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September 26, 2006

Bad Boys vs. Decent Fellows

By Sarah

Being a professional writer provides lots of excuses for unconventional behavior, like checking out men almost twenty years younger. Not that I'm a perv or anything. Just that, had I been more active in high school, I might be old enough to be John Krasinski's mother. And, trust me, John's a hunk. A new kind of hunk for a new kind of woman. Too bad I'm forty three, is all I have to say.

(Listen, I could have written about the horrifying advent of skinny jeans that, like shoulder pads and Dorothy Hamel hair, will be the subject of ridicule in a decade. Just be glad I'm sticking to hunks, who are, oh yes, always in style.)

John plays the leading romantic hero, for lack of a better word, on The Office, my new most Krasinski favorite show. His character, Jim, is an under-challenged paper salesman in Scranton (God bless these writers) who works in a horrible office in an even more horrible Scranton office park. The writing is superb. The humor top notch and the show won an Emmy.

To me, what's most surprising about The Office is the popularity of its star-crossed lovers - Jim and Pam, the frustrated receptionist. There's also Roy, Pam's boyfriend who works in the warehouse, and a twist - a twist that all of us who write romance should sit up and take notice.

There is no bad boy. There is no Rhett to tempt Scarlett from Ashley. (And let me just say this Rhett about Ashley - blech). There is no Ranger to wrest Stephanie from Morelli. (I stopped reading at Four to Score, so tell me if I'm off base here.) No Paris to threaten Romeo and his Juliet.

Instead there's Roy, a poor schlub with a DUI in his background who's trying to win back Pam, and Jim, a somewhat spineless (no letters, please) guy who's really nice and sometimes fun. This resonates with me. I know guys like this. I dated guys like this. Jim is real and that's what makes the writing on this show compelling. I swear, I have a crush. I love decent fellows.

Personally, I've never been attracted to bad boys. Not ever. A guy on a motorcycle who just ripped off a convenience store and was bent on breaking the land speed record down Highway 66 was a guy IMarlon  hoped didn't have my home number. Men who throw fists, who keep cigarettes behind their ears and are misunderstood, need to grow up. Give me a guy who takes out the trash any day.

I don't mean a tight ass. I mean, a man who can crack a smart joke and shrug off the boss but who never shows up late for work. A guy who keeps his focus on the larger picture, who refrains from chewing out the waitress, a man who pays his bills, doesn't overspend, and who appreciates a fine woman because she, too, is decent. (Also, being really tall with a great smile doesn't hurt either.)

Here's my theory why this new generation of women is attracted to Jim the paper salesman and, I suspect, other characters like him. (Aside from the indisputable fact that John's cute.) Young women don't need a bad boy to feel alive. They're being bad themselves (Girls Gone Wild) and the guys they know are bad, too (Boys Gone Wild). Enough already with the bad. What's attractive is what they don't have- a man like Jim. They crave restraint, politeness, decorum, love (not lust), and most of all, decency. Plus, a bit of subtle subversion.

And let me add something, too. Part of the fun for women who love decent men is discovering that underneath that upstanding exterior is a hot hunk with slow hands and other neat stuff that can make the world spin on its axis.

I should know because that's the guy I married -  Oooolala. Charlie_hunk_001_1



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Aaahhh - but therein lies the attraction of the Bad Boy. One does not marry the Bad Boy - that would be emotional suicide. One lusts after and fantasizes about the Bad Boy while secure in a real relationship with the Good Man.

By the by - it's Finn McVet, the Decent Fellow v. Derek McDreamy, the bad boy (lower case because really, he's a doc - no motorcycle, no questionable criminal record) on Grey's Anatomy. And Jack the Decent Fellow v. Sawyer the Bad Boy on Lost.

I'm betting on the Bads.

Yeah, see, I think the bad boy works in fiction. In fact, I think it's hard to write a viable, high stakes, high tension romance without him. I must admit I draw the line at the (to me) somewhat dated Alpha Male who borderlines on major mental disability. I never liked Mr. Rochester and thought Jane was better off anywhere but with him.

Ranger, though? Oh, baby, he's working for me.

In real life, however, I've got the tall guy who pays his bills on time and has a nice smile. Occasionally he forgets the trash, though, which maybe is enough bad boy to keep things interesting.

For anyone who hasn't done it already, click on the little photo at the bottom of Sarah's blog. Oooh, the abs!!!!!

