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June 26 2010

The Bad Boy Myth. Women love bad boys. Women love Spike. Women love Spike because he's a bad boy. Right?

The popularity of Spike is a phenomenon professionals and fans often explain as the irresistible allure of the bad boy. Google "Joss Whedon" and "bad boy" and you'll find descriptions of Spike's character. "Bad boy" becomes a shorthand descriptor of an incredibly complex character, but this oversimplification isn't the sole reason he's so popular. Time to let go of the Bad Boy Myth, folks, and consider perhaps it's the complexity and contradiction that's the real attention getter.

Bad Boy Myth coming soon to an interview near you!

Joss Whedon's The Write Environment Interview

Joss Whedon: Um, and ah, and Spike was sort of the new mod rebellion against that, so I ah, I like that character. I always, I always thought he was a good guy ever when he was a bad guy.

Jeffrey Berman: Bad boy though, chicks love bad boys.

Joss Whedon: They do, they do. If they loved bad dancers the way they loved bad boys I would have been like, whoo.



Buffyfest Interviews "Spike: The Devil You Know" Artist Chris Cross

Buffyfest: What about Spike, what do you thinks drives the love for his character?

Chris Cross: Well, he’s essentially Billy Idol without the music, to me. He does what he pleases and has this intolerable sneer about himself. He doesn’t worry about much and he usually gets away with a ton more than Buffy would or even Angel. And women love bad boys for some reason. And nothing says “bad boy” like bleaching your hair, painting and chipping your fingernail polish and wearing leather.


Simon recently ran a poll on Whedonseque's Twitter: "Who do you prefer? Pre Buffy season 4 Spike, chipped Spike or souled Spike?" The results were a fairly even spread among a small pool (109 votes, besides those who said they loved all variations of Spike):

1st place - Pre Buffy season 4 Spike with 39.4% of the vote
2nd place - Souled Spike with 35.8% of the vote
3rd place - Chipped Spike with 24.8% of the vote

Seems like there's more reasons than Spike being a bad boy that attract fans to his character--if not, surely pre-Season 4 Spike would have won in a landslide against the neutered evil of chipped Spike and the fighting-for-redemption souled Spike.

As a woman and a huge fan of Spike's character, I've always found Spike most interesting when his Bad Boy facade dropped to reveal his sensitivities, from his brash entrance in School Hard when he struts on screen, then lets his badass gameface drop to play Drusilla's devoted lover. Not only is he brash and badass, he's also a fool for love. His being just one or the other might get boring after a while--his being both? Fascinating.

I'm getting tired of reading how macho badass Spike is, how he's "an asshole" [Ryall] who sometimes does good and that's why women love him. Perhaps his popularity wouldn't be such a mystery if people recognized The Courtly Love contradiction of this badass British punk.

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-06-26 02:59 ]
The Myth only goes so far; the 'bad boy' had better be good looking, too. . .
Yeah, that's why men love Faith--she's a naughty femme fatale who's smokin' hot, right? It's only 'cause she's sexy bad, not 'cause she's interesting. We all love fictional characters for shallow reasons. The allure of sexy danger, oh yeah, oh yeah.

Personally, there's more to it for me. Nothing wrong with lovin' the allure of sexy naughty, but that's not all that's there so maybe people can look beyond the surface before making sweeping generalizations. Just a thought...
I agreed with a lot on this article, even left a comment. I only disagreed about that Spike never made a instant connection with men, because he did that with Angelus. He is also seen hanging out with both women and men on the show, maybe even equally comfortable. I actually think his deepest relationship might have been with Angel.

In case Spike feel in love with Angel, and (let's pretend one could messure love) he was in love with Angel and Buffy equally, I think he would say himself that he felt the most connected with Angel. Or maybe I'm confusing soulless Spike and Angelus relationship with the "I know your pain" relationship souled Spike and Angel had.
I think Angel is the notable exception for Spike who does typically gravitate towards women as companions (i.e. woman for company, not just a sex partner, like Dawn, Joyce, Fred, even Willow when Spike's complaining about losing Dru or about his inability to bite her--he immediately slips into confiding in Willow about his very embarassing problems).
I only got interested in Spike (and the show) when he started being a better boy. I also like Crais on Farscape and Sayid on Lost. There's a reason my name is redeem147.
A+, redeem147. I'm right there with you.
See, I don't think when people say women love bad boys that they have ever meant that women were attracted to their evil. It's always been about the soulfulness underneath the apparent hard-assery. "He's always good to me and good to him I'll always be, 'cuz he's not a rebel, no,no,no to mee-ee-ee-eee". It's the combination that's attractive, which is why Spike-love went through the roof after Fool for Love. Even the women who love Spike before that would attribute some of their attraction to how he treats Dru, I'd bet.

[ edited by shambleau on 2010-06-26 03:26 ]
Emmie, you're not wrong, he is more often seen making connections with women than men, but I wonder if that is simply because Willow, Dawn, Joyce and Fred were accepting sweet people, while the men on the show often had a harder time getting along with Spike. Was that because of their gender, or their individual personalities? If there had been men with more open personalities on the show, would Spike have gotten along with them better?

Of course, maybe that kind of openness is a feminine quality in itself. Maybe no "real" man can get along with Spike, because that sterotype miss that openness that's required to get a long with Spike?

I'm not sure if I should call it openess(not even sure if it's a word). Fred, Dawn, Joyce and Willow we're very forgiving about Spike's past, while the men (and Buffy) often weren't. Is that the specific female quality needed in people to hang out with Spike?
Actually I think it is very important for any character riding the edge of goodness/badness to be physically appealing and good looking.

It gives the audience and other characters an excuse to say "Gosh what a complete jerk, but look at that face, he can't be all bad....."
I don't think I voted in the poll but I think it's possible that the people who voted for pre-chipped "bad" Spike are the people who don't particularly care about Spike one way or another.

One of Spike's appealing characteristics before the comic got ahold of him was that he was portrayed as basically monogamous.I got to thinking about that when there was an article linked on here The Power of Becoming, a while ago that started off talking about monogamous heroes like Duncan McLoud in Highlander. I do think that is an important part of Spike's appeal, at least for me, and why I am really unhappy with the what has happened to him in the recent comics. It's just not him!
shambleau, tell that to IDW's artist Chris Cross or other folks over at IDW comics. ;-)

I think "bad boy" is often used in the flat context of just plain bad. This is demonstrated in the excerpt I posted above from Cross' interview where Spike is a "bad boy" who gets away with more than Buffy and Angel, has "an intolerable sneer" and "does what he pleases"--where exactly is the soulfulness in this equation? The emphasis on Spike's rebel appearance, his selfishness and sneering exterior leave no room for even the suggestion of soulful influences.

I think maybe--maybe--Joss might mean "bad boy" in the way you describe because that's how he wrote Spike--bad boy facade with an inner soulfulness--but that others all too often only see the facade and discount the rest.

When people toss out generalizations about why women are fans of Spike, it's all love the bad boy and can't resist the cheekbones. It's not a compliment at loving the contradictions of Spike's character, of enjoying the deeper qualities that contrast the superficial and darker matter; it reads as women being too shallow (and even masochistic) to appreciate a Nice GuyTM instead of a Bad BoyTM with a pretty face.

When the complexity is flattened to generalization, it can feel insulting in its implications.
Spike as a "badass" was often more Wile E. Coyote - in his very first episode, he's thwarted by an art gallery owner mom with no superpowers. He does get rid of the Annoying One, but that doesn't seem a huge feat. He's arguably pretty much a badass thereafter for a few episodes until he winds up in a wheelchair. Then his solution to everything is to team up with the Slayer. Next time we see him, he's a drunken wreck. Then he's a *bit* of a badass in Season Four "Buffy" and Season One "Angel," though he outsmarts himself with the Gem of Amarra (Wile E. Coyote again) and promptly gets chipped when back in Sunnydale. So arguably, Spike doesn't spend all that much time *being* a badass during the time we know him. He beats people up very proficiently, but so do Buffy, Angel, Faith, Illyria, etc. So I don't think he's genuinely badass enough of the time for that to qualify as the source of his popularity - it's just a bit like saying people like Angel because he's afraid to confront his fellow Sunnydale vamps, IMHO.
Emmie, as always, you speak my mind. Thanks for that. ;D

Add to all that you've said the idea that people who say "Women like bad boys" are A) making sweeping generalizations about an entire gender, which is never a good thing (not only because there are always many, many, many exceptions but also because it serves to Other the described gender), and B) failing to recognize the distinction between fiction and reality.

