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The Gross Auto-Erotic Scenes In Netflix's You Were Almost A Lot Creepier

It feels strange and unsettling to try to describe the Netflix original series "You," which stars Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg and has been a massive hit for the streamer in recent years. Here's the gist, though: Joe falls in love with unsuspecting women, stalks them, murders anyone who might get in his way, and fixates on said women to the point that he often ends up killing them too. Plus, Joe's fantasy life is ... very vivid, to say the least, which means there are a handful of scenes in "You" where Joe pleasures himself thinking about his current lady. How does Badgley feel about this? Weird, but he also said that one acting instinct — keeping his eyes open — almost made them much weirder.

In July 2022, Badgley discussed Joe's acts of self-love on his podcast "Podcrushed" (via People) and said that the directors he worked with on "You," including Lee Toland Krieger, said the actor was actually making the whole thing too creepy: "They say like, 'Close your eyes' or 'go faster' or 'go slower.' I'm like, 'What? This man is f—ing murder[ing] people, and he's masturbating in the street. You're saying I'm making it creepy? How is it I'm the one making it creepy?'" According to Badgley, Krieger got very direct: "He was like, 'Buddy, I think you gotta close your eyes.' I don't remember exactly what he said. He was very graciously communicating that it was creepy."

Penn Badgley says he got a lot of direction on those scenes in You

During that same episode of "Podcrushed," Penn Badgley told his co-hosts and friends Nava Kavelin and Sophie Ansari that faking masturbation on-screen never really gets less weird, but at this point, he's done it over and over again. (Joe spends a lot of time with himself.) "I've now done it so many times on camera," he revealed. "It's a strange — you don't think it's going to be that big of a deal. And then you discover in front of a crew of people with a camera on your face, knowing that, in all likelihood, millions of people are going to see this, you're simulating masturbation."

Not only that, but Badgley said — understandably — that scenes like these are much more difficult to pull off, so to speak, than others. "Sometimes those scenes are harder than with a person because it's just like, alright, this is what I'm doing," he said. Badgley's Joe Goldberg has plenty of female scene partners throughout the series, including Elizabeth Lail, Victoria Pedretti, Tati Gabrielle, and most recently, Charlotte Richie — who play Guinevere Beck, Love Quinn, Marienne Bellamy, and Kate Galvin-Lockwood, respectively — but filming with a partner must make those solo scenes feel even weirder when they do happen. (That said, Badgley famously requested fewer NSFW scenes in Season 4 and beyond.)

You is ending with its upcoming season — where did it leave off?

After four seasons — the most recent of which finds Joe Goldberg relocating from Los Angeles to London, only to indulge his darkest tendencies once again — it was announced in March 2023 that "You" would return to Netflix for a 5th and final season. So where did we leave Joe Goldberg and his murderous ways at the end of Season 4?

Initially, Joe moves to London to turn over a new leaf ... but when bodies start turning up, he's forced to figure out who's doing the killings. It turns out that it's him — though he's been disassociating and imagining all the murders were committed by his new acquaintance Rhys Montrose (Ed Speelers), and as usual, Joe gets off scot-free as the season concludes. His new lady love, Kate, is perfectly willing to use her money and power to cover up any of his indiscretions (including the indiscretion of him killing her cruel father, Tom Lockwood, played by Greg Kinnear). He's back in New York and is embracing his murderous side, donning his signature baseball cap and ready to kill again. 

Joe's next steps are still anyone's guess, but there's no question that the final season of "You" will be extra wild. Hopefully, for Penn Badgley's sake, it has fewer self-pleasure scenes. The first four seasons of "You" are streaming on Netflix now.