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So, a question

Writing this NNWM thing has got me digging down deep for answers these days, and being the lazy person that I truly am, I thought I'd come here and see if any of you want to help me out.

The topic at hand: what makes you (as a reader/viewer) love a character who is seemingly unlovable? Many of you are Spikeaholics, but I think applies to Angelaholics, too. Perhaps even especially for those of you who are particular Angelus fans. Draco fans are welcome to chime in, btw, and I'm thinking Methos might just be the quintessential 'type' I'm trying to get at... If I'm reading things right, Brian from QaF might just fit the type, as well.

So...tell me what it is about *your* favorite bad boy that makes him an appealing character in spite of his evil nature...


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:18 pm (UTC)
I adore Angelus. I can deal with Angel, but Angelus is a bad, bad boy. Ipso facto, I adore him. His evilness is what makes him appealing to me--so it's not an "in spite of" for me. His particular glee at his evil ideas, his alpha pride at the horrors he's wrought on untold thousands of people, his sheer unadulterated enjoyment of what he is--all these things are what I respond to.
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:56 pm (UTC)
Oh interesting! I should have realized that Angelus isn't the model for an ambiguous anti-hero, but for the perfect villain... To 'turn' him in any way would ruin it, wouldn't it?
Nov. 2nd, 2003 02:46 pm (UTC)
::nodding:: It would certainly ruin him for *me,* anyway.
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:23 pm (UTC)
Good questions!

Okay, one thing that makes me love an "evil" character is a smart-ass sense of humor. This is the main thing that makes me like Angelus, as well as the villain in the first Die Hard movie.

Another thing is strong, selfless emotion. Emotion that is truly about caring for someone else. That was what first appealed to me about Spike (well, he also had the smart-ass thing going for him, too), when he was shown to love Drusilla so deeply. This was also what led me to have a great amount of sympathy for Sloane, an "evil" character in the first season of "Alias". He clearly cared deeply for a number of people, including the main character of the series, a Frenchman named Bariault(sp?), also his wife Emily. Those relationships humanized him for me, made me see that there was a real person there, even if some of his goals and actions seemed reprehensible.

That's all I can think of right now. Hope it helps. :)
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:54 pm (UTC)
Yes ma'am, it does help. Also gives me a few more characters to think about in this vein. It's interesting how sense of humor seems to be a running thread in replies so far, too.
Nov. 2nd, 2003 05:39 pm (UTC)
Another thing is strong, selfless emotion

Strong emotion was the first thing I thought of too - that, and a committed attachment to somebody or something that we, the audience, also care for. I love the Sloane example. Courtesy of his love for Emily (a very sympathetic character), he was suddenly all conflicted and tortured, and conflicted characters are deeply interesting in a way that "I want to blow up the world with my mega-canon and screw every other person" bad guys simply aren't.

Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:41 am (UTC)
*g* This thing is shaping up nicely, thanks to you guys. These generic prompts are building all sorts of scenes in my head. Muchos gracias!
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:39 pm (UTC)
In your list, I'd say Methos isn't evil -- he's a pragmatist, more amoral than evil, and in spite of himself he cares for others.

That's what I tend to find sympathetic in bad boys: amorality, a flexible code of behaviour which nevertheless is still recognizable as codified, and the ability (however limited) to connect to at least one other person.