What I want in fiction and what I want in real life are two totally different things. When I watch TV, I may find Gaius Baltar or Logan Echolls endlessly fascinating, but in real life give me a Helo or a Wallace any day. I may love to watch a relationship like Logan and Veronica's or Buffy and Spike's unfold on television, but the kind of relationship I'd want for myself looks more like the Taylors' on Friday Night Lights or even Wash and Zoe's. Drama makes for good fiction. But commitment and respect and other less "sexy"-sounding qualities make for good relationships in real life.

Besides, when it comes to Spike specifically, I don't adore him as a character because I'm attracted to him. I adore him as a character because I relate to him to a degree that's almost frightening. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am Spike.
From the Initiative arc, we've seen the bad (Adam) can be just as boring as good (Riley). Nothing wrong with the characters, just that they are nowhere as dynamic as the people around them. Spike starts as interesting, and just happens to be bad. (Or see Season 5 of Angel. Spike is on the good side, but keeps the snarky interesting attitude.)
Sorry, I've never loved Spike. I preferred him when he was attempting to be evil (His plans very often went awry, and sometimes quite spectacularly.) than when he was all "If my heart could beat it would break my chest" over Buffy. To me, he was better at being bad.

In his defense, though, the only woman he'd loved prior to Buffy (Not counting his unhealthy relationship w/his mother) was an insane vampire. And Dru liked the pain. Spike didn't know how to be gentle, although William the poet did. Unfortunately those two halves warred with each other, and the demon that made him a vampire would side with Spike.

If he didn't still have some William in him, he wouldn't have been tormented by Buffy's death, or shocked at what he almost did to her in the bathroom.

I accepted Spike but never felt a connection to him. I hurt for him on a few rare occasions, but I never said to myself "I love that man" like I have for Giles, Angel or Xander. (And it's not just because of looks, either.) I never loved Oz or Riley, either. The characters I did relate to I had some kind of connection to - they had qualities that reminded me of me, or, in Giles' case, represented something I wanted in my own life.

Whoa. Ok. I am way too tired to be self-analyzing and dissecting characters right now.
There's not enough space in the comments to explain the many reasons why I like Spike. But in essence its mainly the same reason I like Jayne, you see some other level to the character that is more ingrained and one can say fragile than the one they chose to present to the world.

It's interesting. You want to see more of them so that you can figure them out. Plus, they're not that bad to look at (pretty hot you ask me), so the more you look, the more you observe the more you get attached.

They are redeemable and you root for that - but without them changing too much.

The bad boy attitude, it's not just a cover like some might say, it is part of who they are because they chose to be it. But, they chose it because they want to be more, fiercer than their insecurities and what they want to be with it is stronger and less weak, not unlike many others - but they do it louder and flashier than the rest.
The rough exterior might be better described as compensation--it's not pure cover, pure facade, but a reaction to an inner characteristic. I think it's important to not merely see the surface, but also what's underneath.
The truth is he was never simply evil - he unapologetically loved Dru from the start, he helped save the world in Becoming because he liked it the way it was, and when he wanted to be a better man he went out and got a soul which to me proves the lack of one doesn't make you evil.

He was never a good man, but I wouldn't say he was bad either, he had shades of gray and that was one of the major reasons he was one of my favorite characters. Spike knew who he was, he understood and accepted his flaws, and he was "man enough to admit it".
Lirazel, I agree completely! My partner and I were discussing that very thing the other day. I was talking about Eric from True Blood and he said to me "In these shows you always like the bad guy: Spike, Logan, Eric, etc, and I'm not that guy at all. I'm more like that guy that you're always rooting against." Well, the fact of the matter is that while I very much enjoy those characters on television, I'm much happier with a guy who loves me, always treats me right, and would probably seem very dull to me in a book or tv show.

What I like about Spike is simply his devotion to those he cares about, and how little he cares about what people think of him. And, I find him really hilarious.
I always enjoyed him, he was deliciously scary, interesting, and hilariously funny in turns. But when I fell for him, was when he let Glory torture him instead of giving up Dawn. It was the soft gooey center, the courage, the caring.

And might I add, whatever else has happenned, or will happen in the Season 8 comic, it seems with the page we got yesterday, at least Spike might be Spike again. Thank Joss!
Damn you Emmie, you've left me nothing left to say, you already covered it so well. ;)

And after reading this, I am once again so glad I don't read comics.

Of course it's all about the complexity of this incredible creation called Spike .... big duuh. For instance, I don't find Eric (True Blood) even remotely attractive. Except looks-wise, and that doesn't even begin to be enough.

Does anyone really seriously love it that Spike is evil? That he likes to murder people for fun?


I think some fans do actually. The fandom is an incredibly broad church. Never seen it as a gender issue but there is an element in the fandom who love Buffy Season 2 Spike, Angelus and Ripper purely because of their darkness.
Sure, there are some people who like Spike when he's bad, but it becomes problematic when this is generalized to "Spike is a bad boy" and "women love bad boys". I mean, even Joss says it and I'm not too delighted about that.

Say what you mean, right? If fandom is an incredibly broad church, then surely women wouldn't be defined as one sole entity?

I'm getting tired of the "women love bad boys" dogma--I think it's time for a Reformation.
If fandom is an incredibly broad church, then surely women wouldn't be defined as one sole entity?


Only in the sense that the fandom is matriarchal, aside from that no.

I'm getting tired of the "women love bad boys" dogma


It's LCD sexism. It's convenient to use because it doesn't require much effort from the writer or their intended readers. It's in the same vein as cliches about women drivers, or men just liking beer and football. It'll take decades or event centuries for these things to leave the system.
It'll take decades or event centuries for these things to leave the system.

And these things leave the system by people saying they should get gone.

What's troubling to me is the trickledown effect. The first person uses it for convenience while being aware it's not touching all nuance, then you have some who just accept it as is and never bother to think about it (ahem, I'm resisting making a political joke about news stations bias).
And these things leave the system by people saying they should get gone.


I would see that more in the vein of getting rid of institutional sexism. Casual sexism is a lot harder to root out of society. Much in the same way as casual racism or homphobia is still rife in some quarters despite decades of awareness of these problems.


What's troubling to me is the trickledown effect.


Yes. History is written by the headline writers. I could have taken your entry and rewritten it in such a way to engineer a completely different set of comments.
So, to summarise, "women like bad-boys" is a myth but "women like bad-boys with a sensitive side" might have some truth to it ? ;-)

It's not even only men I hear this "law of nature" from even some women have started to use the diction to describe their own preferences.

Hmm, so doesn't that mean it might be true for some women ? Or perhaps those women just don't really know their own minds and need this blogger (among others) to point out why they actually don't like bad-boys ?

"Women like bad-boys" is a sweeping generalisation and simplification but then so is "women don't like bad-boys". Enumerating the reasons why people actually like X is similarly sweeping (has the blogger asked them all ? How about even a statistically significant number of them ? Nevermind all the complications that arise from self-reported results). Let's see some data that's not based on a Twitter poll, the results of which can be interpreted any number of ways. Until then we're all employing sweeping generalisations, the only difference being, one generalisation appeals to one way of thinking and one appeals to another. Preferring one to the other doesn't make it true though.
What especially annoys me about the Bad Boy Myth is that it gets me coming and going by dismissing the existence of those of us who love Spike but aren't particularly interested in the 'boy' part of the bad boy equation either...
It's not the "bad" in Spike I'm drawn to, it's the passion. Once he decides on a course of action, he gives it 100%, whether it's writing poetry, fighting, sex, pursuing his soul, or being in love. It's that attitude of all-out, joyful commitment that I'm attracted to. When you wrap that in a physically attractive package and add blunt honesty with a large dose of the funny, it's irresistible to me.
Something that I've come to remember/realize when reading these comments are that not all people define bad boys the way I do.

People speak of Spike being more of a bad boy during season 2, when I mainly see the killer in that season, and the bad boy in the later seasons.

