Everyone in the Man Repeller office is desperate for me to write about Penn Badgley’s new look. He debuted it Monday night at Art Basel, where he performed with his new rock band Mothxr. Bleached hair, dark and dense scruff (nature’s most generous contour), very Zayn-ish. I pushed back for approximately six minutes — “Why would anyone care that an irrelevant TV star hopped on the bleached hair trend two years too late?” I asked, incredulous, and was met with such impassioned blowback I started to question…well, everything I knew.
Leslie said Penn Badgley is incredibly relevant and has a feather tattoo on his calf, not that she’ll reveal how she knows this. She said everyone is talking about Penn Badgley all the time, regardless of whether he’s doing anything. He’s like the 2000’s Jordan Catalano, she said. Everyone’s unreasonably obsessed. “That’s a TV character!” I said. “He will always be Dan,” Amelia told me. One time she saw him at a party and said, “Dan’s here!” But none of this totally convinced me. Amelia seems biased. Remember her career-making journalistic endeavor when she revealed that Penn Badgley has a secret career in flipping Twitter accounts?
This was around the time Harling walked into the office, saw my face and asked, sans context: “Are you going to write about Penn Badgley?” I almost fell out of my chair. My finger never felt further from the pulse. I quickly learned you always have to use his full name, by the way. Never Penn, always Penn Badgley.
“What’s your name, son?”
“Uhhhh…” [looks at cop’s shirt pocket] pic.twitter.com/zhgzInhIAT
— josh (@ruinedpicnic) December 22, 2015
Yvonne said Penn Badgley trends on Twitter all the time. This genuinely shocked me. I couldn’t believe it, at which point Leslie interjected: “See? This is proof that the internet can still surprise and delight!” Her face was filled with joy — the first time I’d seen it look so happy since The Day That Must Not Be Named. “We can all agree he looks better,” she said, vis-a-vis the bleach, appearing relieved that she’d found one thing that could unite our divided country. “The people of this nation need a dose of Penn Badgley right now.”
It appears they might be right, because it’s true that everyone is talking about Penn Badgley. He’s trending on Facebook. I asked Amelia what she thought of his new look and she told me she could write a dissertation on the topic. I asked for the abstract. “He, like so many other musicians before him, took a risk with bleach,” she told me in earnest, before adding that she was surprised to see that the seventh grade dance-mohawk hairstyle is back, but not unpleased. A few minutes later she paused her work to add that she was also glad to see he was accessorizing re: the necklace, then went back to typing about something else. Possibly a Penn Badgley book proposal.
I learned a lot today, Diary. The sense of delight afforded by Penn Badgley’s makeover is palpable. There was a distinct shift in the magnetic field surrounding Man Repeller’s HQ this morning. I have to admit I’m surprised that the star of a show that ended in 2012, who for all practical purposes has done nothing since, has such emotional influence. But if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that I’m a fool to assume that effects have reasonable causes. Maybe Leslie was right. Maybe we all need Penn Badgley right now. I think I really might.
Photos via Getty Images.