The Bad Boy

The Bad Boy

What is the unassailable appeal of the Bad Boy? Is it his elusiveness? His edge? The fact that he cannot be “had” no matter what? Why are some of us drawn to the Bad Boy, and keep going back for more?

Californication's quintessential lovable Bad Body played by David Duchovny, courtesy Time Out NY. Could it really be as simple (and complex) as desiring what cannot be “possessed,” emotionally or otherwise?

Does that mean the Bad Boy is bound to meet his match in a Bad Girl, or is he more likely to chase the Unattainable Woman, as he himself remains beyond reach?


I found myself restless and wordless last evening, searching for escape on cable. I stumbled across Season 3 of Showtime’s series, Californication, which I had never seen. I was hooked in minutes, polishing off all the episodes late last night, and in the predawn hours of morning.

My initial reaction was pure fascination: the characters are lovably weird, the ensemble cast incredible (David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Kathleen Turner), and the writing is original, clever, and deliciously daring.

Yet what struck me most was the impossibly entangled relationships of Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody. He’s the epitome of the rakish yet reprehensible ladies man, the winsome cad, the perpetual man-child, the self-destructing-before-your-eyes genius artist. He is the sexy train wreck who can’t get out of his own way. Nor can he keep it zipped, as women seduce him more often than the other way around.

The Bad Boy at his most dangerous

Duchovny as Hank Moody offers the Bad Boy at his most (tantalizingly) dangerous. And sexy. His good heart and talent enhance his charisma; the self-destructive bent and lack of self-control make reliability and trust virtually impossible. Passion? Boatloads. Adoration and appreciation for women? Without question, however transient.

Yet Californication’s fatally flawed hero still loves (and pursues) his here-again-gone-again smart and stunning wife (Natascha McElhone), as she remains at careful remove, keeping him hanging, mesmerized, and herself, moderately protected.

Bad Boy behaviors

The Bad Boy comes in variations: charming, indifferent, misogynistic, outrageous, arrogant. He may be troubled and substance-abusing (as in Californication), albeit endearing at times. He may flaunt disregard for convention, in classic Bad Boy rocker style (think explosive performer Iggy Pop). Any number of music, film, and sports stars fall into this category, and have for generations. He may be dangerous – genuinely so – prone to violence.

The Bad Boy promises treacherous territory for those who care for him, or expect too much. Unpredictability, brilliance, power, and potent sexuality form an intoxicating cocktail, frequently coupled with drugs and alcohol. But relationship? Doomed to a roller coaster ride, at best.

The combination of vulnerability and rebellion, in an appealing package, is a magnet for many women and perhaps the ultimate for some – an addictive pattern which is hard to break.

What about good guys?

Bad boys are exciting, but for all the disarming boyishness, the edgy unpredictability, the rugged red zone hotness, we have ample examples that they don’t do relationships. Not well, unless you want to share not only their bodies but their hearts, along with constant worry as destructive habits lead to increasingly damaging consequences.

Bad Boy rocker Iggy Pop was known for explosive unconventional behavior on stage. Enter the Good Guys, who may warrant a bit of sprucing up in the dangerogenous zones, but they’ve got the staying power and substance that equate to less drama along with far healthier relationships.

I’ve had my own encounters with the Bad Boys, of the more benign (Hank Moody) sort. And found my way to desiring Good Guys (with a dash of edge) as I’ve matured.

  • Do we all pass through a Bad Boy / Bad Girl stage, and then move on?
  • Are you drawn to this type, over and over, slowly self-destructing in unsatisfying relationships?
  • Is that what it takes to break the pattern – recognizing that you’re being pulled down – before seeing the quality of the Good Guy?
  • Does the Bad Boy retain his devastating allure no matter what?

© D A Wolf



  1. says

    I think the bad boy does remain alluring, even beguiling, over the years, despite maturity and in the face of obvious heartbreak. There’s something about the quest to be the girl who can snare his heart and loyalty that drives us all. Luckily, most of us learn that the consequences outweigh the thrill so we watch from afar. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have that urge deep inside!

  2. says

    Bad boy = emotionally unavailable. Even guys who seem like “good guys” can be emotionally unavailable and therefor a “bad boy”. Just as guys with an edge can be a good guy. Looks can be deceiving, no?


  3. says

    Don’t forget the other side of the coin. The bad girl, difficult to capture and if captured, hard to keep. No cage is strong enough for either. They are alluring, I must say, but the wild cat has claws that can, and will scratch.

  4. says

    Skip the Bad Girl… Don’t walk. Run.

    I dated a Bad Girl in high school. and needless to say, I didn’t really date her at all. She was a mental trip. Hot. Sexy. Willing to do way too much “stuff”, and downright adorable at times when trapped in a mistake…

    But, then she would be flaky. She would try and get you to be jealous. She would push your buttons to see if you would get angry. This is one type of person that will just mess with your head.

    Stay… away… far away.

  5. says

    You know, I’ve NEVER been attracted to Bad Boys. Not really. I mean, I think Michael C. Hall on “Dexter” is pretty hot – and as a serial killer, likely the ultimate ‘bad boy’ – but I find myself attracted to his geek lab coat wearing side. heh. I’ve always gone for the nice guys myself.

  6. says

    I have always been drawn to the rugged – good boy. Caring and compassion in a rugged manly exterior to me is the sexiest thing on this earth.

    But then, I am and never have been a bad girl.

  7. says

    What about those Good Girls among us who have not only been drawn to Bad Boys, but have been drawn to the same Bad Boy over and over again?

    Happily, I moved beyond that vicious cycle and married Husband, a Good Guy through and through.

  8. says

    My “bad boys” were not so much bad as poor, misunderstood commitmentphobics who wasted my time and promised things they could never deliver. After awhile I stopped psychoanalyzing these guys and began believing every word they said. That was the end of that.

  9. says

    Oh yeah, I went through a huge Bad Boy phase. Maybe because the bad boys confirmed my own low opinion of myself?

    Thank goodness I finally realized that being treated like casual dirt is highly unsatisfying…

    That said, why do I think Don Draper (Mad Men) is the SHIT?

  10. says

    I think “bad boy” qualities can exist in “good guys.” I think, at bottom, we all crave a little mystery and intrigue and elusiveness. I am confident that really good and thoughtful men do not need to be black and white, predictable creatures, but can sport mysterious and beckoning grays. I do think we all go through a quintessential “bad boy” stage though, where we tend to seek out the chase, the uncertainty, the things that aren’t necessarily “good” for us.

  11. says

    Yes, yes, always struggling with the bad boy attraction. The problem is in the re-programming. If you know your “man-picker” is off, do you allow yourself to get involved with someone to whom you are not attracted? That doesn’t seem quite right. If you do, and if things don’t work out, you haven’t been too fair to the poor “good guy” with whom you were experimenting. It’s a dilemma!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      You’re right on the “man-picker” issue. I think we have very definite types we’re attracted to. But what I’ve found is that sometimes you get a “good guy” with some hidden Bad Boy tendencies, or a Bad Boy with such a good heart, he’s irresistible. Of course – that’s the dilemma, if he’s irresistible to others in the same way – and can’t resist! No easy answers.

  12. says

    I’ve had women not go out with me because they wanted a bad boy. I tried to convince them I’m a bad boy in bed – but we didn’t get that far. I’ve had better success with some women who wanted to escape the bad boy (men) in their lives. I gave them just enough edge, but mostly stability. And wouldn’t you know, they gave me a little bit of bad girl, and I liked that a lot.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Fab, DM! It’s just a matter of mixing up the elements in the right doses! (Your scientific bent must help with the alchemy. Or is it the Californiconnection?)

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