Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Allure of the Bad Boy

Today I'm pleased to welcome Lynda Hilburn to Terry's Place. Admit it--we all find bad boys intriguing. Let's hear from an expert about why we do. Be sure to leave a comment answering her questions -- she has prizes! And it should make for an interesting discussion.

I had a psychotherapy session with a client yesterday and she reminded me of an ongoing question in my mind: What is it about bad boys? Why are we attracted to them? Why do we abandon good sense (along with clothing, sometimes, LOL) when one walks into the room?

From a psychological point of view, we’re often drawn to men who remind us (consciously or unconsciously) of an important male figure from our childhoods. Or, we’re enticed by the opposite. For example, if Dad was a bad boy, depending on how his behaviors impacted us, we might either idealize or demonize him. If he was a laid-back beta male, we might crave what had been missing.

Hmmm. Do we believe that hanging out with a rebellious, borderline criminal will somehow rub off on us and we’ll begin to explore our primitive sides? Is this really about our desire to be wild and crazy? Unrestricted? Less like good girls?

What is a bad boy? When I use those words, I don’t necessarily mean someone who is evil. Although, he could be. He certainly doesn’t follow rules or conform to society’s ideas about what he should/shouldn’t do. He might have a flexible moral compass. He’s often a risk taker, who probably wouldn’t be satisfied with a traditional nine-to-five job or a “normal” life. He’s the perfect projection screen for our fantasies.

The bad boy is a popular archetype. We have lots of names for him: rake, cad, scoundrel, charmer, heartbreaker, ladies’ man, scamp, rascal, bounder, thug, to list a few. He’s usually confident and indifferent. A man who exudes an aura of mystery (the perpetual “strong, silent type”). Most important, he’s unavailable. We humans always want what we think we can’t have. And, of course, once we meet this elusive troublemaker, we women begin to believe that only we can “change him.” But, will we still want him after we do? (Ah, but we hope we can’t!)

Unlike a lot of the bad boy heroes of romance novels (which I read and write), he isn’t necessarily gorgeous. So, it seems being a bad boy is more about his attitudes and behaviors than anything else. For example, my client in the first paragraph is absolutely obsessed with a hygiene-challenged, scarred, rule-breaker on a Harley. She says life without him would be unbearable. (We’re working on that.)

I love vampire books, and I consider all male vampires – and other paranormal creatures – to be bad boys. (Which is one reason we love vampires.) By their very nature, they don’t follow any human rules. They usually don’t even adhere to the laws created for their particular mythology. Like humans, they range from charming rebels to self-absorbed sociopaths/psychopaths.

Good examples of (the wide range of) bad boys: Jason Bourne, Lestat, James Bond, Dexter Morgan, Captain Jack Sparrow, Rhett Butler, Don Draper on Madmen, James Dean, Han Solo, Jamie from the Outlander books, the Harry character from True Lies, Michael Weston on Burn Notice, Dr. Gregory House, and Roarke from the Eve Dallas books.

What literary/movie characters come to mind for you when you think of bad boys? Why do you think we love them?

I’ll give a copy (either trade paperback or e-version) of The Vampire Shrink or Dark Harvest to one commenter here who answers those questions. Terry will post the winner’s name on Friday so there's plenty of time to enter. Be sure to check back to see if you won.

For more about Lynda, you can visit her at her website or her blog.


Mason Canyon said...

I think you mentioned some of the 'best' bad boys - Capt. Jack Sparrow, Rhett Butler, Roarke from Eve Dallas books. I think we're drawn to some of them because of their charm. For the most part they are very confident (or at least seem like it) and can put you at ease. And at the same time I guess they're just skillful liars and tell us what we want to hear. :)

Thoughts in Progress

Hart Johnson said...

I think it almost may be Darwinian--the bad boy has a lot of characteristics of survivorship--he can protect himself (even if he doesn't stick around to protect YOU) and these are traits we want to pass on to our offspring--at a very subconscious level. Nice boys are bound by societal rules, which has only been advantageous to a small subset of society... really, ever.

