All I want for Christmas is a bad boy... Well, not really. I think he might be difficult to live with, but the fantasy is certainly an appealing one. I'm the sort of girl who sits up and pays attention the minute a bad boy walks onto the page or screen, and I'm not talking about your typical alpha male hero with a roguish smile and a bit of stubble here; I'm talking about a real scoundrel.
I have several favourites, and thinking about this post, I've been trying to work out what it is about them that I find so fascinating.
Take Exhibit A (above), Steerpike from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. So, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers helped a lot in the BBC adaptation, but he’s incredibly sexy, despite (and this is putting it extremely mildly) being a nasty piece of work. Why? He’s confident, witty, intelligent, takes risks, and knows how to have a good time. He’s also surrounded by fools, but what villain isn’t?
Consider also, Lucius Malfoy or Riddick from Pitch Black (cheating a little with that one). They live life on their own terms, not anyone else’s version of morality. So, while the hero doggedly pursues a worthy cause, the villain is free to be imaginative and unpredictable. He has time to devote to his appearance (got to keep up that image), to hone his wicked sense of humour and indeed time to have fun. All the best villains know the importance of good timing, and nothing is sexier than a confident man who can make you laugh.
Bad boys get all the best lines, too. Did anyone really watch Pirates of the Caribbean for Orlando Bloom? Pretty, but a bit dull. Now Captain Jack Sparrow, that’s what I’m talking about.
If you haven't read Lord Wraxall's Fancy by Anna Lieff Saxby, I recommend that you beg, borrow, or steal a copy. Just like Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons, Wraxall never forgets that if you can't do it with style, it's not worth the effort.
Lady Caroline Lamb once described Lord Byron as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” and so he’s been fictionalised ever since. The ultimate bad boy, regardless of the actual facts. So if your villain lacks a certain something, go back to your bad boy checklist – confidence, style, charisma, humour, clean fingernails, likes to take risks – ladies, we can rebuild him. We have the technology to build a Byronic Man.
PS. Am I the only one? Who are your favourite bad boys and why?