness throughout the whole series, but he’s also sharp-witted and humorous, giving him some shockingly likable qualities. Because of this, the watcher sees just how easy it is for Joe to seem not only likable, but trustworthy. Even more than that, the show portrays just how simple it really is to invade a person’s privacy with modern technology. Joe does this in a way where the victims, his obsessions, are completely oblivious to his detrimental tendencies. However his victims throughout the series, and even the audience, can’t help but swoon for this toxic bookstore manager, regardless of how abusive his actions are.

One reason Joe is so easy to be fond of is the physical look of the show: it’s not just the story. You shouldn’t feel bad for rooting for Joe Goldberg because that’s what the creators of the show intended to happen. Director Lee Toland Krieger described his mission as “want[ing to do] something that felt like a great New York love story, just with a very disturbed protagonist”. This depicts that the creators wanted the audience to fall for Joe, and without a doubt they’ve had overwhelming amounts of success. The way the series is laid out is to be a heart-felt romance as the director explained. The first season is set in New York, a romantic city within itself, and it just sets a perfect environment to fall in love, making the audience see the show as a romance, not the horror it really should be categorized as. This makes watchers all the more likely to want Joe and Guinevere Beck to get together in season one.

Another way the writers make the audience show overflowing amounts of support towards Joe Goldberg is by adding Paco. In season one, Paco is the son of a nurse who’s dating a violently abusive cop. The trio live right next to Joe so Joe often runs into Paco and can see and feel for his suffering as Paco is only a helpless kid. Eventually, Joe and his innocent neighbor bond as Joe brings him books and food. The series’ showrunner, Sera Gamble, expressed to Variety about the main reason that Paco was introduced into the series – and how his introduction brought the “biggest tragedy” in the series. She said:

“Paco has been a character that illuminates the best, most compassionate side of Joe…… He educates Paco, he gives Paco a sandwich when he’s hungry, he keeps Paco safe. And then [Paco] does this incredible thing in the finale [in return].”

Paco greatly helps the audience justify a killer later in the series just because of how kind he is towards a defenseless child to begin with. Joe’s stalking from a distance turns into a serious relationship with Beck, as she is completely oblivious to Joe’s true colors. Eventually, and against the audiences desires, Beck discovers who Joe is. He loses control, knocks her out, and locks her up in his basement. The only person to ever come across her is Paco. He does this accidentally, and when given the chance to free her, he doesn’t. His loyalty lies with Joe due to the unwavering support Joe has always given him against his mother’s boyfriend. Paco trusts Joe, and so do the watchers. Gamble also supported this idea by saying:

“Paco has been exposed to Joe [after] being trained to see Joe as this hero and saviour, do the biggest tragedy for me in the finale is that moment where Paco does the math and realizes there must be something very deeply wrong with her or Joe would never do something like this to [her]. His faith in Joe and his trust in Joe was so deep that Beck could literally be screaming through that door, but what Paco has just learned is that if Joe is doing something like this, he must have an incredibly important reason.”

Bringing Paco into the series showed Joe’s softer character therefore making him more appealing as a person. A person we should feel atrociously disgusted with suddenly becomes a character we grow fond of. 

We as humans want to justify and see the good in people regardless of how terrible their actions really are. Despite Joe being a stalker and abuser, we as an audience focus on his good qualities, that he’s kind to his neighbor. Sadly, It’s not just that though, there’s something else that explains why people who support his endeavors. The stalking isn’t cute whatsoever, but watchers still ask Penn Badgley to “kidnap me pls” on social media platforms. Joe Goldberg’s actor, Penn Badgley, explained it rather well, he told New York Times:

“If anyone other than a young white man were to behave like these character’s behave, nobody’s having it”.


Badgley said that for him, portraying Joe is his own way of destroying the white, male privilege that permits such men to commit such horrendous crimes without repercussions. He talked about how he portrayed Joe as a portrait of the parts of us “that can’t escape rooting” for him. 


“In a more just society, we would all see Joe as problematic and not be interested in the show, but that’s not the society we live in.”


Badgley recognizes the issue we as a society have and describes it so eloquently. We may not be able to help but root for the creepy yet charming Joe Goldberg, but we can at the least be aware of the screwed up reasons on why we do it.