All About the Bad Boy Trope

Bad boy, bad boy(trope), whatcha gonna do?

How are we doing today? Hope you’re in the mood for more informative content because today we’ll be exploring a popular trope known as the ‘bad boy’. We’re not taking any sides or saying the bad boy is a better option than the nice guy, but we can definitely see why he’s irresistible. We’ll be emphasizing more on the need, not to get rid of this trope, but rather learn how to build on the same trope or even subvert expectations of the reader with it. If you can’t beat em, subvert em, eh?

The origins and evolution of the bad boy trope

The first bad boy appeared in the 1870 work story of a bad boy, which featured the childish antics of a school boy.

This trope advanced from child to teenager in the mid twentieth century, where the typical bad boy was written as a young man with a troubled family background, traumatic childhood, or dark haunted past, which led to his inner desire to rebel or satiate his craving for adventure.

In the twenty-first century, the bad boy trope took the form of a middle aged man, or brooding billionaire in his thirties; ie Christian Grey or Ryan Gosling’s roles in The Notebook and Drive.

Bad Boy gif

What are the qualities of a bad boy?

James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause
Judd Nelson, The Breakfast Club

Leather jackets, broad shoulders, a jawline so sharp and chiselled that it could easily cut through diamonds, scruffy or slicked-back hair, a toothpick on which they gnaw, and a six pack. According to sexologist Sarah Melancon, such physical attributes are related to or signal a healthy genetic quality.

 They also usually ride, straddle, or lean on bikes, signifying their adventurous side or wild spirit.

They can easily steal your girl and are known to father multiple kids from various relationships and are at times, notorious polygamists.

Good in bed, seductive.

They are rich; usually billionaires whose job is unknown. This means they are reliable providers as well.

They are alpha males who aren’t needy or desperate and ooze hypermasculinity. As a result, women consider them serious boyfriend material, even if they’re a tad promiscuous, a la Barney Stinson from the early 2000s sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

Unafraid to rebel or break rules, much like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

There can often be an overlap of their negative and positive traits, leading to a morally ambiguous character whom you either empathize towards or learn to root for, much like you would with an underdog.

Can also be brash, emotionally manipulative, psychotic, over possessive, juvenile, aggressive, or just plain nasty, in the manner of James Spader’s Steff McKee from the 80s romcom Pretty in Pink or Judd Nelson’s Bender from another John Hughes classic, Breakfast Club.

Why do women simp over a bad boy?

The so-called good girls such as the nice Catholic girl or bored housewife often crave adventure which manifests in the form of an adventurous bad boy whom they want to romance and thus are attracted to.

Pheromones and looks are directly related when it comes for falling for a bad boy

The bad boy can easily satisfy sexual needs of the women while also acting as a balm on their physical or emotional wounds. 

They act as foils to incompetent opponents or the lesser option on the menu, even if they are the kind who’ll bed you and leave you, with no strings attached. 

Many women act as a motherly figure to the bad boy without knowing much else about him, as they view him as a rascal and lovable rogue who can be reformed for the better.

girls love bad boys image

How to subvert the bad boy trope for your readers

I’m a bad boy gif

This trope can be turned on its head by transforming the character from a bad boy one can lust over to a predator whose negative qualities were simply glossed over because he was a handsome hunk. Instead of brooding, he can be viewed as physically or emotionally abusive and irredeemable instead of irresistible.

The characters around the bad boy aren’t tolerant of the bad boy and as a result either distance themselves from him or ask him to grow up, leading to the bad boy undergoing a positive and mature character arc instead of simply being viewed as the immature boy toy in need of mothering from a woman. Enable him to change himself for the better.

Don’t glorify the bad boy’s actions or his harmful behaviour. Instead make him learn from them or from how they backfire against him.

We hope that this listicle was informative and we will see you in the next one. Until then, do share and check us out on Instagram for more updates. Until next time…

We independently review the best books and services. Some of our links are referral links. We only make money if you purchase products through our links, and we never accept free services in exchange for a favorable review. 

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