What Pop Culture Taught Me About “Bad Boys”

It started, like so many of my teen ideologies, with Gilmore Girls.

“How could Rory leave Dean for Jess? Dean is nice. He carries her books, and she has a lot of books. Jess is surly. He has angst coming out of his pores. Why choose the bad boy over the nice guy?”

In this particular TV love triangle, I realize, there were other details in play besides the comfort of a nice guy (the pre-OKCupid definition) and the allure of the bad boy, like said boy’s ability to devour and interpret some classic lit. But the discussions it led to made it clear that, like my preference for grapes over chocolate, my pull towards nice instead of bad also put me in the minority.

There are many types of bad boys, all of whom have strikes against them, as far as I’m concerned.

Grease’s Danny Zucko

Maybe deep down Danny just wanted to hug it out with his BFF and play footsie with Sandy, but to keep up his bad boy image he had to smirk more than he smiled. A good kind of bad boy for someone who wants to gently enter the bad girl life, but I’d never be able to pull off the black leather pants.

The OC’s Ryan Atwood

Oh god, the brooding. Brooding in the rain. Brooding while “Hide and Seek” plays in the background. The troubled bad boy isn’t actually that bad, but the bad rep comes from an exhausting Eeyore-like attitude. Give me a Seth any day.

Mad Men’s  Don Draper (the early seasons)

The worst type of bad boy is the charming one, the one who’ll smile and can even rock a tie but has the one giant vice, like being a serial cheater. That should send you running at top speed away from that grin. Plus, as Mad Men has taught us, the shiny facade of the charming bad boy will inevitably crumble.

Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman

A dangerous bad boy, the sweet guy with a serious extracurricular bad streak (like selling meth) is the most dangerous kind. Your mind might tell you not to post his bail, but your heart is just going to remember that adorable expression.

Whatever the variation, I see more trouble than romance. Sure, a bad boy might keep things exciting and look good in a pair of dark sunglasses, but will he remember to pick you up from work when your car is at the shop? Will he be nice to your parents? Will he be able to enjoy a day at the beach without dying of heat stroke because he’s unwilling to remove the leather jacket that is both a metaphorical protection for his guarded heart and real protection against the knife of that guy he pissed off last night?

To return to another TV reference (as all decisions of the heart should be somehow rooted in Netflix marathons), I’m on Team Liz Lemon, not Team Jenna when it comes to relationships. I would much prefer comfortable over exciting. I know some people get a thrill from the idea of driving off into the sunset with a guy on a motorcycle, but I’d rather be with someone who wants to pull over and watch the sunset from the hood of his highly safety-rated car. But that’s just me.

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