That's when we saw his bad boy attitude more clearly, the jokes, sneer, stalking, flirting, the rebell in him and the wish to be his own man, not following people's rule, making his own. That's what we got to see in season 4-7, and that is what made him a bad boy to me, not that he was dressed like a punk in season 2 while killing people and, for the lack of a better word, posing, trying to seem threatening.

That's more of how I define a bad boy. And personally, what makes Spike and other rude bad boys appealing, is if/when they let the guard down, show that they can actually be sensitive, that they can be loyal and caring, [b]to one or a few people[/b]. In a way I'm so jelaous of Buffy and "Spike's other women" in Buffy and Angel, because they we're the ones Spike treated differently, was nicer too, they were made special.

I don't think I'd find any appeal in a man who shows no sign or ability to care.

I guess I'm saying that being passionate about love and their opinions and being somehow rebellious is what makes a person a bad boy to me.
Saje, I'm at a bit of a loss. It seems like you've taken away from this discussion that some are interested in setting up an opposing generalization, when in actuality the point is simply standing against generalizations, period. The main thrust here as I understand it is simply generalizations can be awfully dismissive of people's POVs and when it then becomes gendered, it takes on a whole new distasteful edge. Maybe I've misunderstood you? I'm not exactly sure.


I would see that more in the vein of getting rid of institutional sexism. Casual sexism is a lot harder to root out of society. Much in the same way as casual racism or homphobia is still rife in some quarters despite decades of awareness of these problems.


If one were seeking to root it out in total, yes. For my part, I'd rather just discuss it with those who I wish to associate with. I grew up surrounded by peers who used "gay" and "retarded" as adjectives for any situation they wanted to deride--and I absorbed it. It's only by being around people who have educated me that I've sought to alter my vocabulary and check my privilege.

With casual sexism of this nature, all you can do is hold a discourse and hopefully shed some light on the issue. It's not a universal solution, but you can only hope that awareness will help others be conscientious of what we say, what we think, perhaps even question what we've absorbed unfiltered and never thought to examine.

It starts with being self-aware and actually taking care in what you say. Some women have shared that the generalization under discussion feels insulting (myself, a few other friends and any one else reading who perhaps feels the same)--I'd like to believe a community can hear these words and respect the feeling behind it, respect the women behind it. Not all women feel this way, but it only takes one individual to feel wronged, minimized and dismissed by a generalization and we've already had several speak up. Maybe there'll be a single person who'll think more on this subject because of this discussion--sounds good to me.

When you say "society", I instead think "community". One of which (besides my real life community) is this forum. If rooting it out completely from society were the goal... I'm exhausted by the thought. Starting small seems like a good idea. There's an inherent virtue in fighting for an ideal--you might not effect great change in others, but through your devotion, you yourself cannot remain unchanged nor unaware once truly awakened. In other words: to truly learn a subject, teach it to another.


Yes. History is written by the headline writers. I could have taken your entry and rewritten it in such a way to engineer a completely different set of comments.


That sounds fairly ominous, Simon. Have you been rereading Season 8 #35 again? Remaking reality as you see fit can lead to dire consequences. ;-)

[ edited by Emmie on 2010-06-26 14:48 ]
The main thrust here as I understand it is simply generalizations can be awfully dismissive of people's POVs and when it then becomes gendered, it takes on a whole new distasteful edge. Maybe I've misunderstood you? I'm not exactly sure.

The main thrust as I understand it Emmie is "I know what actually appeals to women about these characters and it's not what some women claim it is". Well, how can any of us know that ? Why can't it be because bad-boys are bad (in some cases) for instance ? Because that's distasteful to some of us ? Distasteful != untrue. And isn't it a generalisation to assume that the women claiming they love bad-boys are automatically adhering to this misunderstood definition of them that's (apparently) so common ? Maybe those women also know it's the passion or the individualism or the sensitive poet underneath rather than actually being evil that's attractive. So why assume they don't ? To make a case IMO.

The author admits it's just their personal take and that's fine but then, to me, admitting that all of our takes are personal just means it's therefore very difficult to talk about them in broad terms. Anyone can make any unsubstantiated claim and then say "But hey, this is just my take on it".

A line like:
My theory would be that there are some fundamental misunderstandings about what women like about the so called badboy (and also what men like about the femme fatalle).
generalises about what the fundamental understanding is to begin with. Who is that holds these fundamental misunderstandings and how wide-spread is it ?

A line like:
This makes him an outcast and in the typical way in which everything female is often deprecated also "bad".
generalises about the reasons bad-boy characters are outcast with (to me) very little to back it up. Seems to me that if anything bad-boys are often overtly masculine, often seen as physically tough, daring, as "lone wolves" etc. (the biker image crops up time and again for instance). Isn't that one of the biggest male stereotypes, the tough loner that's so self-reliant he doesn't need social ties ? How is that related to deprecating female qualities ?

There's also an implication that bad-boys blur gender roles (are sensitive, see women "not just as something to use but as another human being" etc.) and are "not doing all that well with [other] men" because of it (i.e. bad-boys are outcasts and unusual compared to other males who aren't outcasts and are basically insensitive objectifiers) which, as a poetry loving male that sees women as people and doesn't consider himself a bad-boy, I find mildly offensive. I.e. it's another generalisation employed in the supposed attempt to tear down generalisations (but because it's one that the author's outlook seems to find acceptable it passes without challenge).

[ edited by Saje on 2010-06-26 15:59 ]
Re: the idea that Spike (or Faith, or whoever) is a fan favorite in large part because of their looks: I would love a show about heroic characters who are not physically attractive. And I don't mean "not physically attractive by Hollywood standards." I mean not physically attractive. Like, a very fat girl who saves the world along with her sidekick, the short guy with bad acne and dandruff and a big nose. I would love to watch that show. For the one episode it aired. The one great barrier that Hollywood still hasn't touched is looks. You can be a woman and have a meaty role on TV, you can be black, you can be gay (okay, we're still sort of getting there on that but Hollywood has made strides); but can you be unattractive? One thing I got tired of toward the end of Buffy and Angel was everyone being great looking all the time. As if the Slayer power only descends on hot chicks. Kudos to Joss for going as far as he could within the confines of network television (and let's all recall that he didn't originally cast Alyson; the networks insisted on her, and before her we had a different Willow) but there is work yet to do. I want to see heroes who don't look like fashion models.
When my female friends explained the bad boy/dating jerks pattern to me, this is what they said: women get with messed-up guys because that way, they can tell when they are having a positive influence. Now, that was just the opinion of some of the girls in my life, but it makes a smattering of sense to me... and in the case of Spike, Buffy's influence on him is really, really obvious.

But I think there's another element. Some bad boys are just rebels with or without causes. Spike, however, is a truth-teller. Like Cordelia, he just doesn't bother with lies, since the truth is so much more entertaining for him. He tells the truth, and that's often extremely refreshing in a culture like ours. (The speech where I got my handle is a classic example.) So I love him for the way he strips away the facades and reveals things to the other characters.

That and his cheekbones.
I fell in love with Spike after he showed signs of redemption and started showing his soft inner self. Of course he showed that with Dru at the beginning, but it was after he decided to go agaist his bad inner self to become a better man that I totally fell for him. I also tend to go for the Jayne, Logan, and Zuko's in shows, but Spike's character is so much more complex than any I have seen. I also really wish that they would find a comic book writer that understood Spike's complexities. Brian Lynch does, but that's about it. I am really looking forward to the next Buffy arc and really have my fingers crossed that we will see the real Spike again, not the 'bad boy' that writers that don't understand him see.
I enjoy Spike as a character because he is extremely entertaining. I would hope that nobody would really be attracted to him if he were a real person. Remember, he tried to rape Buffy. I am not really sure how or why that would be okay with anyone.
I would see that more in the vein of getting rid of institutional sexism. Casual sexism is a lot harder to root out of society. Much in the same way as casual racism or homphobia is still rife in some quarters despite decades of awareness of these problems.


And yet, Simon, things have changed. Words in common use in schools in the mid-sixties in England - "mong" and "spastic" for "stupid", "jewish" for "mean", "coon" and other words for people of colour are now totally unacceptable in the Midlands school where I teach, which in many ways is broadly similar to those I attended. If we all challenge sexism, racism and all the other disparaging generalisations, we can make a difference.