Amen, Sarah! My favoritest TV guys and novel guys are the decent ones, the ones who are genuinely good people Trying To Do The Right Thing. Think Aaron Sorkin's leading men; think John Crichton (Ben Browder) on Farscape; think Adama and Apollo and Captain Sheridan and, heck, even J'kar (can you tell what kind of TV I watch??). Of course, the guys who play them aren't bad to look at, either :)

Maybe it's my age, or maybe its my own experience, but Bad Boys fail to entice me in any way, shape, or form. I just want to smack 'em upside the head with a 2-by-4 and tell them to get real and get a life. And honestly, I start having real problems with female characters who can't figure out that they're nothing but trouble.

Now, having said that . . . I make a BIG exception for the Formerly Bad Boy Trying To Make Good. That can add some lovely spice to things . . .

And, Sarah -- congratulations :)

Aaaack! That should be " . . . it's my own experience . . ."

I hate it when I do that.

What a sweet posting.

This is the Jimmy Lee vs. Grant issue. My friends and I still think that Celia should have picked Jimmy Lee, who was, after all, a Quartermaine.

Josh - she picked him all right. She just didn't keep him, if you know what I mean.

Cannot believe you pulled Jimmy Lee and Celia out of the vault. But since we're on the subject, what was with Grant's hairline? Talk about a short forehead.

And let's not forget Laura's Luke v. Scott decision. That's about the last time I actually watched the show.

oo-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-LA, Sarah!
I was with you all the way, till I saw that photo of Brando. Oh, dear. Even dead, that guy makes me weak in the knees (until I remember that he didn't age very gracefully.) Comes from having played Stella Kowalski back in college, probably . . . .

But Josh, if you remember, Grant turned out to be the baddest of them all...he'd stuffed the real Grant in a mental hospital in the UK and was sending secrets to The Enemy (wow...this was sooooo long ago). So what about the wolf in sheep's clothing? Anyone?
I have to admit to a fondness for good guys, but good guys with attitude. Anthony LaPaglia, Mark Harmon, Chris Noth, Bogie to name a few. Too nice is boring...too bad is worthy of Kerry's 2x4.

Okay, I'll own up to Brando being pretty hot. Granted, the later wasted years kind of shaded my perspective.
Josh, as you know, I am a diehard GH fan. But brain cells are missing. Jimmy Lee and Celia? WTF? Who are these people?
Kathy, you are so hot to trot that I'm afraid decent men would vaporize under your touch. (Not that your own Mr. Decent has been turned to steam. Just that I think he's been coated - Teflon, maybe.)
Also, may I apologize right now for my profligate use of commas. They divide my brain and thoughts as I write but then I leave them in, like basting thread. I'll remove them when I have the chance.
And, please, no more compliments about Charlie. We don't want to encourage him.

Ooops...should have mentioned their characters, although I'm sure the actors are/were all good guys w/ attitude as well :o)
And Sarah, this was in the Dukes of Hazzard era of GH, when every show had to have at least one motorcycle riding illegitimate son (yes, Jimmy Lee pre-dates Jason Morgan). I think he was Edward's offspring. I quit watching GH when it became Mob Central and they sent Laura to the looney bin. :o(

Okay, I don't watch much TV so I'm clueless about Jim and Roy (though I do know Luke started out as a rapist.) I can, however, say it this: Brando was cute and Charlie still is.

The mob central story line sucks. They need to get off it. It's so Milquetoast, too. (Just because the apartment has poor lighting doesn't make Sonny sinister). Also, he's turning into a dull Tony Soprano....Oh, don't get me started. Josh hears me gripe about it constantly.
However, Laura's coming back for sweeps! :)

In order to preserve my hot Brando memories, I have determined that the blimp-like, caftan-wearing, dwarf in the sidecar toting, Dr. Moreau character Brando was an imposter.

Laura's coming back? Can the Cassadines be far behind?

And speaking of bad v. decent, does anyone else remember Anne Heche's first role as the Love twins - Marly and Victoria - on Another World?

Is Demi also going to reappear on GH? (Couldn't act then, can't act...nevermind!)
My favorite good guy with some bad boy traits has always been Thomas Magnum of "Magnum, P.I." Loved the shorts. I would probably still be drooling but Tom Selleck's politics scare me too much these days!

Too bad Blackie's got a gig on E.R. now, or maybe he'd be back too. I think Frisco is on B&B. Saw it on the cover of a soap magazine at the store.

Beachfla - no problem - Magnum is not Selleck. Magnum is ageless in those shorts, and can have whatever views you want. Or, you could just have him drive that cool car and keep quiet.

The Bad Boys in search of redemption are the reason I love Vampire/Werewolf books.

Kimmie - That's really interesting. Bad boys in search of redemption.....Wow. From St. Paul to Buffy's Angel. I'm keeping that filed away.

Kathy - Question: "Dwarf in the side-car toting?"

