Novel Thoughts: Why Are Bad Boys Appealing?

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on December 11, 2013 | 26 Comments



Bad Boys in Fiction

Why are they appealing? I’ve often wondered this myself. 

In real life, I do not like bad boys. “Bad boy” in real life directly translates to asshole. Sure, I went through that phase when I was young and thought that was the only kind of boy that existed, but when it comes time to settle down, bad boys are so not appealing. Why would you want to marry someone who will treat you like crap (and possibly cheat on you), when you could have a down-to-earth, nice man that will treat you like a princess and actually appreciate you? I certainly don’t.

So why, when it comes to fictional boys, do I go the opposite way? It’s funny, because if I ever met Daemon Black in real life, I’d probably despise him! If I met Warner, I’d think he was a complicated and demented asshat that needed some time with a psychiatrist. So why am I drawn to that attitude in fiction? A few ideas:

  1. The danger. In fiction, there’s no risk with a nice guy love interest. No excitement.
  2. Nice guys are boring to read about. He treated her well, and she was happy, the end! Where’s the tension? How can there be catharsis without some conflict? Without conflict, you have no story.
  3. Living vicariously. Maybe it’s simply because I wouldn’t want it in real life, that I want it in fiction. I get to experience something I would never want or get to experience otherwise.
  4. They’re hot. In fiction, tattoo-covered, black-clad, pierced boys are never nice. And that is my style!

That’s all I got right now. Any other ideas?

Jessi (Geo)

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26 responses to “Novel Thoughts: Why Are Bad Boys Appealing?

  1. That’s a really good question! Good answers too. :3 I definitely agree with the last one. ;) Personally, I need a nice balance for me to like books with bad boys. The guy has to be sweet. Because it’s nice to know that first impressions aren’t always true. And also, the girl can’t be annoying. I like it when the girl warms up to the guy a bit faster. I just don’t like it when the guy so clearly likes her and he is so clearly trying to be good and she’s all “omg, I hate him so much” and she actually likes him too. Just ugh. But yeah, I love bad guys because underneath, they’re usually always a good guy. <3

    • True! I do like them to be a softy underneath the hard ass exterior. I actually like that sometimes, because I like the kind of fictional romances where they fight it tooth and nail. It makes it even better when they finally do get together :)

  2. Hah, I totally get this! I would NEVER EVER date a bad boy in real life. My boyfriend is as nice and sweet and selfless as they get, and I love him to bits for it.

    Maybe part of it is that in books we get more insight into these bad boy characters. There’s something appealing about watching a bad boy redeem himself.. like he starts out a jerk playboy, but then falls hard for one girl and kind of changes his ways. I’d never go for that in real life, but in a book, it’s kind of a sweet idea that one girl can completely change a man for the better.

    I think when reading a book it’s easier for us to analyze the bad boy and witness his transformation. But in real life, I don’t want to watch a guy transform, I just want him to already be nice! LOL.

    Also I did just read a book about a super nice guy (actually it’s the one in CommentLuv) and I can see how it was boring. On the one hand, I LOVED their relationship because the guy was so damn sweet, but all the girl talked about was “How perfect he is” and “OMG he’s the best” and there was never any conflict. They never fought, there was no intense moment of trust issues.. etc. Part of me liked that because I didn’t want to see their super sweet relationship get destroyed by petty fighting.. but on the other hand, it did actually start to get boring at the end because there was no conflict or tension.

    • Same here! Mine is a big marshmallow ;) (shh, don’t tell him I said that haha!)

      Good point, that is something that I like. Not that a guy that is truly THAT bad will completely change for anything, but it’s a nice concept.

      And yes exactly! Character development in real life takes way longer haha!

      It’s kind of sad, really, seeing as how recently I complained about Tris and Four’s petty fighting, and how I wanted them to get closer in tough times. But I guess the difference is, that book wasn’t actually a romance. It was a dystopian, so there was more focus on action and world building. In a book that is just about romance, I want tension!

  3. I definitely agree with conflict. If they love interest has issues then you basically have an entire novel on your hands for some stories. And I have to agree with you, the nice guy tends to be boring in most novels, although there are some cases (The Summer I Became a Nerd) where they are actually adorably cute. But I think we also have to take setting in. A lot of this “bad boys” are from fantasy or dystopian settings. The worlds they live in are sometimes awful and they’ve survived for a reason. Often times they’ve gone through more horrible things than others, which makes them freakin’ cool and swoon worthy.

