As Gossip Girl‘s dapper dark-ling, the infamous Chuck Bass.
Call me weird, but I’ve always been fascinated by the bad boy.
Not in the sense that I–like every other girl on the planet–want to date him. No, I want to be him.
Before you start asking me questions about gender identity, hear me out. I don’t want to be a guy. Sure, I like playing male parts (possible in theater because of my relatively low voice and the idea of “suspending disbelief”). I enjoy being one of the boys. I even intentionally buy/beg/borrow/steal guy’s clothes. But, at the end of the day, I like being female and I’m happy to stay that way.
Wanting to be the bad boy isn’t about wanting to be a boy. It isn’t even about wanting to be bad. Actually, it’s more about his story.
What I liked about the bad boy was that, usually, he starts out as a victim, either of circumstance or of another person. Actually, so does the good guy/girl, but unlike them, the bad boy doesn’t stay trapped in his victim status. He doesn’t use being a ‘goody two shoes’ as an excuse to lie back and take the treatment. Instead, he fights back, he grows up, he proves that what doesn’t kill you indeed makes you stronger. Sure, he can be harsh, abrasive, even dangerous, but at least he’s doing something, instead of looking beautiful and wounded. And, by virtue of doing something, he earns the right to demand respect. When, for example, Chuck Bass answers questions with “I’m Chuck Bass,” it isn’t just because he’s a spoiled princeling on the Upper East Side. It’s because he’s done things, he’s built a reputation, he has a degree of street credibility he’s earned by rising to the challenge, albeit by dubious methods.
From victim to someone who commands respect, the bad boy fights for his position and, eventually, earns it. True, it’s often by being a royal jerk or a holy terror, but at least he manages to turn the tables. To change his situation.
Pegging The Vampire Diaries’ resident King of Snark and Smolder, Damon Salvatore.
But why a bad boy? Why not a bad girl?
While the bad girl often shares the same trajectory from victim to person on top, the way she goes about it is traditionally very different. Often, she is more a sex symbol than anything else–a well-developed bad girl can be hard to find. On the other hand, the bad boy, while also usually a sex symbol, has his cunning emphasized first, and his seductive capacity later. The bad girl usually uses the fact that people want her to get to where she wants to go. People want the bad boy, sure, but it’s not at the top of his modus operandi. He’s free to use any of the other skills at his disposal. It isn’t a prerequisite to be an homme fatal.
Maybe it’s a commentary on our society, or at the very least the messages the media would like to share about it, that to be powerful a woman must be master manipulator of her sexuality, whereas for a man, sexuality is merely an auxiliary aspect. I never really got some so-called “sex-positive” feminists (don’t shoot me, please), to be honest–why push women to objectify themselves as a method of empowerment? Many “bad girls” are largely naughty ones in disguise. They aren’t feared; they’re lusted after.
Lust is a form of “power,” (note the quotes) sure, but it’s one which entails being viewed as an object–something things are done to–instead of someone who could do something.
But probably what draws me to the “dark” side most of all is how the bad boy’s story ends. See, the best bad boys…never stay bad boys. Something changes them. Makes them better. For Chuck Bass, it was his love of Blair Waldorf. For Damon Salvatore, it was…well, the jury’s still out on this one, but I’d like to think it was the whole town of Mystic Falls, and not just Elena Gilbert.
The culmination of the bad boy’s rise to glory is the realization that, at the pinnacle of his powers, reaching the top is essentially empty alone. Being loved is better than being feared, despite what Machiavelli might tell you. And so the bad boy finds love, or is found by it, and is essentially transformed. Only, thank goodness, despite the transformation he never really loses his bad boy edge.
(It’s the spice that makes sweet things addictive, after all.)
At the end of the day, what makes the bad boy so appealing is that he becomes good without becoming the one-dimensional picture of it that the archetypal “good guy/girl” remains. He grows. He progresses. He changes and matures. He can never claim to be “practically perfect in every way,” and we wouldn’t want him to, because to be honest…the journey of the bad boy is, in some senses, our journey, exaggerated only by fiction.
We can admire the bad boy for the sheer shamelessness of his use of power, the coolly ‘evil’ things he sometimes does, but at the end of the day it’s the fact that love finds him and transforms him that we fall for the most.
I’m not stupid enough to justify the actions of the bad boy. There’s a reason, after all, why he is called a bad boy. But, if given a choice, I’d rather taken on his mantle than that of the good guy…simply because his journey is more realistic. We all, ideally, pass from dark into light–or, at the very least, we want to.
After all, in the words of Blair Waldorf–the most ‘bad boy’ bad girl there is–there’s something alluring about a devil redeemed.
Photos by Harriet Alojado.
Styling by Frankie Torres
Chuck Bass look:
Blue Republic men’s dress shirt
Inno Sotto Couture blazer
CPC corporate giveaway striped necktie (used as bowtie)
Zara Basic skinny trousers
Via Venetto leather driving shoes
Damon Salvatore look:
Topman black v-neck shirt
Marisa skinny jeans
Crown Vintage boots
Ba Tik Shoppe faux-YSL ring and metal cuff
Peacock feather earring from a street vendor in Brazil.