I never got (and still don't) Brando - even in his heyday.

I always went for the "nice guys", in fact, I married one. It's the smartest thing I've ever done!

I still am ga-ga for Duncan Macleod, the Highlander - although I do like Methos, the ultimate pragmatist. (MacLeod is the quintessential Boy Scout.)

Brando did a remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau, and all the photos showed Brando in this muumuu, with a Little Person tagging along beside him.

Totally creeped me out, which is why I had no choice other than to determine that the real Brando was in hiding.

Great post!

Nancy - don't start the "babe v cupcake" fight here. Your yahoo loop was bad enough!

Sarah - YUCK on Ashley (GWTW); NEVER saw the attraction, but later in the life as I watched the movie through more adult eyes, he did lead Scarlet on.

And Magnum PI - just "YUM". Enough said.

Bad boys - How many times have we heard...We (women) are attracted to them because they bring out the nuturer in us...we want to "help them". BLAH What we want is to make them "conform" to society's standards, and how boring would that be?
Having said that - you have the "fling" with the bad boy. You NEVER NEVER NEVER marry the bad boy, at least in his bad boy state. But, boy - can they be fun! Just MHO

Sarah - Shhh great pic; great abds

Just give me tall, smart, good taste in music (I know that is subjective) and slightly goofy. The hunks dujour have never done it for me. Tim Robbins (especially in Shawshank Redemption) and John Cusack, now we're talking.

I feel the need to argue with Nancy and defend Mr. Rochester here. He did get duped into marrying a lunatic and he tried to do right (somewhat) by his (maybe) love child. So, he was just trying to grab a little moment of happiness with the bigamy thing. Don't we all deserve that, even the fictional we's?

Heathcliff, however: total jerk.

Great post, Sarah. I basically agree with what you said, but I need a little edge in a guy, especially a fictional guy. That doesn't mean walk-all-over-you, it doesn't mean you're bailing him out of jail, but there should be some sense that he'll break a rule or two now and then, or else things get too predictable IMHO. This is why cops make good heroes. They're law-abiding family men but still rough around the edges.

Okay, I'm standing first in line for the bad boy in search of redemption. (Uh, Mick, anyone??) But Mr. Rochester was a jerk to everyone. (You must always be polite to the help, I don't care who you are.) And Heathcliff just needed to get a job, for pete's sake. Quit with the running all over the moors in broad daylight. I'm with Michele---the family man who's rough around the edges.

John Cusack.......Okay, I think I'm going to lie down for a little while.

Let me just note that I did write: Plus, a bit of subtle subversion.

Some women like rough. I like subversive. Maybe Che Guevera is the man for me....

As for Rochester, nope. I didn't see it, either, and personally, my take on the Bronte women is that they were too isolated and their childhood too messed up to know what a real man was. Except maybe for their brother. He probably knew what you wanted in a man.

Meanwhile, I honestly believe Jane Austen would have died on the spot if she ever saw a real live penis.

His bed was set on fire! With him in it! Don't you think you'd be a little grumpy? But I'm with you on the moors thing. I read about the mist and the rain, and I'm not thinking oh, how romantic, I'm thinking ouch, sinus headache.

While we're on the topic of romantic choices, and since the reader always knows better than the author, I'd like to say this, publicly:

Hermoine, honey, dump that clueless idiot Ron and MARRY VICTOR KRUM. (When you're old enough, of course, and provided you both survive the coming Armageddon.) Victor might be a fright to look at, but he's rich, he's famous, he's brave, he has a cute foreign accent ("Hermoninny") and he stalked you in the LIBRARY. How much more does a girl need?

There, now. I've been wanting to do that since book 4. Thank you all for indulging me.

Yay! Let's hear it for the nice guys! I've never seen the appeal of the bad boy. I've always been a sucker for the boy next door. It's a huge turn-on for me if I discover a man was an Eagle Scout. I may have been the one teenage girl in the history of America who never had a huge crush on any rock star.

As a result of my nice guy fetish, I usually found myself falling for the "best friend" character in books, the one who didn't get the girl. I'm enjoying The Office largely because Jim is exactly the kind of guy I'd have an office crush on.

Is this a generational thing? I'm about to hit a birthday that puts me way over thirty-something and its Bad Boys that do it for me in fiction. As Michele said he doesn't have to be an outlaw, but I like a fictional man who is a little rough around the edges.

I agree with Kathy - you marry the "Good Boy" and lust after the "Bad Boy".

As for those fictional men... Nancy I'm almost caught up and I must say, Mick - oh yeah! Ranger and Joe Pike move over there's a new man in the picture.


