After playing a major role in one of the biggest teen dramas of all time, Gossip Girl, Penn Badgley has come a long way since.
From fish-out-of-water Dan Humphrey, to sexy, brooding, serial killer stalker Joe Goldberg, in Netflix’s You, he’s certainly not been typecast.
Of course, we’re not supposed to admit (at least publicly, anyway) that we might have fancied Joe Goldberg, because we know it’s problematic to be attracted to someone can quite happily chop people up and keep the so-called love of his life in a cage.
However, even Penn – who turns 34 today, November 1 – felt obliged to speak out about the sheer volume of tweets he was receiving from young girls asking him to kidnap them.
In You, Penn’s character is outwardly charming, which is how he lures his victims into believing he’s the trustworthy ‘guy next door’ type of fella. But us savvy viewers are privy to his internal monologues, which reveal his obsessive need to control the object of his desire, stopping at nothing to allegedly ‘protect’ them.
Joe Goldberg has regularly been compared to real life serial killer Ted Bundy, who, on the face of it, was a charming, intelligent and alluring young man. However, while he appeared all of these things to not only his loved ones, but to his victims too, when we have all the facts no one can deny the man was an outright monster.
And, yet, when Penn turns on the Goldberg charm, viewers are left quite literally gushing over him, despite the fact that we’re clued up to his monstrous ways, which is, in my humble opinion, what makes him the perfect villain.
If you were born before the millennium, the chances are you’ll know Penn best as Lonely Boy, aka Dan Humphrey, a hopeless romantic from Brooklyn who begrudgingly attempts to infiltrate the elite clique of the Upper East Side, to win over Serena van der Woodsen’s affections in Gossip Girl.
On the face of it, Dan Humphrey was a ‘good guy’ in a world of narcissistic, spoilt rich kids. In fact, much of Dan’s existence appeared to serve as a marker for just how ostentatious and ridiculous the lives of the Upper East Side were. He was a fish out of water and hugely relatable for anyone who ever felt like they didn’t ‘fit in’.
But, the top and bottom of it was that Dan wasn’t the nicest guy himself. And Penn knew that, and played it so well.
While pretty much every character in Gossip Girl thought they were better than Dan, Dan simultaneously saw himself as better than them, as someone who could rescue Serena from a life of caviar and fancy brunches.
He constantly made out as though he was underprivileged, and while he was by comparison to the uber-rich kids at his school, Dan still lived in an amazing loft conversion in Brooklyn with his ex-rock star dad, who happened to also run an art gallery *and* paid for his private school fees. Not too shabby, hey?
Now, I’m about to drop a huge Gossip Girl spoiler here, so if you haven’t seen the finale yet, close this article and get on Netflix right now because it came out eight whole years ago, okay?
At the end of Gossip Girl, we discovered the person who had been ruining lives and causing absolute mayhem for six whole seasons was in fact… Lonely Boy Dan Humphrey. It was a huge shock to us all, and if we’re being brutally honest, it didn’t actually make a lot of sense. But, if you look back over the events that took place, and the secrets Gossip Girl spilled over the years, it proves my earlier point, that he was, in fact, a particularly pleasant person.
Not only did Dan hide his secret alter ego from Serena, the so-called love of his life, but he also started rumours that she was pregnant, had an STI and even claimed he thought she was ‘different’ after breaking the news of her secret romping with Nate Archibald to the entire world.
The very fact that Dan was Gossip Girl all along, in my opinion, proves that he was the biggest narcissist of them all. Didn’t I tell you that Penn plays a bloody good villain?
Happy 34th birthday, Penn!
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