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