We all love bad boys. Don’t deny it. You do too. Whether it’s Billy Hargrove from Stranger Things, Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries, or Negan from The Walking Dead, there’s something about guys that are, well, very, very far from perfect that just gets our motors running. But why? What is it about a leather jacket, some tattoos, a dangling cigarette, and a signature troublemaker smirk that makes us fall head over heels?
Because let’s be real, all right? These are not good characters to fall in love with. Sure, some of them have certain qualities that might be considered redeeming. Negan won’t tolerate rape. That’s pretty cool. Damon, despite his dark tendencies, certainly saves a lot of lives during his time in Mystic Falls. And Billy… Nah. Never mind. I got nothing for him. He’s a douchebag, no doubt about it. But hey, two out of three ain’t bad. The point is that bad boy characters are rarely good enough to really be worthy of our affections, but somehow they capture them anyway.
Part of it is precisely that they are bad. Bad characters are generally more aptly described as morally gray. They’re complicated. They have dark pasts. They have reasons why they are bad, even though those reasons don’t justify their actions. Therefore, they become empathetic. We see the possibility of redemption for them, and we want to make it happen. Even if a bad boy doesn’t present any redeeming qualities, we like to imagine that they’re in there somewhere. Saving them becomes almost a challenge, and the way we often resolve that challenge, especially in fanfiction, is by making them fall in love, even if love isn’t a part of their canonical storyline. The idea of a bad boy falling in love with you is, in fact, even more appealing precisely because they don’t love. They either lost someone and have shut down their emotions, or they just don’t believe they have the capacity to love. If a bad boy falls in love with you, yes, it’s a little scary, because they’re pretty intense, but it also means that you’re special, because bad boys don’t fall in love with just anybody.
And no matter how settled they get, a bad boy is, in essence, always still a bit of a bad boy. Part of what a bad boy offers is adventure. They’re in a motorcycle club, they’re a hitman, they’re a possessive werewolf. Either way, their life offers a certain element of danger, and therefore a need for them to protect you, and who doesn’t want to be protected by the bad boy they love? If we met guys like this in real life, we’d turn and run the other way, because who really wants to be chased by the mob, honestly? But in fiction, we love the excitement and the risk.
Then there’s the sex. Yeah, you knew we were going to get here eventually. One common element in all fanfiction is that bad boys really know how to get down in the sack. Sure, they might love you and get all soft and fluffy once they really accept the relationship. But in the bedroom, they still like it rough. A bad boy will spank you, tie you up, and leave marks on you so that everybody knows exactly who you’ve given yourself to. There’s just something a little sexy about that. Okay, a lot sexy.
Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
People might not understand what the big deal is when they hear that you’re attracted to a fictional bad boy. In fact, they may be downright critical. How can you fall for a character who is so reprehensible? A character who has probably hurt more than a few of their favorites at some point in time? We get it. The questions make sense. But who you like in stories doesn’t always make sense, nor does it have to. So we’re going to keep loving bad boys because that’s what we like to do, and we suggest that you do it too, if that’s what you want. As Will Smith and Martin Lawrence would say, bad boys for life! Fine, fine. We know they didn’t mean it the same way, but it still works.
Up to no good
Rianne ten Haken