My favorite bad boy is Sawyer, from Lost, though Rhett as the original was probably the first one who really appealed to me... I married a bad boy--not sure that is the recommendation I would make (they are high maintenance)

Terry Odell said...

Lynda works all day, but she'll be responding to comments when she can. Interesting discussion so far.

Anonymous said...

Good morning!

Thanks so much, Terry, for having me on your blog!

Mason Canyon: Thanks for stopping by. I agree that they're often very charming (although the man my client talks about is anything but charming!), and lies probably roll off their tongues! Ah, but we love the little dears. LOL

Watery Tart (What a cool name.) Absolutely. There is likely some biological advantage to mating with a "dangerous" male. Perhaps he has a better chance of keeping the family unit safe from human and non-human predators. We like to think the saying "nice guys finish last" isn't true, but there might be a seed of truth. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Hi, everyone. My computer at work won't let me do a lot of things. I couldn't sign in to my Google account so I had to post as anonymous. I'll remember to sign my name from now on!

Anonymous said...

"What literary/movie characters come to mind for you when you think of bad boys?"

Lucivar and Daemon from the Dark Jewels series.

"Why do you think we love them?"

Bad boys are survivors. They can take care of themselves in rough situations. For a woman who lacks self-confidence, they're excellent protectors (if she can convince one to stick around). For a woman who can take care of herself, they're terrific companions who will fight by her side and probably not look down on her for liking sex. And in either case, if children result, those survival traits are likely to carry forward: an excellent investment for a woman who will only have a few children in her lifetime. This rarely rises to a conscious level ... but the decision to love someone, or even just to have sex, is rarely made by the conscious mind.

Anonymous said...

I think there's also an allure in the bad boy that's romantic - we know that he's not the sort to give his heart lightly, and the fantasy of being "the one" for him is very enticing.

Debra St. John said...

Oooh, James Bond, Captain Jack, and Han Solo are some of my favorite bad boys as well. Then of course there are Danny Ocean and Rusty from the 'Oceans' movies. My latest favorite bad boy (hand down!) is Eric Northman, the sexy Nordic vampire, from the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series.

I think we love them because despite their tough guy exteriors, there's a heart beneath just waiting for the right girl to come along. Seeing the tender, private side the bad boy shows to his true love is so romantic.


Anonymous said...

ysabetwordsmith: Nice to meet you. You're so right about the decisions to love, etc., not being made in the conscious mind. Thanks for commenting!

catrambo: You bet. We really want that one, unattainable man. It is very romantic. Thanks for stopping by!

Debra: I also like Eric. Yes, seeing the tender, private side is a real emotional and physical turn on. Thanks for commenting!


Anonymous said...

You mentioned some of the best bad boys out there in my opinion. I have to second what Watery Tart said as well. The alpha male is nothing if not a seeming force to be reckoned with - one whose genes might be superior and a will that would more than likely be bent toward doing everything in his power to protect what is his.

This is rather what I've been drawn to and I can't say there haven't been difficulties, but I will say the loyalty is something I have never had cause to question and I have faith in his protector instincts to the nth degree. The first time I ever knew I liked a rake was Rhett - since then I've been hooked.

Anonymous said...

For a woman with an ingrained sense of guilt as many women have, There may be an attraction in being with a man they feel has no moral right to judge them.

Phyl said...

I think of a different Captain Jack -- Jack Harkness, of Torchwood/Doctor Who.

He's got good intentions, but has lived so long, through so many amazing and tragic experiences in the universe, that he's gone way beyond human conceptions of good and evil. He's almost become an alien himself, yet still has that allure.

So he can do hugely questionable or even nasty things to "save mankind," and somehow we can accept it, albeit reluctantly.

Anonymous said...

Kimberly: I know what you mean. I've been drawn to the bad boy type, too. But I always put on my rose colored glasses and see what I want to see, rather than what is there. I've often been attracted to the brooding, silent types, thinking they'll be deep and complex. They most often turn out to be depressed and boring! But the clever, talented ones melt me every time!

