I’ve been thinking about Bad Boys…
You know who they are. Maybe you’ve dated one… or three. They’re dangerous. They smoke, they drink. They have tattoos in places your mother wouldn’t want you thinking about. They’re unemployed and probably unemployable. They drive motorcycles without a license and only sometimes wear a helmet. They are (say it with me girls) BAD NEWS.
And yet, we flock to them. Again and again, we choose the bad boy. Why take Luke Skywalker when you could have Han Solo? Simon Lewis? Um, not when Jace Wayland is around. They’re like chocolate at a Weight Watchers convention. Raw hamburger to a stray cat.
It’s not because we want to tame them. We don’t. And it’s also not because we want to rebel. I mean, sure, that’s true. It wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if Mom took one look at him and said, “Such a thoughtful young man who checks his girlfriend’s tonsils so intently.” But that’s also not the root cause.
#1 They’re hot: It’s a fact. Beneath our expanded capacity for reason, we are mere animals, with all the consequent animal desires. We like good looks, charisma, dominance, boldness of action. All the things that make a bad boy so appealing. They buck convention. They defy gravity. Your father doesn’t like them and neither do state troopers. There’s no getting around it. That’s hot.
#2 They’re unattainable: As the great Arthur Shopenhauer once wrote, “Life without pain has no meaning.” We’re constantly striving toward something undefined. . . some un-fathomable happiness. But the tricky bit is, if we ever actually achieved it, we wouldn’t be happy. We’d be bored. At least bad boys keep us from boredom.
#3 They’re safe: And yes, this is the ultimate irony. The dangerous guy, for all intents and purposes, is a fantasy. Deep down we know he’s not the one. We don’t look at him and think, “Mortgage payments, Diaper Genie, and minivan.” We paw him with our eyes and think, “Yum.” Maybe. Mostly we don’t think at all. And THAT, my friends, is the appeal.
So why, oh why, do we go for the bad boys? The answer, sadly, is because we can’t have them. Not in real life. That’s why we read books. Books (and sometimes movies) are the one place we can go to find heroes who possess manners beyond those of Charlie Sheen, and souls deeper than the average urine puddle. The kind of guy whose suffering explains (and excuses) his badness. The redeemable hero who writes songs about us and feels empty when we aren’t near. The man who can be saved.
Good luck with that.