Bad Boys – Forever Attractive: Bad Girls – Forever Reviled?


With Valentine’s Day falling tomorrow, Rhobin has asked us to consider why we think Bad Boys are so popular as heroes and Bad girls are so often reviled.

I loved the question because it’s one I’ve thought about a great deal over many, many years. In fact I wrote my long essay on the subject of the Anti-hero in Fiction for my Sixth Year Studies certificate.

Possibly because I knew how much the head of English disliked the James Bond novels of Ian Fleming, but possibly not.

Skipping over that tiny teenage rebellion – what is the attraction of the Bad Boy?


Well, sometimes they are, like this chap, just very attractive. That gorgeous plumage is unlikely to hide a heart of gold – more likely a cast-iron pump going full belt to protect what’s his. But he is good to look at.

Devil Baby, Melbourne Festival 2011

Devil Baby, Melbourne Festival 2011

Sometimes, it’s the challenge. The idea that you’re the one for whom he’ll change. Really? He might be fun to flirt with, but he’s no long term bet.

He’s charming, arrogant, devil-may-care and a huge liability. He’s The Saint, aka Roger Moore, he’s James Bond, aka Sean Connery, he’s Antony Di Nozo, aka Michael Weatherly – and he’d be Hell to live with.

As one doesn’t have to, the imagination is free to put him on that pedestal.

Real villains have a place in my fiction. Mariah’s Marriage has Sir Lucas Wellwood. Sir Lucas is a domestic tyrant and a man at the start of the road to becoming a serial killer. Of course, that was not a recognised state of mind in 1822, so Mariah might be forgiven for getting it so right and so wrong.

Bad Girls This frock

Copy Lady Macbeth costume

Copy Lady Macbeth costume

is a replica of an original stage costume for Lady Macbeth. The young designer made it with false nails. The original was made with beetles’ casings. Both are masterpieces.

Lady Macbeth, however, was something else. Power-crazed, she drove her husband, by preying on his already susceptible frame of mind, to commit murder. There’s no forgiveness for her. She’s not, perhaps, the epitome of the ‘Bad Girl’ Rhobin is asking us about. I remember scenes from a Margaret Lockwood film – possibly banned in some places because the necklines were too low? Called the Wicked Lady, the film allowed its heroine to transgress everything until comeuppance called. Like Bond, The Saint and Di Nozzo, she is attractive to the opposite sex and gets a lot of good lines.

A more contemporary Bad Girl might be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and various TV senior female police officers. Do we revile them? Maybe we’re coming at last to respect their quiet strength, although they very rarely get the guy. Fluff and pink trimmed slippers and negligées might, just might, be slipping into history.

One thing that’s an essential truth of fiction is this: The reader does not want to read about their own slightly grey existence; the reader wants romance, fantasy and being taken out of the ordinary. So while much might be misleading, it’s great fun to be attracted and reviled: and reality is never far away.

We have a shorter than usual list of participants this month, but I’m sure you’ll find much of interest in the posts. Begin with Connie Vines and move through.

We all love to hear from you, so please share your views on Bad Boys and Girls.



Skye Taylor
Helena Fairfax
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse
Connie Vines
Fiona McGier
Rhobin Courtright


13 thoughts on “Bad Boys – Forever Attractive: Bad Girls – Forever Reviled?

  1. I love your photos, Anne. The Lady Macbeth costume is fabulous!
    You’re right about bad girls rarely getting their man. I hadn’t considered that point. Even Scarlett O’Hara doesn’t get hers. So the bad girls get punished, and the bad guys so often walk away with everything! This was a really interesting topic. I enjoyed your post and photos.


    • Hi Helena, Yep! We both mentioned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – even she doesn’t get him to keep. Of course, I haven’t read either of the follow-ups, so maybe that changes. As to the photos, I’ve always enjoyed photographs of fowl. Some of the plumage displayed by cock birds is awesome. Anne


  2. LIsbeth Salander, the girl in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, had bits of her background explained to make her somewhat sympathetic to the audience, which is what usually happens with bad-boys so they can display their finer plumage to readers. Enjoyed your post, and I think you are right, strong women are often seen as wicked, but have been gaining enough interest to tell their own stories.


  3. Great post, Anne. I do like a bad boy in books and films and even like a touch of arrogance, but I also like strong women who can hold their own! I do think it’s good to read and watch these kind of characters but wouldn’t like to live with them or be them.


  4. Great post – I think I’m going to have to read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since she’s been mentioned so often here and in other blogs in this hop. I agree that the best marriages, the solidest relationships are what we all hope for, but they would be dull reading and we read to escape into something more adventurous.


    • Hullo Skye, yes, Solander is very unusual. I won’t say more, but maybe you’ll tell us what you thought in due course. We do much of our reading as escapism, of course. Thanks for dropping in, Anne


  5. Oooo, Lady Macbeth! That’s a really good one. She’s definitely a full on villainess, which now has me thinking: I myself adore a great female villain (they’re also incredibly fun to write for). I don’t often write about “bad girls,” however. Great post!


  6. I don’t think of my existence as “grey.” But the attraction of romance novels is to experience that heady, can’t breathe for excitement, phase of when you first fall in love and realize it’s reciprocated. I can’t do that anymore, since I’m still very much in love with my husband of over 30 years. But when I read a romance, if I can identify with the heroine, I can do it vicariously through her. That’s why I detest mousy, virtuous heroines. I can’t identify with that! Bleah.

    Give me the red-headed biker queen, like the heroine of one of my books, and I’ll be happy, enjoying life through her, and being thrilled when she realizes she’s fallen in love, and has to show she’s a changed woman who can be happy with just one man.

    BTW, I never liked GWTW. Too much casual acceptance of slavery. Too much rigid role models. I don’t like historical romances either for that reason. I prefer contemporary, where I can explore how men and women relate to each other as equals.


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