Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why Do We Love Bad Boys?

Picture of Jace from Mortal Instruments Credit: SugarPlumSoup

So, I saw this article by Karen Healey tweeted recently. The basic gist of the essay is that we seem to embrace bad boys in young adult literature. It got me thinking about the fact that I am guilty of this. I accept behavior in YA Fantasy heroes (and anti-heroes) that I would NEVER accept in Realistic lit. What gives?

First, the article and the comments really make me want to read The Demon's Lexicon. I must know more about this "Alan" character.

Aside from that, the author really brings up some interesting points. I keyed in to this line in particular: "But why are bad - sometimes really bad! - boys so popular in fantasy? Is it that the extra suspension of disbelief we employ for fantasy narratives allows us to indulge in boys we couldn’t handle in realistic fiction, too close to home? Is it somehow safer to have our bad boy fantasies existing in fantastic worlds? Or am I just full of crap?"

I don't think she's full of crap at all. I think that fantasy does allow for that "willing suspension of disbelief" that makes us, as readers, more accepting of the bad boys. @Katarinasmama refers to these types (and she has an extensive filing system for boys in YA Lit) as "Hot Boys with Swords." Do the swords, and the fact that the boy is hot, make us more forgiving when he acts like, pardon me, an asshole? I'm leaning towards yes on that one, although I realize that I have not answered the "why" portion of this question. *grins*

Mmm.... Hot Boys With Swords... *floats off to my happy place*

Um, I mean... I think that the word "boys" says it all.

As adults, we realize that most people don't change. If a forty-year-old man acted the way most boys in fiction do, we'd show him the door (and possibly call the cops.) But if a BOY does it, well, we can change him.

Being hot and carrying a sword definitely helps. But even more powerful than that for me is the character's psyche. If his anger management issues manifest from being abused, or if his possessiveness is a result of having been abandoned, it tugs yanks my heartstrings. I want to save him. And by saving him, like Meadow said, I can change him.

And then he'll be thankful. Very thankful.

Right, and it's as if we can imagine the man he WILL become, and thus forgive him being a total arse in the present.

True. I think that being an ass can be an attractive trait in and of itself, however. Would we like Jace or Edward nearly as much if they weren't cocky bastards? Probably not. Self-assurance is sexy.

There's definitely something attractive about being an ass (just look at my dating history), and when presented with nice guy vs. ass, the saying that nice guys finish last is usually true. Damon Salvatore? Much more attractive than his nicer brother, Stefan.

Good point. Cocky is sexy. Insecurity is not.

And, correct me if I'm wrong, but if we're also looking for examples of "nice" boys (who are still hot) in YA Lit, wouldn't Sam from Shiver fall into that category? *shakes head yes*

*thinking* I suppose Sam counts. So far. I'm not convinced he wouldn't become a miscreant in his quest to protect Grace, though. Can we condemn a fictional character for future crimes? Oh, who am I kidding. It's not a condemnation. I love a good YA miscreant.

Especially if he is hot. And carries a sword. And is named Jace. *grins*

Speaking of Hot Boys With Swords (we were, weren't we?) did you know that @Katarinasmama, @HeatherWPetty and I are trying to get a cottage industry going based on that concept? It's the "Hot Boys With Swords Pastry Delivery Service™". You might think that the term "Pastry" is an elaborate ruse for sexy times, but it actually means pastry. As in, warm, gooey, cream-filled eclairs being brought to your door by a magical snarky boy hero. *sigh* So far we haven't gotten past the Photoshopping phase in our planning.

All great ideas have to start somewhere, right?



  1. Mmm... Vanilla Cream...

    I mean, *insert intelligent comment here*

    I'll come back and fill that in when I stop thinking about pastries.

  2. And, I think it's not so much that WE change them actively (although, sometimes yes it is an active approach)...but it's our very awesomeness that just changes them naturally. We're just so fantastic and perfect for them that it makes them realize what asses they're being and want to be better for us. We're worth it to be better. And, while they'll keep their edginess, they'll soften it for us. And only us. Because we can see the beauty underneath it all. Just my thoughts :)

  3. @Heather *sigh* If only there were a way to make this dream a reality. Sadly, my house is still pastry-free.

    @Picksee I can totally see what you're saying here. Part of the allure of the strong-and-cocky-man is that only WE truly see his soft side. We're the only place that's "safe" enough to let it out.

    And I'm still thinking about pastries. Dammit.

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  5. Oh Jace...*glances at above pictures, stops at Prince Caspian, mouths the word, "Later..."*...Huh??

    Bad boys? Why do we love them in fiction? Because, for the most part,we didn't marry them. We might've dated them, but we learned quickly that they are not good Boyfriend Material. Right, girls?? Right.

    So we married the Simons, the Jacobs (okay, I'd marry Edward or more likely I married Carlisle, but that's another story altogether) get the idea.

    But now, it's fun to re-visit (whether married or single)the bad boy/anti-hero. At their core, they are just Broken Boys which we, let's face it, still want to fix. We want to right their wrongs.

    As for Team Alan (which interestingly enough, I have declared myself as one of), you have to run out and read Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. If you haven't you're missing out on some incredible mythology building. And incredible chemistry between brothers (who doesn't love a good sibling story?). Oh, and Nick has a sword. And girls, yes indeed, he knows how to use it. Very very well.

  6. I have absolutely no idea what you guys talked about today becuase I just spent at least 10 minutes staring at "Jace" -- Wow! He is a VERY close runner-up to Jasper. Now if you'll excuse me, I must drool some more.

  7. Mmm... Jasperrrrrr...

    God! Every time I think I'm ready to make an intelligent comment, you people distract me...

  8. I seem to always root for the bad boys in lit but the good ones in real life too. I just read the new Vampire Diaries and it made me love Damon even more (and now that I've finally seen some of the show, Ian Somerhalder...yum), but in read life I married my Stephan.

    I think I like the "what-ifs" I know what happens when you end up with the nice guy, so want my imaginary worlds to show me what happens down the other roads :)

    Oh and FYI don't know if anyone's read Beastly (my fav. story as a kid was Beauty and the Beast so I was a sucker for this one) but Alex Pettyfer (a.k.a. Jace) is playing Kyle!


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