The 'Bad Boy Love Interest' Problem

2:34 PM




What, you thought I'd just leave with the girls?

This month is all about characters (we'll deal with villains next week, yeeeeaaaah!) and now that I've ranted about female characters, and shared some of my favorites, it's on to the guys.

It was handed to me on a silver tray, okay? 

I don't really fit into the book blog world in lots of ways (which I'm totally okay with; I'm creating my own little niche that I love) and one of them is that I absolutely hate the 'bad boy' love interest.

Now, you know what I mean. Think along the lines of Warner from Shatter Me, Morpheus from Splintered, Tobias from Divergent, and yes, even Loki. He's got great eyes (you'll know this because the MC will describe them repeatedly), he's tough, he's got a troubled past, and he's incredibly attractive (this you will also know). 

He's also usually a huge jerk. 

I just found this gif and it's amazing. 

I have problems with this for many reasons, so I've made a bullet-point list for you.
  • They're jerks, and they're celebrated/glorified for it. (not cool, man. Not cool.) 
  • They're usually all the same. (Tobias is unique in name only.) 
  • They're incredibly attractive. (I like some variety.) 
  • They're often emotionally abusive, and the MC has no problem with this/gives in. (Also very not-cool.)
  • They're just plain psychopaths???? (Warner, Morpheus, etc.) 
I could go on and on about why these things are problematic, but suffice it to say it frustrates me. Because there's so much potential for all characters, including guys, and I hate that the glorified ones are, well, terrible people. Now, this might just be me. I take my fiction very seriously and I'm very much a nice-guy sort of person, so I have a hard time celebrating that. You're allowed to like the bad boys; that's totally cool. It's when they're emotionally manipulative idiots who are usually all the same that I take issue. 

The MC being pushed around by an emotionally manipulative bad boy is the least cool thing ever. I'm pretty sure most of you have at least heard of Warner from Shatter Me, and if you haven't, consider yourself lucky. The fandom raves over him -- what's so great about Warner, you ask, beyond his apparently being very hot (which is totally a legit reason to love a character?)? Well, he's a psychopathic murderer who tells the MC she has to love him, and who attempts to force himself on her, and has no problem shooting people for no reason at all. And yet I've seen a ton of posts and Goodreads reviews ranting on and on about how amazing he is. This is problematic. Call me overreacting, but this is basically glorifying an abusive relationship, too. This seems a little dangerous, especially if you're attracted to that kind of person and start looking for them in real life. (And yes, I am very aware of all character development that goes on from start to finish with Warner in the Shatter Me series. I don't think it excuses him at all.) 



Yes, I am fully aware that this is a rant. I do enjoy a good rant now and then.

Putting my own moral issues with this aside, there's too many of them. Just like the whole dark bad boy vs. blond nice guy love triangle thingy needs to stop (whose idea was that, anyway?) we need more complex guy characters in general, and not just love interests. It seems like there should be more of a balance between introverted personality-less guy and jerk love interest, yeah? I have several brothers, so I've been around enough guys in general to know that they're varied. In short:

Not only is the bad boy love interest a frustrating and usually somewhat abusive thing, he's also so generic there isn't usually a personality attached.

In the same way that we want to give female characters personalities beyond their awesomeness and attractiveness, guy characters and especially guy love interests should be a little more than hot and troubled.

Nice, sweet guys are perfectly acceptable. This is just as cool.

Let's just get rid of the troubled, emotionally abusive and manipulative boyfriend thing entirely. Or, at the very least, let's have the female main character see the problems in this, acknowledge it, and stay the heck away from a relationship with him until he's shaped up. Common sense with this is a good thing, I promise.

Guys have quirks and favorite foods and plays sports and shove around with other guys and can be totally oblivious with girls and have perfectly normal or even *gasp* happy pasts and fairly good relationships with their parents and most of them don't go around knowing exactly what to say to their girlfriend with a dramatic look in their eyes and all that.

And this is perfectly okay.

Rant over.

How do you approach writing male characters? How do you feel about most male love interests, especially in YA? (We'll talk about favorites on Thursday.) Comment away. 