I agree with a lot that Emmie and Lirazel say, but if you want a sweeping generalisation to replace "women like a bad boy", possibly "women like a man who is willing to go to any lengths for love of them, even if he doesn't expect a return, and who is willing to try to change himself fundamentally for love".

OK, Marsters is very pretty - not just the cheekbones, but the eyes, the lips, the abs... *ahem* But what actually counts far more is that he is a very fine actor who infuses real life and complexity into the character and who is able to cope with whatever the writers throw at him, which in turn creates a character of so many layers and such complexity.

As Joss said in the commentary to one episode "we don't exactly hire trolls" - the vast majority of characters in the Whedonverses are very easy on the eye - in itself perhaps an issue, though a Hollywood-wide issue. It's not just the pretty that people go for, or the single identifier, "bad boy", "broody Romantic antihero", "sensitive guy-next-door" - it's the fact that all of these characters develop way beyond those simplistic definitions into people one can believe in - for a given value of "belief" in a world of magic and vampires, of course - and relate to in complex ways.

Like some of the other commenters here, I find it depressing, even somewhat insulting, that women can be dismissed in such easy stereotypes - and even more so that the nature of the appeal of Spike can be so readily ignored and replaced by something that almost, if not quite completely, fails to resemble the truth.
Must admit, i'm still not convinced that much dismissal is taking place (who is this nebulous "them" that thinks the bad-boy thing is all about women being attracted to the bad and is completely unaware of the added complexity of the "literary archetype" ?) but any generalisation, even a supposedly benign one, is dismissive.

Women aren't attracted to abusive men ? Well, yeah actually, some women are (maybe because they grew up in abusive environments and associate it with love). Should they be, is it healthy ? No. But ought ain't is. Women like men of substance that they can talk to ? Sure. And some women just like a nice bum. Women prize a caring man over status. True just not always true. See what I mean ? Just by saying "women this" or "women that" we're talking about a mass of individuals as if they all think and feel the same way. Which is just wrong (as it is for men).

...but if you want a sweeping generalisation to replace "women like a bad boy", possibly "women like a man who is willing to go to any lengths for love of them, even if he doesn't expect a return, and who is willing to try to change himself fundamentally for love".

Why would anyone want another sweeping generalisation ? But maybe more to the point, what does "women like a man who is willing to go to any lengths for love of them, even if he doesn't expect a return, and who is willing to try to change himself fundamentally for love" have to do with why women like bad-boys ? Those qualities certainly sound appealing, they just don't sound like they capture anything unique to bad-boys (in the Buffyverse context that describes both Riley and Spike for instance, arguably the two opposite ends of the bad-boy spectrum).

Or is the point that no women are attracted to bad-boys ? Or maybe that the category "bad-boy" doesn't actually exist as separate from the category "good qualities women find appealing in men" ? Because neither of those seem true to me (or the blogger by the sounds of it).
Gill, excellent post! I agree with so much of what you wrote.

And Saje some women are attracted to abusive men, in my opinion it's a disorder brought on by childhood issues.

I don't in any way, shape or form think that has anything whatsoever to do with why women like Spike.
More disturbing perhaps, if that if that really is what women want (again, I agree the generalization itself is the problem), I'd argue that you need to replace the words "women" and "men" to see everything that's wrong with that statement. Lets just do it anyway for kicks.

"Men like a woman who is willing to go to any lengths for the love of them, even if she doesn't expect a return, and who is willing to try to change herself fundamentally for love."

I suggest that if THAT charecter was in a television show, the feminist reading would probably eviscerate the charecter as an unhealthy depiction of a woman. Very simply, you have a weak charecter dependent on someone else who is active. She might be saved by being interesting otherwise, but I don't think the core message would be considered positive.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-06-26 23:56 ]
Oh, the bad boy trope. Here's the thing: loads of people, men and women both, live inside of these little, cramped, gendered boxes. Sometimes they've forced themselves into the box like a step sister into a Cinderella shoe and other times they just naturally fit those societally enforced norms. In either event the idea of women loving bad boys, in my opinion, comes by and large because people have just assumed it for so long that it just sort of eventually became true more often than not.

Things change, though, and if the internet is any indication (and when isn't it, really?) the pendulum, she's a swingin' and, as more and women tire of the bad boy trope (and men, too) it'll slowly fade away.

Not sure I agree with the idea that Spike is a bad boy because he subverts gender norms, though. As someone who subverts them often, I've never once had someone say, "Oi, you, the bloke in the dress, you're a bad boy!" Well, not in open company at any rate...

Meanwhile, I wish this trend of assuming people are sexists and misogynists based on a sentence or two will stop one of these days. As someone whose been on the receiving end of that I can say with some authority that it's bloody annoying and only makes the accused want to turn off the computer and have a nap. Not a very good way to change minds. Just my (horribly sexist) opinion though.
Is "bad boy" a synonym for "sensitive outsider"?Maybe some
characters can be seen as both, including Spike. However, I have thought that that a defining characteristic of "bad boys" or "bad girls" for that matter, is that they are, in addition to being young and attractive, dangerous. Many people find danger exciting, especially in fiction.

[ edited by toast on 2010-06-26 23:21 ]
Wow. I'm impressed that there were actually 38 comments before someone brought up the AR.
LOL... that actually is fairly shocking now that I think about it. Usually it takes about three.
From the first I always loved the absolute relish with which Spike loved who and what he was, and as portrayed by Marsters I got that full force. In the beginning I didn't care about any soulfulness lurking underneath. No, I would not want to be devoured by a monster but there is something extremely sensual and exciting in entertaining the feeling of being taken by someone dangerous and powerful. An odd position to be in but that is what art can provide to the viewer's gaze: indulging your fantasies within a dramatic construct in a totally safe environment. I just won't watch anything (anymore) that might have the ability to damage me psychologically. Spike, however, was pure pleasure as far as the Bad Boy trope goes.

Anything later on; the chip, the soul, was just icing on the cake. Spike went through a lot and he did change in some ways. But I could also say his character essentially stayed the same - he just wasn't a brute killer anymore.
To me the interesting thing about the Bad Boy Trope has always been the "boy." To me the use of the word "boy" conjures up images of immaturity, rebellion (generally just for the sake of asserting that "I" in individual), and self-centeredness.

And that whole idea about sensitivity being integral to the trope? I have to disagree. I think that rebel factor in "bad boy" is causing the Bad Boy to rebel against whatever is the preeminent cultural masculine norm/ideal for a particular time and place. (I think the same of the "Bad Girl"trope BTW--but ya' know, with the feminine norm/ideal.)

I've always thought that People with buried, underdeveloped parts are attracted to others who possess those same parts. Not only does this allow the individual to project the hidden "dangerous" aspects of self onto an outside, separate person, but even further distance is gained from their scary, unexplored, and disavowed subconscious parts by being embodied in a member of the opposite sex. But you know, it's impossible to escape self, and therefore the individual is attracted to the rejected parts and feels compelled to engage them.

There might also be something in the idea of the female gender having a nurturing predilection and finding an outlet for it in the Bad Boy.

Now, me? I've always liked MEN. ^_^
Too tired to get into this one, but this

Only in the sense that the fandom is matriarchal, aside from that no.

made me laugh :). If you're all still talking about Spike tomorrow, I'll jump in ;).
Perhaps dangerous yet attractive characters are known as bad "boys" or "girls" because if their self involved destructive behaviour persists into actual adulthood, or old age, they seem to lose their appeal. Their physical beauty is on the wane, or we are bored by their failure to evolve, dunno. But it is definitely a young person's game.

[ edited by toast on 2010-06-27 03:50 ]
I was intrigued by the varying definitions of "bad boy" discussed in this thread, especially the idea that a "bad boy" also has that sensitive side.

Urban Dictionary:

+ A young man who has many characteristics of a naughty boy: he's independent and willful; he does what he wants when he wants; he doesn't follow trends, they follow him; he often looks scruffy, but hip; he's not looking for trouble, but there's a sense of danger about him. For these reasons and more, he's irresistible to women. He's a heartbreaker with five o'clock shadow.

+ A male individual who just couldn't give less of a flying rat's ass about anything... including you!


