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Bad Boys and Bad Boyfriends

by Job de Leon
31 Jul 2017 | 2:10 PM

The Breakfast Club is a cultural milestone for how it deconstructs the layers beneath high school stereotypes. Also, arguably, because girls have never wanted to date a Bad Boy more than they've wanted to score a misfit like John Bender.

Bad Boys like John Bender are the Alpha Male's wayward brothers: they'll make sure you know they're good at what they do, and break the rules with flair and casual disregard for what you think. 

The trope has reinvented itself with different icons from James Dean to Tony Stark, and women and men alike have been lured through the years by the thrill of the gentleman-rogue paradox.

Here's what we all love about them:

The Bad Boy is a rebel

All Bad Boys trace their lineage to James Dean's portrayal of Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause, the original Bad Boy of America in the 1950s. Jim comes from a rocky family, moves to a new neighborhood, and tries to do the right thing when a boy dies in a game of "chicken" gone awry. Similarly, Jeff Winger is a cynic and wise-ass among outcasts on the TV show Community. More often than not, however, it's his speeches that restore order to the school and resolve each show. Bad Boys can be selfish and misunderstood to a degree. But they're less troublemakers themselves than they are acting out their own sense of morality.

The Bad Boy gets away with it

Tony Stark is America's cocktail-guzzling, bird-flipping, corpo-scion brat, but gets more adulation than Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy combined whenever he puts on the Iron Man armor. Similarly, the pilot episode of Mad Men introduces Don Draper with his girlfriend before revealing him to be a married man, and later on, a serial womanizer. These Bad Boys do bad things that, in comparison, our bad deeds look good, but they do bad things so good that they make the rest of us look bad. Got it? That and the power of an incredible tailored suit is the power of a swagger that can't be taught.

The Bad Boy has a soft spot

Leon, played by Jean Reno in the titular 1994 film, is an unfeeling assassin living in modern New York. When a young girl named Mathilda (played by an adorable, 12-year old Natalie Portman) falls to his care after her family is murdered by the DEA, Leon becomes a father balancing teaching Mathilda his trade while saving the reckless girl from herself. In Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia confessed her love to Han Solo right before he was encased in carbonite. Han's reply? "I know." The Bad Boy might begrudge every kind word or pretend not to feel a thing, but he's a naughty one who can play nice especially for those close to his heart.

When "Bad" Becomes "Too Bad"

Some men take the act too far with women far too willing to believe in the Bad Boy myth and transform into the Bad Boyfriend. There may not be a lot of outward differences, but something's wrong in the relationship when someone ends up getting hurt. Here are the signs you have to avoid:

Bad Boyfriends are manipulators

It's a bad idea to be like Gideon Gordon Graves, who has a mind-control chip on his ex-girlfriend Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim VS The World. Gideon gets into her head to make her obsess about him despite treating her badly. A better real-life approximation would be Don Keefer, the temperamental producer on HBO's The Newsroom. Don pries into his girlfriend Maggie Jordan's friendship with a co-worker, and in between weekly break-ups he lures her back with cloying sweetness. That leaves Maggie in a cycle of suck as she suffers his insults, pushes him away, and gets guilted into taking him back. Break-ups and disputes happen, but using a woman's emotions against her is the ultimate low blow in any fight.

Bad Boyfriends hit women

Chests of gold? Check. Massive armies? Check. Human decency? Zero. King Joffrey Lannister-Baratheon in Game of Thrones has got a mean streak worse than all the Seven Hells. Hires two bed maidens to pleasure him, but gets off to one torturing the other. Almost succeeds in stripping his betrothed naked in court after executing her father. Even if some people find rough play kinky, that's always got to be consensual and of course, non-life-threatening.