Valdary: Boy, are you right about that! And, some women choose bad boys in order to feel morally superior. It can cut both ways.

Thanks for all the great comments!

Anonymous said...

My computer at work was obviously built in the stone age. Every time I hit "post comment" the thing freezes up and my comment disappears! ARGH!

I was thinking, would anyone be willing to share a little bit of a story about an experience you had with a bad boy? I'll bet you've all got some good ones . . .


Terry Stonecrop said...

Don Draper. He reminds me a lot of may father, who was a bad boy super stud. Women threw themselves at him.

I adored my father and was heartbroken when he died quite young. But I'm a lot like him, as my mother always reminds me. "Just like your father." Never said in a complimentary tone.

So... I'm attracted to the opposite. Nice guys turn me on out of my mind. I guess it is an opposites attract thing.

Great post! Thanks for the insight.

On your computer probs: Try shutting it down and rebooting it. That often helps:)

Helen Ginger said...

I think part of Sawyer's appeal was the hint that inside there was a good guy trying to break free.

While bad guys have an immediate appeal and attraction, I wouldn't want to end up long term with one.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Your blog is looking awesome, Terry.

Hi Lynda, great to see you here. No need to put me in the drawing pool because I've read both books...creepy and sexy and scary and romantic, all in one. Good reads (and I don't even like vampires). But yeah, I have always liked bad boys. I think most women have "bad boy radar" -- we can tell from the first eye contact what a guy is all about, and then we have to decide whether to walk away...or not.

Jemi Fraser said...

You mentioned him, but Roarke from the In Death series is probably my favourite bad boy. I think it's because although he doesn't worry overmuch about society's rules and moral code, he has a super strong moral code of his own. He believes in justice and love and that's powerful stuff!

Anonymous said...

Phyl: I'm with you about Captain Jack Harkness. He's a combination of wreckless wildman and aware scientist. Love that character. I was sorry that Torchwood ended. Thanks for writing!

Hi, Terry! You had a Don Draper. And you took on those traits for yourself. I wonder if the nice guys you find appealing are attracted to you (for one reason) because you're a female version of a bad boy? I had a father who acted like John Wayne and looked like James Garner. I still have a collection of old "Rockford Files" tapes. Thanks for commenting!

Helen: I totally agree. I don't think I could deal with actually living with a bad boy 24-7. I'd always be expecting him to do something BAD. LOL. Nice to meet you!

Patricia: So good to see you here. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. And thank you so much for the kind words about my books. I'm so glad you liked them (especially since you don't like vampires!!). Bad boy radar. That's it! We can find the one troublemaker in a crowd of regular guys. LOL!

Jemi: Ah, Roarke. He is my literary favorite. Sometimes I re-read those books and skim everything except for the parts he's in. She did an excellent job of giving him layers and depth, in addition to all his obvious yummies. Power and heart all in one. Sigh. Thanks for stopping by!


Anonymous said...

Whoop, just climbed over here via Ysabet's lj.

My favourite literary bad boy is Steerpike from Gormenghast. He's unbareably ugly - his eyes are, I think, the red of clotted blood or something equally terrible - but he's got a brain that's fast and cruel and perfectly immoral. He's not quite the same kind of bad boy as the others - they seem a little placid and sweet comparitively - but there's an amazing romance in the way Steerpike acts, and a lot of aspects of his character (his immorality, his refusal to accept his station, his incredible ability to charm and pervert, his clumsiness with social ettiquette) feed into the bad boy archtype.

There's a scene where Steerpike climbs through the high tower window of Fuschia (his sometime girlfriend-thing) that breaks me every time I read it, it's this crazy inversion of all those fairy stories where this bold brave strong nice-boy prince comes to save the poor girl in a tower...

Uh. Anyway. Why do we love them? Well I know why I love them. Because leather is sexy and because boys who claim they don't care about anything make us secretly wish they cared about us.