The above is how I understand the term "bad boy". There's no inherent softness, no inner sensitivity. A bad boy doesn't care for society's rules nor does he care for anyone else.

On the surface, Spike is very much the bad boy when he first appears. Until Drusilla arrives on the scene and his gameface slips to show him playing the attentive lover. A "fool for love" runs antithetical with "bad boy". A bad boy doesn't giving "a rat's ass" and certainly wouldn't devote himself to the well-being of an ill, insane vampire.

It's why I find the generalization "women love bad boys" to be ironic. I might have found Spike interesting if he'd only kept on playing the bad boy--such characters are unpredicatable and make for exciting television. But I didn't find him emotionally interesting until he revealed his "fool for love" design. My favorite scenes are when he's shown being unexpectedly gentle, caring and devoted: when he comforts Dawn in Tough Love by reaching to stroke her hair then pulls back embarassed, when he goes to shoot Buffy in Fool For Love and instead asks "what's wrong?" and sits next to her then awkwardly pats her on the back, when he protects Dawn by withstanding Glory's torture all to save Buffy pain in Intervention)--these are the moments that I find him to reach a stage of grace.

So why is the opposite a generalization? That women love bad boys. That all women wanna marry serial killers.

Why not this: Women love devotion. We can rail at generalizations, but I can't find it in me to object to acknowledging that both men and women can be acknowledged as loving virtues. Devotion and love. So why is it that professionals explain that women love Spike because he's such a bad boy, when it's just as likely he's loved because he's a devoted lover?

Saying women love a bad boy implies a moral weakness--those women can't help but be attracted to a bad boy that won't give a rat's ass about them and will abuse them horribly, why can't those women love a Nice GuyTM? How about considering that it's the opposite of the generalization is in play? That women may love Spike for his nice qualities, not for his sins and surface hostility. I'm not saying this is true of everyone, just that I've read enough comments by other fans to sense they love Spike for these moments of grace just as much as they might love him for his moments of hilarious asshattery (Out. For. A. Walk... Bitch.).

A bad boy is essentially a misanthrope at heart. This is why the title doesn't sit so perfectly on Spike's shoulders as he's always seeking out and enjoying the company of women (Dawn, Joyce, Fred, Buffy, Dru--not just sex, but their company). That is another potential reason some women may appreciate Spike's character--he's insightful, open with his emotions, perceptive about women's feelings and can be a good listener (especially with Dawn).

The "women love bad boys" line reads as oversimplification, not only of Spike's character because he's so much more than a bad boy and often contradicts the demands of the bad boy image, but it also oversimplifies the reasons why women may love his character and hidden within is a judgment that woman want a man who will hurt them, disregard their feeling and even abuse them. While this may happen in real life in unfortunate situations, this is not the case for all women. Not all women want a bad boy. And even if they may like a bad boy in fiction, that doesn't mean they would in real life.
OK Emmie, now we disagree. The definition I think is most valid if you're trying to sort out this "women love bad boys" thing, is the first part ............

+ A young man who has many characteristics of a naughty boy: he's independent and willful; he does what he wants when he wants; he doesn't follow trends, they follow him; he often looks scruffy, but hip; he's not looking for trouble, but there's a sense of danger about him. For these reasons and more, he's irresistible to women. He's a heartbreaker with five o'clock shadow.


If you go with this definition, there really is nothing derogatory to women in the idea. This from someone who has always fit that mold (lover of "bad boys") and never felt insulted or diminished by it. Because I've never bought into a definition like the second part ....
+ A male individual who just couldn't give less of a flying rat's ass about anything... including you!


If you agree with that definition, then I can certainly see the problem.

But back to the one I agree with. I think the key phrase here is "there's a sense of danger about him". I think there are a lot more women out there than most people realize, who are attracted to danger. Not the threat of someone turning physically abusive - that isn't danger, that's abuse .... a totally different animal.

I'm talking about people who are sometimes characterized as being addicted to risk-taking behavior. Again, I'm speaking from personal experience, I am one of those people. So I'm very aware that there is a fine line between being a risk taker, and being self destructive.

My own penchant for risk taking, makes it pretty much a no-brainer that I'm not going to be attracted to the picket fence nester guy, but rather to someone with whom I can indulge my own need for excitement and new, stimulating experiences, over cozy domesticity.
On the other hand, I know a lot of women who have no desire to actually live that risk taking life, but who are definitely attracted to the "bad boy" type in fiction.

So maybe it's a generalization, but there's definitely something valid here, about women being attracted to the bad boy type, at least in fiction. I do think there are a lot more women who are attracted to this type only in fiction, than in real life. And I don't really see anything wrong with that. Who doesn't need a little fantasy in their lives?

I find it curious that there isn't a similar generalization about men. What specific set of characteristics are men attracted to that can be boiled down to something as general as this "women love bad boys" thing? And I'm leaving looks out of the equation. Everyone loves pretty, especially in fiction/fantasy, and I wouldn't dream of insulting men in general with the tired old "men are only attracted to physically beautiful women".

Fascinating topic, that's for certain.
Not all women want a bad boy. And even if they may like a bad boy in fiction, that doesn't mean they would in real life.

Of course Emmie, my point all along has been that it's impossible for ANYONE to say what ALL women want. And the difference between what people want in fantasy and reality is an entirely different (though still interesting) question.

Saying women love a bad boy implies a moral weakness--those women can't help but be attracted to a bad boy that won't give a rat's ass about them and will abuse them horribly, why can't those women love a Nice GuyTM?

Not to me in all honesty. What we're attracted to has nothing to do with our morality, it's just a fact of biology (with a "healthy" dollop of culture). As I say, something being unpalatable doesn't mean it's not true. While wibbling around on t'internet I found this article BTW. Relevant maybe (or not entirely irrelevant anyway).

Wow. I'm impressed that there were actually 38 comments before someone brought up the AR.

What's "the AR" menomegirl/azzers ?

The above is how I understand the term "bad boy". There's no inherent softness, no inner sensitivity. A bad boy doesn't care for society's rules nor does he care for anyone else.

OK. But the article says:
Spike lives in rebellion against conconformity,especially among other men, the poetry, the treating machoism as a game, all the emotion. It's an afront against the male stereotype and that's the cool bit about him.

i.e. it's the article that talks about how poetry and emotion and disdaining machismo are part of the bad-boy "literary archetype" (and part of what's appealing about Spike). Are you now saying Emmie that Spike actually isn't a bad-boy because he likes poetry and is emotional and disdains machismo ? I.e. you disagree with the article's definition (and basically, entire thesis, beyond "Generalising in nasty ways is nasty but generalising in good ways is OK") ?

Possibly interestingly BTW, Wikipedia says this about the attraction:
The attraction of beautiful women to the "bad boy" archetype is attributed both to his confidence, intriguing mystery, seeming indifference, (suggesting an abundance of sexual options)[3] and unavailability, which challenges women to chase him. This contrasts with supplicating men who seem needy and desperate to please, suggesting lower value, and so are less attractive.[4]

Note, "being bad" doesn't feature (FWIW, when I think of "bad-boy" confidence and mystery with a hint of danger are the first things that spring to mind, way ahead of "abusive" anyway).

But leaving aside Urban Dictionary, which anyone can add anything to (Merriam-Webster has it as the too vague to be useful "a person who flouts convention" - presumably they mean a male person ;) and is even less authoritative than Wikipedia, how about we agree on some examples of fictional bad-boys with actual characteristics we can look at ? I suggest:

Spike
Danny Zuccho (OK, "Disneyfied" bad-boy but still)
John Bender (Judd Nelson's character from 'The Breakfast Club')
James Stark (from 'Rebel ...', obviously ;)
Eric Northman ('True Blood', i've not read the books)
Wolverine
James Bond

Now, with the arguable exception of Bond from the films (the book Bond is both more sensitive AND a much nastier piece of work IMO) ALL of those characters are shown to have a sensitive side beneath their bad-boy, tough exterior. I really think there's something to the idea that he's confidant, mysterious, physically tough, a man who walks his own path but also soft and passionate on the inside, the kind of guy who, when he falls for you, falls all the way. And dangerous of course. Danger is exciting, particularly fictional danger (where you get the excitement without the, y'know, danger).