Hmm, interesting. A generational thing. I don't know everyone's age so I can't tell. But I'm thinking calendar. Nice Boys vs. The Bad Boys. Yes...

And yes, Nancy's Mick is definitely hotttt!

When you say "calendar," do you mean, like, monthly calendar? Or do you mean that, say, Geminis are more likely to like the Viggo Mortensen character in The Perfect Murder more than Libras are?

I'm talking nearly nekkid Nice Guys vs. more nekkid Bad Boys, Josh.

I'm with Ramona on Victor Krum. He's a hell of a lot more likely to be an asset in the coming battle, too.

Calendar sounds good to me - Do you think you could make that a daily calendar Sarah?

Honey, do you know that many men - 365 who are good and bad? If so...call me.

I vote for Victor Krum, too. Ron's nice, but, you know, he's his father's son.

Sadly, I don't "know" any that we would want to see nekkid on a calendar.

Hey, I happen to think Ron Weasley is the prize of all the Harry Potter guys, and Hermione should stick with him. If I were in Hermione's shoes (and I basically was Hermione as a kid, hair and all), he'd have been the one I crushed on and waited for the day when he'd finally wake up and realize I was a girl.

Of course, in real life, it wasn't until the ten-year class reunion before my "Ron" seemed to even notice I was a girl, and he was engaged to someone else by then. But in fiction, it's nice to imagine the Jims and Rons of the world noticing the Pams and Hermiones.

Awww, Shanna, that's very sweet. Though I can't see Ron and Hermione twenty years down the road. They'd be married, sure, but Hermione would be doing all the work while Ron would just be inventing things....

Then again, with Victor it will be divorce and not a pretty divorce at that.

Of course, it's all moot 'cause of the battle, like Michele says.

Wow - I wish I could get on here more during the day - what a great discussion.

I'm one who's always fallen for the good boys myself. Tom Selleck was the one who graced my bedroom wall in high school - you can have Mick Jagger (blech). Also, I cursed out Milo what's-his-name in both Gilmore Girls and American Dreams for being the bad boy to those nice girls.

And I think Ron's adorable. And what a fun family for Hermione!

I do tend to enjoy reading about the bad boys, but there's no way I'd ever be able to deal on a day-to-day basis. Too high maintenance.


All you Hermione/Ron/Viktor opinion people, I wish I could slip you into my pockets. I run a lunchtime book club at my sons' high school, and they've been begging for a special meeting, just to discuss the various Harry Potter love triangles. I keep putting them off because...well...some of the combos scare me.

Oh, and about the calendar, how about a weekly? Surely we can come up with 52 worthy fellows.

Keith Richards. Call me crazy, but he would make my list of 52.

This is the line I've heard all of my 43 years;

"I like you as a friend..."

Then, of course, the woman who just broke my heart would go off with the bad boy.

In hindsight, I am glad everyone of those relationships never worked out. Perhaps they were the bad girls that drew this moth to the flame???

Ok I'll say it Nancy...Crazy! I heard somewhere that Keith Richards hasn't paid for a haircut in 30 years, he prefers to snip himself. Ug, between the cigarettes, the booze and the hair I'd rather be alone.

I married a good guy and other than forgetting my birthday occasionally, he remembers the trash and all the other important stuff.

BTW Nancy, I would take your Mick any day of the week/month/year.

I don't know any of those TV characters. I prefer my fiction on the page rather than on a screen.

The boy next door never did it for me. A nice guy rough around the edges? I'm there. Bad boy looking for redemption? I need to sit down.

Married one of those. Does he take out the trash? Hardly ever. Does his smile make me weak in the knees? Every time, even after sixteen years.

Sarah, I married one of those you're talking about. I'll even loan him to you for your calendar ... if we can do a semi-nekkid shot.

I'm not sharing *all* of him, you know.

Ah, yes, the smile.....that's it, right?

Maybe I don't really know what a bad boy is, but neither Mick nor Ranger (nor Joe Pike)are bad boys in my mind. They are unconventional (read: NOT boring), but they are strong, good men who do what they believe is right, regardless. They may march to their own drummer, but they aren't mean, and not even what I would consider to be rough around the edges. They are, however, very, very hot.

To my mind, a bad boy is one who is good-looking, has charisma, but who isn't very nice, particularly to women. Mick Jagger has been mentioned.

Hmmmm. . . I'm not so sure that you don't marry the bad boys. My hubby is a bad boy and it was what attracted me in the first place. However, I do think that he is a reformed bad boy now. As for Ranger and Joe Pike, I'm with you Lula, not really bad boys to me. Men with an edge that makes them even more attractive in the long run.


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