Lynda Hilburn, author of the Kismet Knight, Vampire Psychologist series, is a licensed psychotherapist, certified clinical hypnotherapist and professional intuitive. She lives in Boulder, CO, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and has been a vampire fan since she first got her hands on Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a child.
I had a psychotherapy session with a client recently and she reminded me of an ongoing question in my mind: What is it about bad boys? Why are we attracted to them? Why do we abandon good sense (along with clothing, sometimes, LOL) when one walks into the room?
From a psychological point of view, we’re often drawn to men (or characters) who remind us (consciously or unconsciously) of an important male figure from our childhoods. Or, we’re enticed by the opposite. For example, if Dad was a bad boy, depending on how his behaviors impacted us, we might either idealize or demonize him. If he was a laid-back beta male, we might crave what had been missing.
Hmmm. Do we believe that fantasizing about a rebellious, borderline criminal will somehow rub off on us and we’ll begin to explore our primitive sides? Is this really about our desire to be wild and crazy? Unrestricted? Less like good girls? Or do we really want to surrender to some dark, brooding male?
What is a bad boy? When I use those words, I don’t necessarily mean someone who is evil. Although, he could be. In today’s vampire literature, the line between “good” and “evil” is often smudged (in the world of psychology, most everything lies in a vast gray area). A bad boy certainly doesn’t follow rules or conform to society’s ideas about what he should/shouldn’t do. He might have a flexible moral compass. As a human, he’s often a risk taker, who probably wouldn’t be satisfied with a traditional nine-to-five job or a “normal” life. He’s the perfect projection screen for our fantasies.
The bad boy is a celebrated archetype. We have lots of names for him: rake, cad, scoundrel, charmer, heartbreaker, ladies’ man, scamp, rascal, bounder, thug, to list a few. He’s usually confident and indifferent. A man who exudes an aura of mystery (the perpetual “strong, silent type”). Most important, he’s unavailable. We humans always want what we think we can’t have. And, of course, once we meet this elusive troublemaker, we women begin to believe that only we can “change him.” But, will we still want him after we do? (Ah, but we hope we can’t!)
Unlike a lot of the bad boy heroes of romance novels (which I read and write), he isn’t necessarily gorgeous. So, it seems being a bad boy is more about his attitudes and behaviors than anything else. For example, my client at the beginning of this article is absolutely obsessed with a hygiene-challenged, scarred, rule-breaker on a Harley. She says life without him would be unbearable. (We’re working on that.)
I love vampire books, and I consider all male vampires – and other paranormal creatures – to be bad boys. (Which is a powerful reason we love vampires.) By their very nature, they don’t follow any human rules. They usually don’t even adhere to the laws created for their particular mythology. Like humans, they range from charming rebels to self-absorbed sociopaths/psychopaths.
Good examples of (the wide range of) bad boys: Jason Bourne, Lestat, James Bond, Dexter Morgan, Spike, Captain Jack Sparrow, Rhett Butler, Don Draper on Madmen, James Dean, Han Solo, Jamie from the Outlander books, the Harry character from True Lies, Michael Weston on Burn Notice, Roarke from the Eve Dallas books and my own vampire, Devereux.
What literary/movie characters come to mind for you when you think of bad boys? Why do you think we love them?
I’ll give away a copy of The Vampire Shrink (the British version – the USA version won’t be out in trade paperback until April) to one commenter here who answers those questions. USA mailing address only, please (sorry!)