Feel free to come up with other suggestions BTW or disagree with those, examples from fiction just seem more useful to me than definitions because they're a) more complete and b) ostensibly the thing we're actually talking about.
I wanted to throw in an additional link here, that illustrates the different ways the bad boy archetype gets looked at:

http://ubi4soft.livejournal.com/18993.html
Interesting (though it says similar things to the linked blog). The link about Bad-boys in fiction is particularly worth reading in full, her description is closer to what I think of when I think "bad-boy" (if that's a female writer's opinion of of the bad-boy archetype then I humbly submit Spike as a male writer's opinion of the bad-boy archetype. Pretty similar, no ?). Again though, broken record time, where the poster says
That would be a man's perspective and I'll spare you of his "advices".

i'd just like to emphasise that's "... a man's perspective ...". One man. Singular. Assuming he speaks for us all is (1,2,3 altogether now ... ;) a generalisation. See, people think they can put stuff like "I can only really speak for me of course ..." or "...with (at least) two interesting results ..." and that readers will therefore bear in mind "OK, that's one person's unsubstantiated opinion" and "OK, so there were many results, some of which, even from men, may directly contradict that image of the bad-boy".

Except readers don't do that. We ascribe more weight to the opinion we actually see than the possible ones we don't (even though they may be numerous or even in the majority). Particularly if that opinion confirms something we already think.
OK, you're all still talking about it... so, What Shey Said ;). (Except I'm all about the cozy domesticity these days).

The "women love bad boys" line reads as oversimplification, not only of Spike's character because he's so much more than a bad boy and often contradicts the demands of the bad boy image, but it also oversimplifies the reasons why women may love his character and hidden within is a judgment that woman want a man who will hurt them, disregard their feeling and even abuse them.


Agreeing with Shey too that "Bad Boy" doesn't read "Abuser." Spike is a perfect example of the literary "Bad Boy" archetype, with the sneer and the attitude but absolutely a soulfulness underneath. (Not getting into the fact that he is also abusive on more than one occasion, because that takes the discussion in a whole other direction, although not an irrelevant one I guess). A Bad Boy without depth is just an Asshole, and there's a difference. Spike is delightful for both his moments of depth and kindness, for all his contradictions, and absolutely for, as you nicely put it, his "hilarious ass-hattery." Do we need to separate those out in saying what we love about the character? Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch has it all in a nutshell. The attitude, the hilarity, the fact that he's out there in the first place because he's tormented by love.

I guess I can agree with Emmie insofar as it's just silly to assume all women are into the Bad Boy thing (dating one for a few years can go a good long way in helping you get over it ;)) but I'm not sure it's really such an offensive stereotype either. The swagger plus the "tortured soul" (unless you happen not to have one) are sexy right? I mean, that's what it comes down to. Women like sexy guys, guys like sexy women, surprise surprise. I think you might be reading this as an equivalent to the more irritating assumption (often said by men who think they are great guys and who have no luck with women) that women prefer assholes to nice guys. I can whole-heartedly go with the eye-rolling on that one, but the Bad Boy archetype is something different I think. Of course it's an oversimplification, like every generalization always is. I can't say it's one that particular bothers me, but I'm chafed by a lot of generalizations so I get that this one would bug.
I think you might be reading this as an equivalent to the more irritating assumption (often said by men who think they are great guys and who have no luck with women) that women prefer assholes to nice guys.

Yeah, I agree (I mean, I don't know what Emmie's thinking, I just think the two are being conflated when they're not exactly the same). Take (linked from the page Changeling mentioned) from Askmen.com:

The typical Bad Boy:
# is cocky, arrogant
# always puts himself first
# is inattentive to a woman's needs
# does what he wants when he wants to do it, regardless of what anyone else thinks
# acts like a loose cannon
# struts his masculine sexuality
# isn't even remotely a "nice" guy
# treats women badly
# often uses women for sex


Now, that's just an asshole (see, I also speak American ;) or maybe what you could call a real-life bad-boy in that he's what happens to the fictional fantasy when it's made real (in real life dangerous men are, guess what, dangerous).

Women don't prefer them because nobody prefers them.


(ETA last sentence: pressed the wrong button by mistake ;)

[ edited by Saje on 2010-06-27 13:46 ]
I don't know if anyone answered your question Saje, but AR is the attempted rape. Rape is indescribably awful, I know, it's happened to me, but the abuse between Spike and Buffy was pretty mutual and I never see anyone crying foul over the unnecessay beating Buffy gave Spike behind the police station. Spike's objective in his wrong doing was trying to get Buffy back with him, whereas Buffy's objective seemed to be just to beat the hell out of Spike for trying to save her. I just find it easier to forgive Spike for his crime when I compare the two. And, Buffy somehow never had to atone for her violence, it never even merited a "Gee, I'm sorry", but Spike went and atoned big time for his and he has totally redeemed himself to me.

[ edited by luvspike on 2010-06-27 15:40 ]
The "AR" is the attempted rape from the episode Seeing Red, Saje. I left that comment because I was surprised that it hadn't been brought up earlier; it usually is when fans are having any sort of discussion regarding the character of Spike. I'm glad the comment was basically ignored & didn't have responses because it's my experience that when it is brought up, it puts the people trying to converse about Spike on the defensive; introducing the AR into a discussion almost feels like someone drawing a sword, in a way: the attempted rape is used as a weapon by some.

[ edited by menomegirl on 2010-06-27 16:19 ]
Yes, it is still a sore spot with me and I do get defensive when it comes up. I am now taking a deep breath and walking away...
Saje quotes:

The typical Bad Boy:
# is cocky, arrogant
# always puts himself first
# is inattentive to a woman's needs
# does what he wants when he wants to do it, regardless of what anyone else thinks
# acts like a loose cannon
# struts his masculine sexuality
# isn't even remotely a "nice" guy
# treats women badly
# often uses women for sex


which I find interesting, because only part of this description applies to Spike. Yes, he's cocky and arrogant, treats Harmony very badly, acts like a loose cannon, struts his masculine sexuality, and, up till the chip, arguably does what he wants when he wants to do it, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

However, he is invariably attentive to Dru, then Buffy, and "uses" neither for sex in the negative way. (He does use Harmony that way, though the humour often masks the callousness there.) He frequently puts others first - his mother, Dawn, Fred, even Joyce as well as the women he feels sexual, passionate love for. He treats most women remarkably well except when he regards them as food. He does what he wants to do much of the time unless someone he cares about wants him to do something different. He is quite often a "nice guy" to Dawn, Joyce and Anya (I don't count Fred because he only meets her post-resouling)

My personal feeling is that it's the second set of features, those which don't fit the stereotype, which make him attractive to women. He's cool, cocky, arrogant, but changes on an instant if someone he cares about needs him. He bucks the stereotype even when just turned, when his devotion to his mother overrides the instinctive evil of the new vampire.

He is irreverent most of the time - except towards the women he loves. I think that is an important element of his attractiveness. Many date their engagement with him to the point in School Hard when he disposes of the Annoying One and goes for less ritual, more fun. "Bad boys" at school tend to be those who needle the teacher, strut about impervious to authority figures and get into low-level trouble of a disruptive rather than vicious nature. In that context Spike, and a permanent adolescent making up for his excessively solemn human youth, might be considered a "bad boy" - but those aren't really bad; they usually grow out of it. It just took Spike 120 years longer than usual to do so!

Spike can be, to use the Americanism, an asshole, but, as Saje says, nobody prefers them - and what concerns me about the recent comments on the character by writers and artists is that they assume that women, on the whole, do prefer them. And that makes them take Spike in directions which really don't work for me artistically or feel like the much more complex character I enjoyed so much in the show.
The bottom line is, I love the character of Spike. The character in the recent IDW comics is not Spike whatsoever. They think it is but they got it 100% wrong.
This is the first time in my fandom experience, that I'm not buying something related to Spike.
That's not Spike, no matter what they call him, or how they draw him. It's not the character.
And this "bad boy" interview from Chris Cross explains a lot.
...which I find interesting, because only part of this description applies to Spike.

