« Previous : Whedonverse nominated for the 2010 Portal Awards
     Next : Sci Fi Wire picks the 32 best Firefly quotes »


Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Spike in the Bad Boy Myth

Saturday 26 June 2010, by Webmaster

It was recently repeated and already annoyingly often heard: "Women love Badboys" . It’s not even only men I hear this "law of nature" from even some women have started to use the diction to describe their own preferences. I’m not quite sure how many people get how much it implies that women are stupid and seeking out abuse.

There certainly is such a thing as the allure of evil (for men and women both naturally), but far more than that gets put under the "badboy" (or femme fatale) label.

But there is much more to the literary archetype and than just the "bad" part. My theory would be that there are some fundamental misunderstandings about what women like about the so called badboy (and also what men like about the femme fatalle).

What we call evil is for large parts a social construct and has a lot to do with conforming to norms, often norms that are extremely repressive to parts of the population (say the female part).

Does anyone really seriously love it that Spike is evil? That he likes to murder people for fun? If that’s what makes him so hot for the ladies, why are they not queuing up for Caleb or Adam? And why did Spike’s popularity with women take such a turn up when he started to reform?

I can only really speak for me of course but for me part that makes him and probably the literary archetype popular is that they are nonconformist. They break out of the common roles society has for them, particularly gender roles. The typical bad boy and also the typical bad girl doesn’t get along very well with his/her own gender.

The bad girl is typically oversexed and steals other girls boys and refuses to play their silly games, preferring to hang in a shady bar and smoking cigarettes with the boys, while the typical badboy is not doing all that well with men. He’s not invested in the typical macho gig. He gets along better with the other sex, not because he’s so evil, or so manipulative or such a master flirter, but simply because he’s genuinely more interested in interacting with them than with his own sex. This makes him an outcast and in the typical way in which everything female is often deprecated also "bad".

So what I find attractive is the blurring of strict gender roles, the actual interest in the other gender, not just as something to use but as another human being.

Spike got along with men, but never connected the way he instantly did with Joyce, Dawn or Fred. And that was never because he was such a sweettalker but simply because they shared interests and he enjoyed their company.

Sometimes people, who’s gender identity is deeply rooted in the stereotype seem to feel threatened by a person that is able to cross the line more easily (and in the worst case stealing them wimmins away, why only don’t they stick with the good wholesome stereotype boys?) so they start to give him negative aspects. He’s an outcast already, he won’t make her happy, he’s faking it, he just wants to sleep with her. They project negativity, so they don’t have to question their own identiy. Same thing works the other way round with turning a woman who has a way with men, automatically into a slut. The Badboy is the male equivalent of the slut and similarly the negative depiction doesn’t reflect what people initially found attractive.

Spike lives in rebellion against conconformity,especially among other men, the poetry, the treating machoism as a game, all the emotion. It’s an afront against the male stereotype and that’s the cool bit about him. But in the recent comics it gets turned around, the "badboy" gets reduced to just bad. As if he’s suddenly described by someone who doesn’t get him at all. Worse he gets even turned into what he was cast out from initially, the macho stereotype. Et voila, behold the transformation from Mata Hari to Peg Bundy (in badgirl terms).

Gee, I wonder why the women are suddenly not that into him anymore when he’s depicted like that?