But then I'm the person who had a personal crisis at the end of the film Bridget Jones's Diary, because I not only am old enough to know better but I also know better, and I still loved Hugh Grant's wicked Daniel Cleaver best of all. Maybe I'm the wrong person to ask. :-)
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:53 pm (UTC)
I think you may have nailed it with the amorality. It's that connection that is their weakest link that a writer can exploit to cause 'change', but as Winsome's reply demonstrates, if the beauty in the character *is* the evil, then it simply can't work for the character to 'turn' in any way.
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:47 pm (UTC)
If a character displays a carefully hidden need to connect - even though he fights that need, because he thinks it's a weakness, then I feel drawn to the character.
Pride warring with need. Common sense warring with stupid passion. Running into desaster for all the right reasons but with blinkers the size of texas.
Pride that is clearly a shield.
Hope that helps.
Nov. 2nd, 2003 01:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, *definitely*. Thanks, Steffi!
Nov. 2nd, 2003 02:55 pm (UTC)
It's knowing where you stand. There are no surprises with Angelus. He's not going to sneak around and pretend to like you then slit your throat. He's just going to slit your fucking throat and then drink a brandy. It's that straight on element of danger that's impossible to resist. Because you can't help thinking....well, yea, but....maybe he wouldn't kill ME. Which is just stupid, because of course he would. But who said lust was rational?

Angel though is the flipside. You know why I like him. He's a big ol sonofabitch who wants to be good, but usually can't hack much more than being a martyr and protecting the people he chooses to love like a rabid dog. Hard to love? Yes. And impossible not to.

Does that help at all? LOL
Nov. 2nd, 2003 02:59 pm (UTC)
It is *all* helpful. My freaking outline has been tossed three sheets to the wind and I'm scrambling to rearrange things based on the characters that are emerging and the storyline that's filling itself out. The biggest danger I see in the story as it's forming up is that the male protagonist will be utterly unsympathetic or else the story will be utterly predictable. Getting a handle on these nuances is the only shot I've got at preventing both things from happening...
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 2nd, 2003 04:45 pm (UTC)
You guys are really, really helping with this. I'm clearly on the right track with the anti-hero, and I'm getting a better handle on the villain(ess), to boot.

Thank you!
Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:42 am (UTC)
Tragic flaw, eh? Nods. It's all fitting together nicely. And I even saw where there is a line of books looking for novels that are mostly fantasy, with a strong romance subplot ;-)
Nov. 2nd, 2003 08:21 pm (UTC)
Confidence is sexy.

Even if we're not physically attracted to the character, that confidence often exudes a charisma. S2 Spike, Angelus, and especially Brian Kinney all have it.

Along that same vein, unrepentant in sexy to me and all of those three shine in that category too. But by and by, Brian over does it for me more often than not. His confidence steps over the line into an arrogance that screams asshole. And it's not that Spike and Angel don't do that, but with them there's a real physical threat to back up that arrogant stance. In Brian's case, it's a psyche manipulation thing - he's a marketing genius and never stops being that - he markets himself constantly, to everyone.

The times I find myself feeling the Brian love is when he's with Michael and he does let some of those human needs squeak to the surface - the characteristics estephia was point out.

As for anti-heroes - they have to show me that they can care about something beyond themselves, if reluctantly. Mal on Firefly, HanSolo, just about everyone on Farscape, Glen Cook's heros Garret or Croaker in the Black Company.
Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:43 am (UTC)
Confidence is the hardest one for me to figure right now. Just where *is* the line between appealing strength and insufferable arrogance? And how does one tell a story that shows where this *comes from* in the character. Oooooooh, this is going to be such fun!
Nov. 2nd, 2003 08:23 pm (UTC)
For Spike: God the glee, the unabashed glee in evil and mayhem. This lust for life thing that you see in him in the early seasons. That mixed with something underneath, the reason he's careening on this massive path of chaos. For Spike it's the self loathing, the need to be SOMEONE damnit. But it's the joy in being a bastard and then the things underneath that motivate one to be a bastard and how that effects them blahblah. Spike is like the asshole rockstar (SID! meep) persona gone crazy.

Draco: Not a big Draco fan but I do think when I write him I do a good job of sticking close to canon. Rich powerful obsessive petty vindictive. You never know where he stands really other than he's an evil little bastard. I'd say the same thing about Darla (who I also love) she is styleish evil.
Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:44 am (UTC)
I like the specifics you've included here. There's meat I can hang my hat on!
Nov. 2nd, 2003 08:23 pm (UTC)
Hmm. My favourite Whedonverse bad, bad man is actually Lindsey.