33 comments

  1. Love this. I wrote something sort of similar recently.

    http://whatrachelwrote.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-rise-of-dude-in-distress.html

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  2. AHAHAHAHAHA!
    Yes, I was laughing the whole way through this post.
    Is it bad that I've met a few of those Bad Boys? (Hasn't everyone?)
    There is a certain appeal to them...From a distance.Which is, perhaps, why so many people celebrate them in fiction. The reality of how truly terrible they are doesn't sink in, and so thousands of girls are reacting instead to feelings that they feel so sorry for the bad boy, and they could fix them, and they aren't actually that bad, are they? Etc. ect. ect. Funny, but terrible, yes.
    It must stop.
    Morpheus. He /is/ a psychopath, I believe. And dark. And abusive and...yeah, the romance in that book was terrible and terribly innacurate. (But I loved the writer's world building. Could have been a great story if she ripped out the romance. XD)
    I mostly only write guy characters. I love how many of them are very genuine. The best way to write them is not as the love interest, but as a real, human being (just as you said), one with flaws, but also virtues.
    And if you're gonna write the bad boy (I write a few) don't make him the good guy, 'cause he's not. Also, don't write him like every other bad boy. Write him as his own character, and not the form "Bad Boy Love Interest."
    Then he'll be a whole lot of fun to write and read...
    And be sure you aren't encouraging abuse, that you have, in fact, made it clear to your readers that he is an /antagonist./
    So, yeah, basically all the things you said, Aimee. XD
    Liked the post!

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    1. There IS an appeal to them, and that's what scares me, because I think that can go badly when books start to promote and glorify it. xD And YES, just like with female characters, we need to treat guy characters as complex people too, because that's kinda important.

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  3. SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT. THANK YOU AIMEE! THIS POST IS JUST SPOT ON. *applauds you*

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  4. Ugh. THANK YOU.
    I dislike bad boys.
    A lot.
    *shudders*
    I'm not quite sure what the attraction is about bad boys. (Though maybe it's just my personality. But seriously, being nice is attractive.) They're just not... okay. :p And cliched. I view them as cliched, too.
    And I liked what Karissa said. Bad boys by themselves can be okay as a character (because some people are just bad like that and try to act cool. xD) but not as a love interest. Only fools would fall for them. :p

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    1. I agree with you there, Katie. (and to me, being nice is super attractive lol)

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    2. Yay, I'm not the only one. xD

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    3. Yesss. I've never found that attractive, so I'm glad it's not just me. It's very much a cliche and usually emotionally abusive and noooo. *sighs* xD I don't have a problem with them being there, I guess, because that's fairly realistic. I just don't want it to be glorified.

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  5. I never really thought about exactly how I approach writing male characters. My MC is male (as well as his best friend of course). It never occurred to me to take specific measures when writing them. I just approach them as I approach female characters, I guess: as complex human beings.

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    1. That's the best way to do it! They're just as complex as we are and that's important. *applauds you*

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  6. lol! So true. I got really fed up with the whole YA love triangle thing the other day and the one-dimensional characters it creates.

    I hope I write more complex characters. I like writing guys better than girls and I've been told that I write really good male characters. But yeah, I usually base actions and reactions off things I've seen in real life. I can sometimes be stalkerish with my people watching. :P

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    1. Ughhhh it /does/ create stereotypical characters, and that's one of the many problems.

      Embrace the stalkerish people-watching. It's useful!

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  7. OMG. I am so guilty of this. (Oh well. At least Talisa is more abusive to Junrai than the other way round. Sorta.) I'm trying desperately to make the two boys in my next WIP as golden hearted as possible without making them flawless, which is crazy hard.

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    1. BUT JUNRAI IS FANTASTIC. I did love the way you did that. *awards you with chocolate*

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  8. I think we're always going to agree on Loki, but beyond that, I'd agree. I mean, I hated Warner; I didn't even consider him a love interest. I just thought he was a pathetic villain with no motivation and actually I didn't like that book at all so it isn't fair of me to talk. HOWEVER. On the one hand I can see how a relationship with a convoluted boyfriend makes for a lot more plot twists and such, but I also think we want to have examples of what healthy relationships look like, or at least what normal guys look like. We kind of objectify guys a lot in our writing, too.

    Unfortunately, as I think about what my favorite male characters are, Ignifex immediately pops into my mind and I think he fills many of your requirements. BUT I ADORE HIM ANYWAY. *tries to think of normal guys in books she likes* *nothing comes* Well, I suppose we always have MG to fall back on when we don't want the typical YA romance.

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    1. Yesss. *growls at Shatter Me* I don't mind the character itself; I think I take issue when it seems like the book is trying to glorify an abusive relationship? *shrugs* YA is difficult for me on a lot of levels. xD

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  9. Yes, yes, yes. And I know that's basically what I say every time I comment but YOU ARE TOTALLY ROCKING IT WITH THESE CHARACTER POSTS!!! So, again, YES.

