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    We Had A Psychologist "Diagnose" Joe From "You" And It Seems Pretty Accurate

    “Sometimes these murderers actually murder their loved ones, their fiancés, their wives, and people are still like, ‘Hey, let me be your next victim.’”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed the new season of You. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview! (WARNING: There are some light spoilers for Season 3 of You.)

    Listen to BuzzFeed Daily on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to neuropsychologist Dr. Judy Ho about the Netflix series You and why people become so enamored with sociopaths. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: So first off, I'd love to get a psychologist's point of view on this. In the show, Joe has never been formally diagnosed. The words "psychopath" and "sociopath" tend to get thrown around when talking about him on social media, but based on what you've seen, is there a diagnosis you'd be comfortable giving him?

    Joe in You

    Judy Ho: Well, given that Joe is a fictional character, I definitely can give you a diagnosis. I can see the type of persona that Joe is being based on, and I would say that there are several aspects of this persona that I think would be very familiar to clinicians when we're thinking about diagnoses. Joe is somebody who has a combination of antisocial personality disorder traits and also borderline personality disorder traits. And I think the one that is more prominent is antisocial personality disorder. This is what the layperson commonly referred to as a "psychopath" or "sociopath." But to a psychologist, when we look at someone like this, there is a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that says this is what happens to a person, oftentimes, when they've grown up around abuse or when they've grown up neglected and they never receive treatment. And that's not what happens to every single person who's ever been through abuse. But there's something about that combination of abuse and certain traits or temperaments that the person might be born with, or even biological wiring that is off. That combination is what explodes into this type of personality that we sometimes see in serial murderers and other types of major criminals.

    BuzzFeed Daily: Ever since Season 1 of the show started streaming on Netflix, people have been, for lack of a better word, thirsting over Joe. And I mean, I get it. Penn Badgley is a very good-looking guy, but it's kind of alarming that so many fans don't seem to be able to actually separate him from the literal murderer that he's playing. Even Penn has sort of scolded them on social media for loving the character so much. So why do you think people are so willing to look past the fact that Joe is, again, a literal murderer?

    Joe in You

    JH: Well, Penn is a great actor. So he's kind of scolding people, but at the same time, it's his great portrayal that makes people see him as a complex individual with lovable traits, right? And I think that that's obviously what the goal is of portraying a character like this, as they do want the audience to be conflicted, and that's what makes him an interesting character. But I would say that this is sort of like art imitating life, because for a lot of these again, going back to history, the true and literal murderers and serial killers among us, many of them were put together. Many of them seemed like they really could be amazing people who could add to your life in a very positive way. And I think that there's a draw for people when they see somebody like this — they see that maybe they've come from a childhood of abuse or neglect, that maybe there's something redeeming to them that they maybe they just need to be saved. And so people are looking for that positive trait because it will make them feel better. If, as an audience member, you're actually inclined to like Joe, what does that say about you, that you like somebody who is a serial killer and disregards human life, just kills people willy nilly and doesn't seem to have any empathy? When you, as an audience member, feel drawn to this character, you are literally trying to justify your own liking of Joe. And I think that that's why people are sort of not able to separate everything out because they're looking for those tiny, little redeeming qualities. "But he could be so loving. He only kills people because he loves her so much." And, you know, it's just the self-justification process, right?

    BuzzFeed Daily: I've seen people talk about how they think that Joe has changed for the better over the course of Season 3. I mean, one person even tweeted: "I'm really proud of Joe this season. The only person he murdered was Ryan. And for the most part, he was really trying to be better. I mean, he literally took Theo to the hospital. Love was the one catching bodies all season." Between this and the flashbacks we see into the trauma of his childhood, it almost feels like the show is actively trying to make Joe seem like a more sympathetic character. And it's been working — people online seem to be Team Joe instead of Team Love, even though they're both murderers. Do you think them portraying him in this light is irresponsible? Because at the end of the day, he is still a person who kills people.

    Joe in You

    JH: Well, you know, I would say this — the way that they're portraying Love makes me almost feel like she was put in the show to make Joe look a little better. Love seems really brutal herself, so all of a sudden, Joe looks slightly better compared to Love. At times Love is very manipulative as well, but I would say that even if people say, "OK, we should criticize the show for being a bit irresponsible in portraying him this way," again, this is something that we see in real serial murderers. And in fact, the people who try to draw out the redeeming qualities of these murderers tend to be themselves. So if you listen to these confessionals or these audiotapes of their investigation, you will see that a lot of these serial murderers from our history will essentially make a plea to the public about how they were the abused ones. Everyone should feel sorry for them. They only turned into who they turned into because they had a neglectful mom or an abusive dad, or whatever the case may be. And I think that the show is really trying to portray these characteristics that we've actually seen through confessionals of real murderers and how they try to justify the things that they've done in their lives.

