It’s time for another Round Robin, and another thought-provoking topic, especially for romance authors and readers:
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, why do you think “bad” boys are so popular as heroes, and “bad” girls so often reviled? In real life, can those labelled “bad” really change, or are such fictional romances misleading?
This is a great excuse to post one of my favourite scenes ever, from Gone with the Wind
In Gone with the Wind, bad boy meets bad girl, and it’s one of the few romance films / books where a bad girl is the heroine, and everybody still loves her. I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of other romances I’ve read where a bad girl is the heroine, and I can’t think of very many. About Last Night, by Ruthie Knox, is one that I enjoyed, and also Eloping with Emmy, by Liz Fielding. There are lots of “bad girls” in other genres outside of romance these days, though, which is good to see. Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has set a great trend.
As for “bad boys” – well, there are just so many! Heathcliffe, Mr Rochester, the Duke of Avon in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades, Cameron Quinn in Nora Roberts’ Sea Swept, Rupert Campbell Black in Jilly Cooper’s Riders, Christian Grey in E.L. James Fifty Shades…I could go on and on and on…
I don’t know all the answers to the questions above, but these are some of my thoughts.
Why are “bad girls” reviled in books? Because girls are brought up from an early age to be “nice.” Both men and women find a woman who asserts herself threatening. I don’t know why that’s the case, but I feel it is so. Even Margaret Thatcher famously didn’t have any other women in her cabinet.
Can “bad boys” really change, or are fictional romances misleading? Most romance readers are women. When we’re reading, we identify with the heroine and, in the best romances, we really feel that we actually become the heroine as we’re reading. So of course it’s flattering when a powerful person falls in love with the heroine – we identify with her. And it’s also flattering as a reader to feel that you are the person who has changed a “bad boy” and “tamed” him.
People do often change when they fall in love – I do think your partner can have a big influence on you – but I don’t think they ever change completely. Still, I think “misleading” is the wrong word to use to describe this type of romance.
Personally, I think most readers are too savvy to be misled. There’s a place for literature that reflects life for the majority of us – eg Margaret Forster, Monica Ali, Jeanette Winterson, Zadie Smith – and there’s an equal place for romance novels, where everything ends perfectly. I think most of us know the difference.
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What about you? Do you love “bad boy” romance stories? Do you think they give young female readers a dangerous perception of their ability to change their boyfriends? And what about “bad girls” in literature? Why do you think they aren’t as well loved?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!
And I’m curious to know what the others in or Round Robin have to say on this topic, too. Please click on the links below to find out…