So why is that?

Well one part of it is that he's not apologetic. The one thing Lindsey has never ever done is apologize and mean it (yeah, a few diplomatic 'I'm sorries' to Holland at one point). He *knows* he should. He maybe even feels sorry, but he won't ever say it. Not even to the guy who's hand he's wearing.

I find him enormously sympathetic because I can get exactly where his me first amorality comes from. From his perspective morals are a luxury of the middle class. I can see where and how things might have gone differently for him. Not the same as excusing the behaviour, but understanding it in a context.

I also find stubborness can be very charming - the conviction that the way he does things is the only possible/reasonable way so that considerations of right and wrong are irrelevant. The determination to get back up and charge back in fighting for his piece of the pie even though he kind of knows he's going to get beaten back down again sooner or later. A bad dude who actually won all the time would not be nearly as appealing.

And obviously the prettiness factor is crucial.
Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:45 am (UTC)
/hides in shame -- I haven't seen quite a few of the best Lindsey episodes. I need to buy the S2 DVDs, I do believe. Your list has some nice additions to the pile, too, especially the "never give up" thing.
Nov. 3rd, 2003 12:15 am (UTC)
favorite bad boys
at risk of this post going all 'true confessions' on me, i will try to tell you why i tend to favor the 'bad' guy on my favorite programs.
1. in all of my favorite programs, the 'bad' guy has been presented as someone who is, at least a little bit, likeable. ie: Spike. the snark, the vulnerability.
2. personally, and this is the horrifying, true confessiony part, i find that the 'bad' guys on my programs have qualities that i wish i had. maybe not the evil bloodlust, somuch, as the confidence, the snark, the strength, the way with women (for the most, confidence), wit, wisdom, and, i feel compelled to add, usually, stunning fashion sense. qualities i wish, at least in part, to emulate. i feel that really, EVERYONE looks better in leather! (got a long black leather trench coat for this very reason!)
3. i suspect a fundamental human urge to 'root for the underdog', as it were, combined with an interest in darkness. probably the same urges that make someone slow down to watch a car wreck scene, and at the same time think "gosh, i hope everybody is okay!"
4. in the long run, don't our 'bad' guys just get the better stories?
and, better clothes?
Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:47 am (UTC)
Re: favorite bad boys

Well, in this case, I'm *writing* the story so I do intend him (he needs a better name than the one I've stuck him with so far) to have a better storyline than the villain(ess). Vulnerability is a common theme from pretty much everyone, and I think maybe that translates to the underdog scenario?? I'm thinking I'm going to have to rely on the emotional connection to drive sympathy from readers more than the physical appearance one, though. At least, I've never really been 'turned on' by a description of a character's physical appearance in a book. TV/Movies, sure, but not in print only medium, you know?

Thanks for a great list (and the Mole Family!)
Nov. 3rd, 2003 03:24 am (UTC)

So...tell me what it is about *your* favorite bad boy that makes him an appealing character in spite of his evil nature...

Uh..."in spite of"? ::chuckle::

Funny thing is, I've got a type. Cocksure, intellligent, charming, sexy, all-cool-attitude and casual cruelty. Not in real life, mind ::glances at sweet hubby::, but in fantasy. Don't like the 'bad boys' when they're stupid, or brutish or a certain kind of arrogant (think: Achilles). I like the clever sureness of the fox, not the know-it-all "chicks dig me" vibe.

That so totally did not answer your question, did it?

Nov. 3rd, 2003 07:49 am (UTC)
That so totally did not answer your question, did it?

Well, yeah, sorta. You give me some good negative examples (brutish, knowitall, stupid, overweening arrogance). And you tell me this: sexual appeal will sway you to the dark side ;-) I wonder if the Luna line will look at books with a heavy dose of sexual tension?
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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