Jenn Moss over at Rough and Ready Fiction had an interesting post on “goody-good” characters and why they don’t work in modern fiction.
She writes science fiction, whereas I’m a romance writer, so our audiences are not quite the same. Still, it got me to thinking about the anti-hero and bad-boy tropes that seem to be quite popular.
I’ll think more on the anti-hero, but research says that bad boys really don’t get the girl. There’s several links in that article to the studies proving it, too.
It also explains the role of narcissists in this perception. Narcissists are really good at fooling us into believing that they are good people in the short-term, but they can’t live up to it in the long-term. Nor do they really want to as they aren’t interested in those types of relationships anyway.
They article also explains that there are reasons that some women may be attracted to bad boys, but a lot of that has to do with how they were brought up and their family life. Basically, what they’ve come to expect from a relationship.
Many years ago, I had a good friend who had a thing for bad boys. After again being treated poorly by her current love interest, we were eating ice cream together while she lamented the state of her heart. This had not been the first time this series of events had happened, and I asked her what she’d expected.
We knew he dabbled in drugs, drank, smoked, and was barely passing in school. He was more interested in his motorcycle than he was her. What did she think was going to change?
She was dumbstruck by the question , and she never gave me a straight answer. In hindsight, I don’t think she knew. Not really, and I never did understand. Eventually, we drifted apart as friends because you can only watch someone self-destruct so often before you just can’t feel much for them.
When life hands you onions and you cry, I’ll be there holding the tissue. But when you keep going to the onion patch and picking onions, eventually I gotta shrug and walk away.
It didn’t help that relationship that I’ve always been a fan of the white knight. The good boy that understands duty, honor, and kindness. I liked Luke better than Han, King Arthur better than Sir Lancelot, etc.
Many years later, and I think I’m starting to get it.
You see, my mother was very adamant with me that you love someone for who they are that day. They aren’t going to change. They aren’t going to become someone new for you. They are who they are, and either you love them then and there or you don’t. If you love them for who you think they can be, you’re only hurting them and yourself.
That stuck with me my whole life. If I wanted to be with a person who’d love and respect me, I needed to marry someone who was already like that.
And I did.
But this wisdom doesn’t seem to flow through our culture. There’s this expectation that if you love someone enough, they’ll change for you. That underneath their angst and misery is a heart of gold just waiting to fall in love with the girl that saves them.
Maybe some others have had experiences where this is true, but outside of fiction and the movies, I’ve never seen it.
I’ll keep the white knight.
How about you? Do you think the White Knight’s dead? Ever had a friend go for the “bad” boy or girl? Maybe you do or did? How’d it go?