    I'm not familiar with Warner or Morpheus, but Tobias-- oh man. He was such a jerk, and, aside from his jerkiness, had zero personality. So sick of this stereotype.

    Great post!

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    1. *sighs at Tobias*

      Thank you! I'm glad we have such similar opinions on things. :D

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  10. I'm usually not a fan of bad boys. (Except for Loki, but not because he's a bad boy. We have pretty similar personalities and I relate to him a lot, especially in the first Thor movie.) I just tend to like really nice people more. Like Clint Barton? With HIS past, he could be an angsty mess who doesn't take care of himself. But he chose to look past that and have a family and is just a really great, hilarious guy.

    I have brothers too, and yeah, neither of them are really "bad boys." There is so much personality beyond just "nice" or "bad." SO. MUCH. People are so much more complex than that.

    This was great! Thank you! :)

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    1. AMEN TO CLINT. I love love love how he turned out and how he's so complex and a decent person who takes care of his family and friends and gahhhh. So many Clint feels. xD

      Also, PREACH. We're all more than that and it's important to remember.

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  11. Lily Lindsey-AubreyJune 10, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    YES YES YES. I read Divergent recently, and really hated it, for quite a few reasons. One of the main ones was Tobias. I had never heard of Warner from Shatter Me, but how you feel about him is pretty much how I felt about Tobias. He's so manipulative and uncaring. It's not a weakness for a guy to be sweet and kind. It's a strength, because most of them AREN'T. And I agree that these "bad boy" characters are sort of encouraging abusive relationships. No girl should put up with such jerks. Argh, I really need to go rant about Divergent now...

    Anyhow, loved this post. I agree so much, even though yes, I do like Loki- but only as the villain he is. I wouldn't like him if he were portrayed as a hero/romantic interest.

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    1. Well, at least I'm not the only one who hated Divergent. xD I had serious issues with Tris too, but mostly Tobias, because I didn't think any of that was very healthy at all. And I really want more sweet guys and healthy relationships, because that's important.

      I like Loki as a villain, too! He's one of my favorite villains. :D I take issue with the fandom glorifying him, but that's about it.

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  12. I have never heard of Warner. I will stay away.
    The first time I saw that blond-nice-guy and dark-silent-guy love triangle was in the Matched trilogy. Then The Hunger Games. :P It DOES happen way too often.
    Also, abusive relationships ARE NOT cool. I've never read one I'd actually think of that way but if I did, I can't see myself reading much further if only because it would make me thing the FMC was an idiot and I can't stand unintelligent MCs.
    I have to admit to being slightly guilty of creating a dark-haired brooding character, but he's my POV character so it's slightly different. Plus there is no love triangle, and he doesn't act like a jerk. He's just sort of to-the-point and cautious. But I don't really do anything different for creating guy characters than I do for girl characters. They all need the same level of attention to detail.

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    1. Yeah, he's just one of the many issues in that book/series. xD
      Matched kind of killed some brain cells. And is definitely the perfect example of that stereotype. I think it worked a little better and /made sense/ in Hunger Games, but eh.

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    2. Gale was almost a male version of Katniss, just . . .more reckless, I'd guess. I liked the one line towards the end where she said something like "I have enough fire of my own." I thought that was actually a really good portion of the story. And you're right, it did work a little better, especially on the Peeta side. Because he had that sneaky side in addition to the sweetness.

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  13. I've never seen that gif before either but it's the best ever. XD And yeah... jerks. Yuck. Abusive relationships annoy me no end. There are so many of them in real life and people definitely shouldn't be encouraged to get into them.

    (Looking forward to villains, btw!!!)

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    1. *nods* Now, not all of the bad boy YA love interests initiate abusive relationships, but a lot of them do or come close, and that irritates me to no end because I really do think we need more GOOD relationships.

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  14. I agree with you on all of this. I don't think it's a very good idea to glorify abusive relationships, though I suppose the problem lies in that the main characters don't know what an abusive relationship is. xD In addition, variation is nice. Why should dark hair indicate a dark and troubled past, and light hair indicate being a very nice person?

    Also, I got bored of most love triangles around the time that I started reading a series in which the main character liked guy A in book 1, then guy B in book 2, and then the cycle continued.

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    1. Yeah, it's all old and boring by now. xD

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  15. I'm totally not okay with abusive bad boy relationships. It's one reason I don't like Twilight. Edward is so so abusive. I have a bad boy character and he can be mean, but he's never abusive. And he gets better and doesn't weigh a girl down with his crap. I'm really really against emotionally abusive relationships in YA. They're not healthy inside or outside of fiction.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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