Exactly, I totally agree Gill, that's what i'm saying. But i'd go one step further and say only part of that description applies to pretty much any fictional bad-boy i.e. the fictional bad-boy women are "accused" of liking is closer to Spike (or John Bender or Jim Stark) than it is to the Askmen description. Even Bond (the fictional bad-boy closest to the Askmen description IMO) falls in true love a couple of times (albeit with, in one case, the charming/profoundly disgusting observation that sex with his beloved would always "...have the sweet tang of rape" - I mentioned the nasty piece of work thing right ?).

Now, if we're talking about real-life bad-boys (i.e. assholes) and whether women are seen to be attracted to them then i'd say maybe they are seen to be but very few are actually and that most people who think they are haven't actually looked at a list of qualities like the above too closely.

The "AR" is the attempted rape from the episode Seeing Red, Saje.

Ah right, cheers (don't usually get too involved in the Spike-centric threads - they tend to get a bit ... fraught ;) - so i'm not familiar with the shorthand).
First of all, I'm terribly sorry to hear about your experience, luvspike. Wishing you good things and whatever healing you need.

Now I hope this doesn't sound callous because I know it's a heavy / personal topic for some, but since we're talking about it: I was always a bit annoyed, more than anything, by the "AR" as the cool kids call it ;). It was a horrifying scene, and both JM and SMG gave absolutely stellar, wrenching performances. But story-wise, it felt very contrived to me. They tried to set it up so that for a few minutes Buffy could be a convincing victim but it still jarred, this is Buffy for god's sakes, and I don't like feeling my strings get yanked about that obviously. It felt like it was meant to, I don't know, create controversy around Spike in a too-deliberate way. I suppose if I'm going to post about it at all I should take the time to make a more thoughtful post but it's too damn hot and I have to go out. It just didn't feel organic to me, but whatever.

Now, that's just an asshole (see, I also speak American ;) or maybe what you could call a real-life bad-boy in that he's what happens to the fictional fantasy when it's made real (in real life dangerous men are, guess what, dangerous).


I'm not sure I get the distinction between literary archetype and real-life Bad Boy that you're making, Saje, where RLBB (I just made that up! awesome, right?) = Asshole (yes, I'm getting more American every day I live here). There are assholes aplenty, I guess, but I'd say a RLBB is... a real-life equivalent of the literary archetype, albeit often less cool (but not necessarily!). Meaning, more than just an asshole, in spite of having some asshole-ish tendencies.
What i'm saying is catherine, I don't really think you get that mix of qualities in real-life (which then pushes a bad-boy into asshole territory - I have to watch that, if I get too used to saying it i'll use it in real-life and then have the piss taken fairly mercilessly* ;). E.g. good-looking lone-wolf types who're strong and capable with a hint of danger aren't (generally speaking) also emotionally expressive, truth-telling poetry lovers except in fiction. In fact, as I say, generally speaking in real life "a hint of danger" means "[at least] slightly dangerous" and people who do as they please without any regard for social conventions generally don't care much for others.

Danger is a key case in point. Often in fiction you get men who're dangerous and good at fighting and so on and yet it's always measured and proportionate and never spills over i.e. they only ever protect the women they love. In real-life though, people who're good at violence tend not always to be great at containing it I think (after all, the easiest way to get good at something is, as with the way to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice).

Necessarily broad-brush though and just in my experience, clearly I haven't met everyone in the world ;).


* though I at least have an instant comeback after England's abysmal performance in the World Cup
I think the destinction between reality and a fictional archetype is a very important factor in this.

But if you set that aside for a moment and look at what often composes our moral standards and where they come from, that can be pretty revealing in some cases.

Ok, there are breaches of moral standards that really rule a person pretty much out (murder for example) in rl. But in my experience the popular guys, the good strong wholesome men, those made many of the rules we're still playing by today, they can be pretty cruel bunch sometimes, to women and to men who don't conform.

So someone who breaks those rules can easily look like (and sometimes be) an ally when patriarchy is not really your gig.
E.g. good-looking lone-wolf types who're strong and capable with a hint of danger aren't (generally speaking) also emotionally expressive, truth-telling poetry lovers except in fiction.

Hee, well, OK maybe those exact qualities aren't especially common. But I do think the Bad Boy (as opposed to the asshole) is a not uncommon creature in real life as well. I'd submit Exhibit A, ex-boyfriend #1: the motorcycle, the good looks, the bad attitude, the contradictions (dealing drugs to pay for law school, par example), the poetry (except it was really awful poetry... so, you know, real life can't always live up to the fantasy), the "wounded" (yawn) emotional side. Like I said, often less cool, because the self-pity, self-aggrandizement, and self-destruction are a little more apparent in real life than in fiction, and you're right, I think, that violent men are usually, well, violent in general rather than only when kicking Bad Guy Ass.

Still, I don't think the Bad Boy is just a made up fantasy. Of course in fiction he can be made much more attractive, as can the Nice Guy, depending on the needs of the story. But the real life Bad Boy can be very attractive to women in a way that most Plain Old Assholes aren't.

Necessarily broad-brush though and just in my experience, clearly I haven't met everyone in the world ;).

Whaaat? What've you been doing with your time, then?
I see the idea of guys who can fight as being particularly violent in general being raised here, however, there are people out there (men and women) who can fight and use it for all the right reasons! I present myself as the female point and all the men I train with as the male point. Yes, they're not all tortured poetry writers, but many do drive motorbikes and are very good looking with devilish charm and are also the kinda guys who really take care of women(well the ones they train with anyway!) but come across as perhaps kinda distant and stand offish. so there is on occasion the bad boys who almost fit the bill(great fighters, good looking, seemingly dangerous) and are very real! And bad boys are hot! Love them! I'll admit to the cliche!
I'm with you Saje, I've never really *met* that guy either. The very idea of a lone wolf tends to preclude the type of ease of intimacy that seems inherent in the Hollywood version of the Bad Boy. If they were *good* at intimacy, they wouldn't be lone wolves at all. There are groups of emotionally literate guys too.

I might draw the line at the "good at violence" comparison though. I think guys that are good at "brawling" might fall under this. But I've known enough people in real life who practiced "martial arts" for the skill of it that were about as gentle as you can get. But you still wouldn't want to mess with them.

And actually, I'm with you Catherine. I could have done without the AR scene altogether. At first I kept trying to say, "maybe I just don't want to see Spike that way." But the more I would roll that scene over in my mind, I just realized that I didn't buy it. I didn't buy Buffy's reaction to it and I never totally bought Spike's reasons since I literally had to then use the "vampires are evil" trope in order for it to work. Which was odd considering his entire approach wasn't portrayed as cliche evil so much as desperate and pathetic. So it was like they were mixing the reality with the mythology and it just wasn't a brew I was willing to imbibe.

I find it curious that there isn't a similar generalization about men.


And Shey, actually there are LOTS of offensive generalizations about men I tend to find bordering on offensive that are similar to the WLBB phenomenon.

Here's a couple of them:

A man wants a woman like his mother - which tends to distill down to a man wants someone to cook, clean, AND provide for him. Taken to a further, it tends to imply men are inherently lazy (therefore needing to be catered to), prefer to stay in childhood, and eww. Now it could ALSO mean that the man's mother was a really cool person, but that's generally not what people are implying when they say it.

Men are only interested in looks (which you mentioned) - Times are a-changing, but in general I here this levied against men more often than the other way around. But the implication here is, a man is no better than his base instinct which is fairly offensive.

I'm sure there are more, but I doubt anyone needs an exhaustive list. I guess my point is, there are many "innocent" sounding, clever generalizations that get less so the more you think about them.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-06-28 05:27 ]
I never see anyone crying foul over the unnecessay beating Buffy gave Spike behind the police station

luvspike, you should have watching it with me then. I can't bear any of the beatings Buffy gave Spike.
But I've known enough people in real life who practiced "martial arts" for the skill of it that were about as gentle as you can get. But you still wouldn't want to mess with them.

Yeah azzers (and Blueskies), after I posted that I thought of a guy at uni who was a black belt (or equivalent) in Tai Kwon Doe. Very placid guy who always seemed cool-headed (moreso because he also didn't drink - the one sober guy at the student union bar tends to seem pretty level-headed in comparison ;) and AFAIK never raised a hand to anyone pre-emptively. Thing is, if you didn't know he did Tai Kwon Doe you wouldn't look twice at him i.e. he didn't have an air of danger about him, if anything in fact i'd say he had less of an air of danger about him than most other 18 year old men. In other words (without knowing how he felt about poetry or motorbikes ;) he didn't seem much of a bad-boy.

