Burying the Bad Boy

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Friends, Oak Parkers, males, females, lend me your ears (and eyes); I come to bury the Bad Boy, not to praise him. I fear he is likely to die on the shore of modern sensitivity as fourth-wave feminism crashes upon him.

History can be told as the story of the evil that men do, but Bad Boys were never evil. The Bad Boy is a cultural archetype who sometimes acts outside conventional cultural norms. Bad Boys do sometimes mistreat women, but some women, either because of or despite, the mistreatment are attracted to him. Like moth to flame they are drawn to a walk on the wild side.

Synonyms for Bad Boy include rake, cad, lothario or Casanova, but to my mind a Bad Boy is sui generis. He is his own species — puer malus. Like much of culture, it is hard to say whether real life or media created the stereotype. Chicken or egg? James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones, or Fonzie in Happy Days are just a few who shaped the archetype. If Bad Boys had a king, it would be Elvis. My personal favorite is Tim Riggins in the TV version of Friday Night Lights. Like Peter Pan, Bad Boys don't want to grow up.

Bad Boys are tall, handsome, smoke, drive fast cars, drink and do poorly in school if they even bother to come to school. They do not respect authority. They are sexually aggressive, but not like the #metoo men whose advances are unwanted, even criminal. If a Bad Boy is rejected, he just moves on to another girl — but they don't have to move on very often.

I wanted to be a Bad Boy when I was a lad. Heck, I want to be a Bad Boy now. But I needed the approval of authority figures and I was afraid of girls. I wanted to make good grades. I wasn't good at fighting, and I couldn't drive a stick shift. An automatic Renault was not a chick magnet even for French jeunes filles had there been any in New Albany, Indiana.

I mourn the likely demise of the Bad Boys in a world where maleness is in retreat. When a girl said no to a Bad Boy he knew it meant no, so he just rephrased the question. No Bad Boy ever groped or raped a girl. He didn't have to. If you look closely, Bad Boys are often the products of fractured families and have a sadness and vulnerability. That is a big reason women like them — in addition to being good at sex and driving a cool car.

No doubt Bad Boys are outliers. A lot of women despise them. I get that. Their time is passing, but I mourn them. Today we are homogenized and compartmentalized. We rebel by wearing political slogans on T-shirts and posting rants on social media. Imagine a Bad Boy wearing anything on his plain white T-shirt. Imagine a Bad Boy posting a picture of his Corvette on Facebook. The mind reels. 

We need Bad Boys.

Sawyer Brown sang it best.

Now I ain't first class, but I ain't white trash

Wild and a little crazy too

Some girls don't like boys like me

Aww but some girls do.

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