Art & Culture / News

A round-up of all the pop culture creeps who inspired “You’s” Joe

Dan Humphrey walked so Joe Goldberg could run (from the cops).

Congrats, fellow masochists, we finally have a release date for the second season of “You” and it’s, drumroll, 26 December! What better way to fend off existential angst waiting for NYE than entering into the mind of a delusional sociopath…

The second season will follow hot book store nerd Joe Goldberg (played by Penn Badgley) as he relocates to Los Angeles after, you know, murdering his ex in cold blood at the end of season one. There, he encounters a new love interest called (conveniently enough) Love. We personally can’t imagine Mr Dark and Brooding adjusting well to the land of green juice cleanses and Cali sobriety, but we’ll put our reservations to the side for now.

Now that season two is well in sight, and we’ve had time to digest the series that came before, what’s really on our minds is trying to unpick the unshakeable sense of deja-vu that Joe and his five o’clock shadow provoke. Admittedly, he is just @beam_me_up_softboi come to life, but he’s also the messed-up descendent of a very long line of pop culture creeps. Read on for a lesson in Joe Goldberg genealogy and serious relationship red flags.

Tom – 500 Days of Summer


Ah, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We hear he’s actually a pretty successful actor but the only role of his we ever clocked was band-tee wearing, brooding Tom from 500 Days of Summer. Besides the fact he’s a grown man who thinks listening to The Smiths (red!! flag!!) and Pixies constitutes a personality, he spends an inordinate amount of time convinced that object of his (unrequited) affections Summer is a cold-hearted bitch. Watching 500DoS in 2019, all we can say is that Tom’s “nice guy” entitlement and casual misogyny are better left back in the 00s…so it’s a pity we have to witness them resurface in You.

Amy – Gone Girl


It’s the crazy ex-girlfriend your bae told you all about! Rosamund Pike’s role in Gone Girl is basically every incel’s beliefs about women come to life: she’s not only duplicitous and vindictive, but “traps” her husband, fabricates rape accusations and probably fakes her orgasms. The film, ostensibly the dark double of Eat, Pray, Love,  follows her as she ruins her cheating husband’s life by framing him for her murder. Like Joe, she goes high-concept with her romantic obsession; making us think a lot of trouble could’ve been spared if someone had just encouraged her to find a hobby.

Seth – The O.C.



Snarky hot boys of a feather flock together. Like with Joe, we were initially confused about why Seth is such a loner. Then we realised; it’s his awful personality! Not only does he spend way too long obsessing over unattainable, popular girl Summer; when she’s finally into him he two-times her and then tops it all off with a public pronouncement of love (emotional! abuse!) to win her round again.  Seth’s Manic Pixie Dream Boy vibes also do little to mask his snobbery and rich dude entitlement, making us warm a little to Joe if we don’t focus too hard on all the stalking, voyeurism and murder.

Alex – Fatal Attraction


Much like Joe, who couldn’t have his one night stand with Beck and leave it at that, Alex isn’t great at saying goodbye. What was supposed to be a weekend extramarital affair for run-of-the-mill jerk Dan becomes an ordeal as Alex threatens suicide, feigns pregnancy, stalks him and tries to attack his wife. There are a lot of similarities between Alex and Joe’s seduction techniques, making us wonder if Penn Badgely watched Fatal Attraction as character research…

Dan – Gossip Girl


Self-styled outsiders who substitute a vague literary interest for friends, Dan and Joe have lots in common beyond the fact they’re both played by Penn Badgley. When they’re not brooding and low-key stalking hot blonde chicks (shout out Serena VdW!) they’re silently judging everybody around them. First airing in 2007, amidst the Gawker media era, Dan externalises his bitchy internal monologue as, spoiler alert,  anonymous blogger Gossip Girl. With news of a reboot recently confirmed, we can’t help but wonder how producers will update Lonely Boy’s character for the 2020s. And, as a side note, we think Joe’s stream of consciousness would sound a lot better if voiced by Kristen Bell

12 November 2019