In my experience (again ;), that's usually the case with people into martial arts. "Air of calm control" is much closer than "air of danger". But yeah, fair enough, it's more specific than being good at violence, it's maybe more "having an air of violence" that tends to make you more likely to actually be violent but then it's more the air of it that goes along with bad-boys right ?

Whaaat? What've you been doing with your time, then?

Spending my time productively by posting on here of course. Ahem ;).
Since it has been brought up twice now...Re: the Spike beating...

I've always thought that Buffy was really talking about herself with the, "You don't have a soul! There's nothing good or clean in you. That's why you can't understand! You're dead inside! You can't feel anything real!" She hated herself and she hated her life. I think all of those voiced sentiments could be applied to herself.

This was her lowest point of her whole depresso-I'm-in-hell time. And Spike was goading her. I figure it was originally his wacky idea that it would be some kind of "therapy" for Buffy and that it just went...really wrong. Spike: "Come on! That's it! Put it on me! Put it all on me! That's my girl --" And ya know, he could have defended himself but he chose not to.

When someone is all kinds of irrational (hysterical even), poking a stick at the "trapped dog in the corner" is NOT the best answer. They both bear responsibility for that incident.

And yes, it's still damn hard to watch.
I was twiddling my thumbs and thought "why not head over to More Than Spike and see what James Marsters articles/interviews get referenced when I search for Bad Boy"? Anyhow some did appear, I don't know how up to date the archive is but click here to see the results for yourself.
BreathesStory, I completely agree, and it fed into their S&M relationship, it almost seemed like he was enjoying it (re; buffy saying beating spike was like 3rd base for him in 'Crush'). So comparing that to the the rape scene doesn't fit for me. Spike didn't fight back, didn't say no, he welcomed it, thought it was a way to prove she loved him ("you always hurt the ones you love"). Also her violent reactions to vampires when frustrated lead back to season 2 Ted and again in particular when she finds Riley with one, Spike was the substitute for the punching bag!
And is it wrong to say it's not hard to watch?
Not wrong if it's true. Bit needlessly provocative though.

I've always thought that Buffy was really talking about herself with the, "You don't have a soul! There's nothing good or clean in you. That's why you can't understand! You're dead inside! You can't feel anything real!"...

Yeah, she totally was IMO. She knew she was only "going through the motions", thought she'd come back wrong, was missing something essential. That dialogue is all about, what do psychiatrists call it, transferral ? Projection ? One of those I think.

He was trying to help her of course (and sort of did in a way - you have to reach rock bottom before you can start to mend right ?) but some things monsters aren't so good at, try as they might. Course, i'm not sure any of her friends would've done a better job, even if she could explain without heaping guilt on them.
I haven't met everyone in the world either, Saje - but for some reason at age 55 I feel like I have.

And I know that this may make me sound like the Queen of Slut Town (another unhelpful trope) - but I've gone out with Good Boys and Bad Boys and In Between Boys and Good Boys That Wanted To Be Bad Boys But Weren't and Bad Boys That Pretended to Be Good Boys and, of course, Just Plain Assholes About Which I Should Have Known Better. Oh, yeah, and the Rapist, too.

I never found in real life that special alchemical blend of Bad Boy Who's Really a Sensitive Poet, or Kickass Fighter That Nonetheless Doesn't Treat You Emotionally Like a Ninja Assassin. (I did find a fair few Posers in Parkas, but I'm sure posers come in every shape, size and gender.)

Maybe I just missed 'em in my looooong 25 or so years of dating before I found my permanent Good Emotionally Strong Man With a Sensitive Soul Who Only Looks Like He Could Kick Your Ass - but I don't think so. I sure as hell was looking for him.

I blame literature and any kind of storyteller - from those that wrote bodice-ripping Romantic/Gothic novels to popular music to Great Literature - for making me think he did exist.

I got no fine fancy argument here ; > - just those 55 years and a personal attraction to the Bad Boy for waaay too long. I woke up (tired) one day and realized that danger really isn't all that attractive, 'specially if you have to live with it. And that a Fake Bad Boy needs you to help shore up the Sensitive Poet bigtime so he can go out into the world and pretend to be James Dean for another day.

So yeah, I'm ready to give up the Bad Boy Myth. In fact, I already have, inside. Much as I enjoy all phases of Our Spikey, these days when I see a Bad Boy on the page or the screen I just heave a great mental sigh and see if I can forgive the writer long enough to get past it.

On the other hand - nobody's perfect, nobody's nice to you all the time, and being treated like a precious piece of porcelain gets tiresome after a few weeks of it. But someone who doesn't treat each interaction like a contest, and isn't all about the pose, and respects all human beings, male or female - well, let me just say that the Good Guys win in the end.
Aye, well said.

Always depresses me the number of women on here that've suffered some sort of sexual assault and/or rape. Not so depressing is the number that've found a way past it and with grace and wisdom stopped it consuming them.
; >

Thanks.

I think it's all y'alls fault I have this earworm:

Bad boys, bad boys --
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do
When they come for you?

Augh! Now you've given it to me!
Personally i'm going to let them jump over my car in theirs by driving off the top of an automotive transporter while firing two guns each out of both side windows.


... at least I think I am, that might've been 'Gone in 60 Seconds'.
Saje, I sent you a wee email earlier. A wee-mail. No, that's not right.

Anyway, wasn't sure I had your most up-to-date, so thought I'd mention it...
Nope, that's the one ;).
I know this thread is probably over by now (been away the last few days) but i did wanna clear up something i said earlier when i said that watching Buffy beat up Spike wasn't difficult for me, i meant that I saw it the same way that she had beat up any other vampire, or how Faith used to, that it was never something wrong in the sense of she's sleeping with the guy she's pummeling...that was all, not that I enjoyed watching spike get beat up! In case that was how it was interpreted!! As i said, no one's probably gonna read this, but just in case...
Blue...

I don't think anyone was interpreting too much into your comments. At least I wasn't. One of the more confusing aspects of Whedon's treatment in vampires was that it often fluctuated in that some things seemed to be meant to make you uncomfortable and some simply weren't. But as an audience, we don't exist in "on/off" positions which made a lot of his stuff ambiguous or debatable after a certain point.

I think it always came down to how much you identified with the character. Spike was a character I identified with before he was re-ensouled which was a reason his AR and his beating I had such problems with. Essentially, I felt that had built him to the point that you couldn't just make him "rape" because he's evil and pathatic. And I REALLY don't like the premise Buffy could had carte blache to beat him because he was antagonizing her. How many episodes of Cops do we hear the guy in a domestic assault case use that excuse?

That said, it only works because I don't consider him a stock vampire at that point. If you do (like it sounds like you did) then most of the things that happen to him are well within the bounds of the norms of the Buffyverse. Hence, there's really nothing to judge in the first place :) Buffy Kill Vampire.
Azzers, thanks for that, someone upthread said that comment seemed reactionary and I wanted to clarify. I agree, after Spike became chipped and lovesick I lost all connection with him although most are the other way around. so I guess he was just a stock vampire for me, that's a great way to explain it!
Azzers, thanks for that, someone upthread said that comment seemed reactionary and I wanted to clarify.

No, they didn't, they (which is to say 'I' ;) said it was "needlessly provocative" in response to your comment

Also her violent reactions to vampires when frustrated lead back to season 2 Ted and again in particular when she finds Riley with one, Spike was the substitute for the punching bag!
And is it wrong to say it's not hard to watch?


which, to me, did seem to be deliberately worded in a way that might rub some Spike fans the wrong way (i'm a fan and it didn't bother me but particularly in light of what I was talking about in another thread at about the same time and also comments you yourself had made in yet another thread Blueskies I think it's fair to say not everyone might see it that way. Context, as always, is everything and the context of that comment extends further than the bounds of this thread). Reactionary and provocative are two different things though (almost opposites in fact).

Still, thanks for the clarification, glad I was wrong about your intent ;).
Sorry Saje, i was just too lazy to look at who or exactly what was said. And it's not like it was actually that far up from these posts, not THAT is laziness!!
No worries, water under the bridge ;).

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