Battle of the Bad Boys
(Friday Fight Day)
If you’re anything like me, then you just can’t resist a ‘bad boy’ (in the book world, not real life). There’s something so frustratingly irresistible about that leather jacket and half-smirk. Young Adult authors must know this, because in no other book genre are bad boys so rampant than YA. But…why? Well, let’s look at the technical definition of a bad boy from the Oxford Dictionary.
Bad Boy: A man who does not conform to approved standards of behavior.
Well, that alone is enough to make a person in literature desirable. After all, YA books are often about finding personal identity, and pressing back against societal norms. Bad boys do exactly this, although not always in the right way. Still, that spark of rebellion manages to ignite out James Dean fantasies…even more so because bad boys in books aren’t like bad boys in real life. When a guy is a jerk to you in real life, it means he’s a jerk and you should probably stay away. But a bad boy in a YA book looks at you with smoldering eyes, trying to hide just how much he loves you and wants to be loved in return. In the YA world, you *can* change him. It’s a fantasy that exists in reality, but only really applicable in fiction.
But today’s post is not to discuss the various pitfalls and merits of the bad boy archetype. No. It’s to pit the two types of bad boys against each other, compare each, and ultimately decide which one is the Smolder King. Now, you might be thinking, what types of bad boys am I talking about? Isn’t a bad boy a bad boy a bad boy? NO. Not to me, in any case. To me, there are two very distinct types of bad boys seen in novels, set apart from each other mainly through their coping mechanisms.
Enter the ring, Bad Boy 1: The Cold Brooder
Ah, yes. The Cold Brooder. This bad boy is embodied by figures such as Stefan from The Vampire Diaries, Edward from Twilight, and (to give a non-vampire example) John from Meg Cabot’s Abandon. This dude has seen a lot in his time, and as a result has become extremely guarded. Like, brick-wall-around-the-heart guarded. He usually seeks to protect the main character from himself by acting cold and aloof, but once he falls in love, his love is irrevocable. He will do anything to protect his love (and may be overprotective), although he’s over hurting other people for kicks. He has a past, yes, but he wants it to stay in the past. The Cold Brooder is silent, stoic, and serious.
Enter the ring, Bad Boy 2: The Smirker
I was going to name Bad Boy 2 the Joker, but I thought that sounded too Batman-ish. So The Smirker it is. This bad boy is the opposite of the Cold Brooder. Although he, too, has a scarred past, he deals with it in a totally different way. Instead of sorrow and repentance, he brushes everything away like it means nothing to him, in the hopes that one day, it will. Stealing twice from The Vampire Diaries, we see Damon as a Smirker, as well as Jace from The Mortal Instrument series, and Stanton from The Daughters of the Moon series. These types are slightly irresistible because they are naturally charismatic, have a sense of humor, and seem to be just waiting for someone to change their rough-edged/evil ways. They aren’t as morally focused as the Cold Brooder, but with the right leading lady, that can change.
Pros of the Cold Brooder:
- He may be a ‘bad boy’ but he’s not evil…anymore, at least.
Cons of the Cold Brooder:
- Takes effort to get him to open up.
- Sometimes too protective (I’m looking at you Edward).
- That moral compass can be exhausting.
- You don’t always want to talk about the meaning of life and love. Come on, lighten up a little!
Pros of the Smirker:
- Sense of humor
- Is more than often described with smoldering eyes and that adorable smile.
- He is sarcastic and alluring on the outside, but on the inside he just wants a little love.
Cons of the Smirker:
- Takes sarcasm to the point of being an ass.
- Less willing to reform than the Cold Brooder. The Smirker might not want to let you in.
- Often starts out evil or with no moral idea of right and wrong. Change is a gradual thing.
- It’s very possible he will drive you crazy before your happy ending.
While obviously each trope has their own faults, I’d have to say that my ideal bad boy would have to be the…drum roll, please…Smirker. I can never resist a laugh, after all, even if the chuckles come with some dangerous additions. The Cold Brooder can go woo some other girl with endless talks of love and life. Damon, on the other hand, is free to come calling anytime he likes.
What about you? Do you prefer the Smirker or the Bad Boy, and why? Comment below!
For a brief list of some very different bad boys to check out, refer below:
The Cold Brooder: Stefan from the Vampire Diaries, John from Abandon, Delos from The Night World series, Edward from Twilight, Will from The Infernal Devices, Dmitri from The Vampire Academy series.
The Smirker: Damon from The Vampire Diaries, Eric from the Sookie Stackhouse series, Jace from The Mortal Instrument Series, Stanton from Daughters of the Moon, Ash from The Night World series, Patch Cipriano from Hush Hush.