When watching TV or movies, many find themselves drawn to so-called "bad boys". Usually, bad boys manifest during a love triangle, such as Conrad Fischer in The Summer I Turned Pretty. His character has split the audience, with people declaring themselves Team Conrad over Team Jeremiah. Even with his questionable actions throughout the show, people seem to be enamored with this character, as his mysteriousness intrigues both the main character and watchers. This phenomenon has occurred in various other shows and movies, and perhaps even in real life.
So, why do we adore the bad boy trope?
Let's just get the shallow thoughts out of the way, bad boys are visually appealing. While most male love interests are conventionally attractive, bad boys still seem to attract the masses more so than their counterparts. The casting of bad boys in TV and movies seems to be an art, with only a certain type of actor being able to play a bad boy to its true potential.
Take JD from Heathers, played by the iconic Christian Slater, for example.
Slater has a unique charisma to his acting, which shows through the seams of many of his characters. JD is a menacing, eccentric character who captured the attention of movie watchers in the 80s, making Christian Slater a huge heartthrob. Not only is the actor able to visually portray the bad boy, but he is able to step into the archetype and immerse watchers. This is a skill that not many actors have, and choosing the right actor for a bad boy character proves to be a meticulous job.
Thus, the casting is an incredibly important part as to why people adore bad boys. Our infatuation with miscreant, defiant characters is rooted in our vanity, like many of our other objects of admiration.
The Attitude and Love Triangles
One of the main things that set bad boy characters away from other love interests is their brooding attitude.
Bad boys in love triangles seem to be exponentially more fascinating. Their "I don't care" attitude seems to transform into a vehement pursuit of the object of their desire. The rush of being wanted is something many crave, and being wanted by someone who doesn't want anything means much more.
When Jess Mariano entered Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls, Rory's boyfriend, Dean, was given a run for his money. Jess raised trouble throughout the town, though mostly unintentional. His carefree but protective attitude attracted Rory easily, and soon enough, Rory fell for Jess. Rory definitely paralleled the audience during Jess' plotline. Gilmore Girls fans found themselves smitten by Jess, forgetting all about Dean.
Jess was a breath of fresh air. Granted, it was air polluted with teenage angst, but new air nonetheless. He was incredibly similar to Rory, showing her that her intelligence and drive were to be appreciated, rather than harped upon.
The way Jess was able to hook Rory was because of his outlook on life. He didn't care about what others thought, something Rory was struggling with. Additionally, Jess was cultured, he knew about the same music, movies, and books, so they had a lot to talk about.
Jess didn't seem to care about anything, except making Rory his girlfriend, and reading. How charming!
Bad boys are different (at least in the universe they exist in), which attracts people seamlessly. Everyone desires something new once in a while. Teens are able to relate to the outward depiction of angst, which they may not be able to express in their daily life. Seeing someone expressing themselves truly and unapologetically is attractive.
The Committed Bad boy
Bad boys are known for being reckless, fleeting people. So, when they actually settle down and commit, it surprises everyone.
10 Things I Hate About You is the classic instance of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You was known as that unstoppable force. With rumors surrounding his very existence, and no one truly knowing who he was, Patrick was an enigma to the school's population. He was approached by peers to date Kat Straford, in return for money, which, of course, he took. What he didn't expect, was to fall in love (as expected for a teenage rom-com).
Teens are so enamored by this, because of a natural need to feel special. Being different from the rest is something teens tend to strive for, fearing being "basic." To be noticed by someone who proves to be a stark contrast to the rest of the population is a theory that seems to only take place in daydreams.
"You have bewitched me, body and soul."
- Mr. Darcy, Pride And Predjudice (2005)
Oh, the love confessions... arguably the best part of a romance. Bad boys seem to have a way with words that others don't. Maybe it's because they are always in their heads, or maybe because they are always favored by writers on TV.
Just when you thought he hated you... he was in love with you the entire time! All the tension, the hatred, and the insults seemed to be a cover-up for his undying feelings. How this isn't considered a "red flag" because of its blatant trait of horrible communication, is beyond me. However, viewers seem to adore this continued troupe.
Bad boys tend to have communication issues in general, usually from a bad childhood or fear of rejection. This trait humanizes them to a point where other characters just seem like Mary Sues. Many of us are bad at communication, and seeing this in fiction helps us feel seen. This can cause an attachment to the character. We feel so happy for them when they finally get what they long for, because, in a way, they are just like us.
Whether you prefer the bad boy or the goody-two shoes, we can all admit that there is something intrinsically charming about the former. Maybe they are just super attractive and great at reeling in viewers, or maybe they represent something deeper to us. When the bad boy gets the girl, it can help us feel that we will be loved even with our flaws (even if we aren't as brooding as Jess Mariano).
Embrace your inner bad boy and express yourself freely. (Just remember to actually take care of yourself and communicate with others.)
Thank you to one of my greatest friends, Libby, for the inspiration and her continued adoration for Jess Mariano.