Anonymous said...

Also, what was I thinking? Mike (Will Smith) from the Bad Boys movies is like, THE CLASSIC bad boy in the heart-of-gold kind of way.

Lynda Hilburn said...

zeemverse: Wow. That sounds like a powerful bad boy. I'm not familiar with Gormenghast. Looks like I'll have to expand my education. I liked the Will Smith character in Independence Day. Thanks so much for writing!

Gwyn said...

Nobody's mentioned Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity? He outright states (in the movie that followed the TV series), "I aim to misbehave." He's terrible with high-class etiquette -- which nearly gets him killed. He smuggles for a living. He refuses to be preached to. His pants are way too tight.

But, as the name of his (losing) side in the war implies, he's independent. Occasionally the facade cracks, and we see him acting in a humane and decent manner (he calls his ship's mechanic "xiao mei-mei," little sister). And possibly the attraction there is that as stubborn and obnoxious as his personal code makes him (picking political fights in bars, for example), what I admire in him is his refusal to be tamed.

Mary Ricksen said...

Who hasn't fallen for a bad boy at one time or another?

Lynda Hilburn said...

Gwyn: Yes. The refusal to be tamed. That's arousing. We all admire the ones who won't conform -- who act out our secret fantasies. Thanks for commenting!

Mary: Ah, yes. Who hasn't? They're just so addictive . . .


Chelsea B. said...

Who came to mind for me was Z from the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I loved him and every single one of his rough edges :-)
And I think what we love about them is there spontaneity. We never know what they will do ;-)

Lynda Hilburn said...

Hi, Chelsea! Thanks for stopping by. Z is definitely a prime specimen. You're right about the spontaneity! Life would never be boring with a bad boy -- but it might be stressful!


Lyn said...

You know, I just do NOT get the "appeal" of the bad boy. Bad BOY? Please. I'd a whole lot rather get my hands on a good MAN and push his envelope a little. In fact, that's what I did in real life. Works great!

Women who choose thuggy men, dishonest men, unreliable men--who are these women, and how do THEY survive? How do they survive getting what they want? I'm serious.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Hi, Lyn. Thanks so much for the great comment. I think a lot of women don't feel very good about ourselves and we choose men who treat us in the negative way we've come to expect (from early experiences). If we are used to unavailable men, the "bad boy" is perfect for us. Although we don't realize what we're doing, consciously. I'm glad you found a good man and things are working out.

Angela Drake said...

Thanks for the great discussion, Lynda.
For TV, I think Harrison Ford has the bad boy down pat. He pretty much does his own thing and the world be damned.

Through my reading of contemporary romance I've discovered that most of the men aren't really 'bad boys'. They went through some rough teenage/rebellious years but as they matured, things changed. I believe that period helped make them the men they became.

My first husband was a bad boy. What attracted me? His smile. And man could he kiss! But it took me 2 years to figure out I was the mature adult and wanted more out of life. I'm now happily married (26 years in Aug) to one of those boys I mentioned in my opening comment. He might have gotten into trouble as a teen but he has matured into one of the most stable, dependable, loving men you'll ever find on the planet.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Angela: Thanks so much for commenting! I think you're right. Most men go through their "bad" stage, and learn from it. It seasons them and makes them wiser humans. The smile! Yes. I completely know what you mean. I'm so happy for you that you found your perfect match. I wish that for all of us!

Anonymous said...

Just lurking this morning - Friday, catching up on Terry's blog. Noticed that Angel and Spike are pictured but no one commented about these two bad boys. Angel, the vampire with a soul is the "good" bad boy. Souless Spike is baaaad! That is until the end of both Buffy & Angel series when he becomes heroic. I like Spike sometimes snarky dialogue. And he had that great nail-Buffy-to-the-wall sex scene. Oooh.

Lynda Hilburn said...

Hi, Vivian. You're right about that! They were excellent examples of bad boys. Thanks for checking in.