    It’s an interesting question. I have no idea what the answer is though….

  4. I think you hit it with your first point. Danger. Specifically, “fantasy” danger. In a fantasy, you’re in control of everything, and you know it. You can fantasize about the big, strong, beefcake coming in to carry you off and ravage you, because you KNOW that it’s going to end well. You’re in control, so there’s all the trappings danger but there’s no FEAR. You can take all the adventuring aspects and leave behind the possibility of winding up in a ditch somewhere.

    It’s the same reason people fantasize about giving snarky sass-backs to assholes or showing up their boss or getting in fights where they always come out as “most badass.” We control our own fantasies to always have the best possible outcome, so we can enjoy them. But in reality, we know it probably won’t turn out that way, and fear becomes a factor and rains on everyone’s parade.

    Although I’d like to contest the argument that good guys are boring. They’re just harder to write well, but they can be perfectly interesting. Bad boys have so much “easy” drama that they’re practically a romance short-cut at this point.

    • Very true! Because in nearly all romantic fictional stories, you can assume there will inevitably be a HEA. Because that’s what books do (usually). In life, there’s never a guarantee of a HEA. Fear can definitely be a factor. Great point!

  5. It depends on what kind of bad guy. If you talk about most bad guys in NA with those tormented pasts, I really really don’t get their appeal. If you talk about the bad guy boys like Morpheus and Cole, then I’m all in :D They have something mysterious and exciting. They are – I think – more interesting than the good guy, because they have different sides. They aren’t 100% bad and I like to see their motives :)

    • I can’t really comment on that one because the only NA I’ve read is Beautiful Disaster. And the main dude (can’t even remember his name) was closer to an asshole than a swoony bad boy >.< WAIT. You're Team Morpheus?! How did I not know this?!!? :D And Cole…*shakes head* he's one of the bad boys that doesn't work for me. I kind of hate him actually…. That's very true! I do like catharsis, and I like to find good qualities despite the bad. I also feel the need to fix things that are damaged, so maybe that's why :)

  6. I giggled reading this post, because like you if I met Daemon or Warner IRL I’d be all “EW NO THANK YOU.” But in fiction, I do sometimes like reading about the “bad boys” as long as they have a heart and aren’t actually BAD people – ie abusive, etc. “Bad boys” that come across as dangerous but are still respectful of their significant other are more interesting to read about in small doses – I just don’t like them in EVERY book I read.

    • RIGHT? :D
      Yeah, abuse crosses the line for me. Controlling, possessive, and abusive qualities are never appealing in real life or in fiction! I think that’s why I like some of the “bad boys” in YA, because they can be jerks sometimes but still have redeeming qualities.

  7. I love this question and agree with your answers. I have to add one though – don’t we love the idea that this bad boy somehow has a softer side that only the one he loves sees and gets to experience? Or in some of them its that she brings out some sort of change in him. There’s something moving about reading that kind of relationship and being the special insider who gets to see that.

    In fact – that’s kind of what I have. By boyfriend of 8+ years was a total “bad boy” when I met him. He has the body covered in tats, he has the shady past, and I wouldn’t give him the light of day. I mean I always thought he was hot, but I didn’t want to date someone like that. But I got to know him, saw him making huge changes in his life, discovered that he wasn’t the hard exterior he put out there and that he was an incredible dad. Next thing I knew, I was in love with the “bad boy.” So it can happen :-)

  8. I’m at that point where I’m totally into the danger where I’m not thinking practically. Bad boys are just so tense and exciting to read about. OMG, I’m just looking for the ones that are also really nice on the inside

    – Bloggy Niece.

  9. Bahaha. I cannot tell you how much I’ve thought of this. Because, I can tell you, I never, ever will be into bad boys. Like, no. But, there’s something about fictional bad boys that is alluring. I’ve always blamed it on the fact that, when dwelling on things, you can technically argue that they are not bad boys. There’s a dynamic to them that bad boys that we see in real life don’t have (also there’s probably a lot of dismissive stereotyping on my part too). Because, when things get down to the nitty gritty these fictional bad boys are actually good guys and are only the way they are based on past experiences and not just trying to be ‘cool’ or prove a point.
    But I still will never be into a real life bad boy . . . unless they have a magical secret they’d be willing to tell me about ;D


  10. Yup, love me some bad boys. Pretty much for the same reasons you love them ;) In real life, no thank you, though :D A real life Daemon doesn’t sound appealing AT ALL. Lol.

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