    BuzzFeed Daily: I'm interested in this because we have talked about how people watching are trying to figure out the reason why they're "rooting" for Joe and looking for this hope or these redeeming qualities. How much do you think him being attractive and white plays into this? You know, is that something we see too, of these people who get these fangirls for lack of a better word?

    Joe in You

    JH: Well, first of all, there's this really weird halo effect that we talk about all the time in social psychology where this happens, especially for heterosexual males. If they are good-looking, then we associate all kinds of positive qualities with them. Like, "Oh, they must also be smart and competent and nice," and you know, the list goes on. Interestingly, the fact is it's not really that way for heterosexual, cisgender females. The research that is done has shown that if a female is attractive, people sometimes actually attribute a mixed bag of qualities to them like, "Oh, she's so pretty, she must not be so smart, she must not have a good job." So, that says something about our cultural expectations of men and women who are attractive. 

    But I think above and beyond that, to answer some of your other questions and the layers that are inherent in the question, is that there are so many people who are attracted to these real-life criminals like Ted Bundy and Charles Manson. There are so many of them we can just keep listing them. And it's interesting because sometimes these murderers actually murder their loved ones, their fiancés, their wives, and people are still like, "Hey, let me be your next victim." Basically, they're writing into prison and saying, "I will be your next love interest." And I think the reason is we have in some ways glorified criminals, because there's so much coverage in the media. Sometimes the trials are really public. It's like this big event. Everybody's looking into the courtroom. And so they seem like celebrities in their own right, kind of like a celebrity from a reality TV show.

    And then I think people look for these tiny little redeeming qualities, like "Oh, maybe this means that the person can change and I can be the one to change them. Well, if I can be the one to change and then there must be something special about me. Plus, I feel good about myself because I'm doing something good for humanity and for him and for society." So I think that there's that element of it. 

    Now, as a psychologist, I do believe that a number of people who grow up and have these antisocial personality traits can change, but they have to really recognize it in themselves and really have to want it. They have to have that motivation. And unfortunately, there's a small population of people who I believe probably couldn't be changed and we just need to protect society from them. You know, we do need to keep eyes on them if they ever get released, they have to be on such tight probation that they can't be allowed to be let loose and do more havoc. And I think that that's a tough thing to admit in some ways as human beings like, "Oh man, we really think someone might be not redeemable?" and I do think a small proportion of people with antisocial personality traits might not be able to be actually treated. 

    BuzzFeed Daily: I'm wondering where Season 4 is going to go for You, because people are talking about how Joe only killed one person, so some people might be like, "Maybe he won't kill anyone next season." I'm not in that camp. I think he will continue to kill. I don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't watched yet, so I'm going to keep it vague. But basically in the fourth season, we kind of see that he'll be moving on from Love and be on his own once again. What do you think? Do you think he'll find someone to team up with again or do you think he's back to being solo?

    Love in You

    JH: Well, I think that actually a lot of people like Joe actually operate best when they're on their own because they can make all the decisions. But the disadvantage is you have to compromise. You have to cover for one another, and the other person can sometimes become a drag in different ways and actually impede on the things that you really want to do. And so if Joe splits and goes away from Love for whatever reason, I think that he'll probably just go back to his own ways. But now he's learned all of these tricks of the trade from his own experience and the ones with Love, so I think people should watch out. I do not think this is a person who's on a path to reform.

    We also discussed iCarly star's new one-woman show, I'm Glad My Mom Died, in which she talks about her abusive mother.

    Photo of Jennette McCurdy smiling at the camera
    Axelle / FilmMagic

    Jennette said: “My mom's emotions were so erratic that it was like walking a tightrope every day. The mood fluctuations were daily," and that her mom, who passed away in 2013, projected her own dreams of stardom onto Jennette.

    She also revealed that her mom taught her to count calories, and by the time she started on iCarly, she had anorexia, which shifted to binge eating, followed by bulimia.

    Jennette said: ​​"I know if my mom were alive, I'd still have an eating disorder.”

    She also said that when she was 17 her mother allegedly would perform vaginal and breast exams and wouldn’t let her shower alone.

    In other news, after Lil Nas X went on Instagram Live and joked about collaborating with rapper Boosie Badazz, Boosie posted an anti-gay tweet telling Lil Nas X to stop trolling him.

    Paras Griffin / Getty Images

    We won’t read the tweet here because frankly it’s disgusting, but it uses anti-gay language and mentions suicide.

    This isn’t the first time Boosie has gotten backlash for his anti-LGBTQ views. Last year, during an appearance on Mike Tyson’s podcast, he went on an anti-trans rant about Dwyane Wade’s daughter Zaya.

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at