Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why Do We Root for the Good Guy While Secretly Wanting the Bad Boy?

"I like bad boys."

I wasn't surprised to hear Christina Aguilera's true confession when I interviewed her for Teen People more than 10 years ago. After all, who doesn't?

For me, bad-boy love goes beyond the hackneyed: the need, usually assigned to women, to fix people. Personally, I'm a terrible repairman, and I hate fixer-uppers. I'd never spend my hard-earned money on one. If I ever buy another apartment, or my first house, I want to be able to close the deal on Friday, move in by noon on Saturday, and have it transformed into a fully-functioning home by sundown.

I'm equally impatient with men. My brother once asked me why I always date down. If I do, it's less out of a need to make someone over or a burning desire to attach myself to someone who looks like he might cut me (up to now, I've mostly admired that type from afar, or for one night only) than the result of always having had limited options. I can't recall ever being courted by anyone who looked good on paper, but if I were, I'd be fully prepared to work for him -- nothing too strenuous, just enough brisk activity to get the heart pumping again. Like every other over-achiever on the planet, I appreciate a challenge. Easy come, easy go, right?

That said, I wouldn't use that as an excuse to let loose the puppy-dog guy, the one who chases me incessantly, practically drooling over my every word. If it's the right dog, then that sort of obsequiousness would be a benefit (though possibly inspiring doubtful thoughts along the lines of "Too good to be true?"), not a hindrance. As Toni Braxton once sang, I hate love. More than that, I hate the game of love (the one that Michelle Branch, Brownstone and countless others have sung about). Yes, a little resistance isn't such a bad thing. It makes for more interesting conversation. But if the guy who is making himself too available is The One, if he holds my attention as well as my gaze, then why engage in the formalities of playing it cool?

If you want my love, feel free to love me first. If you're a tattooed, tequila-shooting, beer-chasing, long-haired, motorcycle-riding bad boy zooming out of the starting gate acting like Prince Charming, I might even fall for you by the end of the first lap. That's not because of any perceived built-in challenge: I don't think "bad boy" equals "needs fixing" any more than I think "needs fixing" equals "bad boy." One ("needs fixing") equals trouble, and the other ("bad boy") equals danger, which equals sexy. I'd take a sexy bad boy with an open heart of gold and no repairs needed (no criminal tendencies, no crippling debt, no addictions) over a great romantic challenge any day.

There's currently a teen romantic triangle C-story playing out on General Hospital that probably would be boring me to tears if it wasn't underscoring the importance of a little bit of wrong in a do-right guy. Molly Lansing is the girl in the middle. Her mother is Alexis Davis, a powerful attorney with a notorious thing for bad boys. Two of her three daughters were fathered by mobsters who are now competing for control of Port Charles (GH's fictional setting), and Molly's dad, Rick Lansing, is the brother of one of those mobsters who, when he was on the show, was perhaps the shadiest lawyer ever to be overruled on a daytime drama.

As for the guys vying for Molly's hand, in one corner, there is her boyfriend T.J. Ashford, who arrived in Port Charles a troubled, possibly illiterate kid from the wrong side of the tracks who morphed into a mainstream stand-up dude (with enough reading ability to make it through Molly's first novel and save it from the clutches of the evil Connie Falconeri -- long story) the second he was recast and now-played by Tequan Richmond, who co-starred as the title character's younger brother on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. His guardian is Shawn Butler, the enforcer for Molly's mobster uncle, but, like T.J., he's the epitome of noble.

So what that T.J. had the nerve to lose his virginity to Taylor DuBois, a character too inconsequential to make the triangle a true quad, on prom night? That was only because he thought Molly, from whom he was split up at the time, was hooking up with Rafe Kovich, the son of a supposedly deceased serial killer who may or may not have inherited dark genes. Vying for Molly's hand from the other corner, Rafe is the manifestation of something I don't believe I've ever seen before: vanilla gloom. He's the son of a murderer who injures himself by punching walls due to his frustration over Molly, so there's always the threat that he's really his father's son, but for now, he comes across like a lost-boy puppy dog. Even when he's plotting and scheming to get rid of T.J., he's whimpering all the way (and helping out Port Charles's own Keystone Cops in the process). Yawn.

They're both nice guys, the type any teenage girl should be thrilled to date, but you know what they say about good guys, even ones as cute as T.J. and Rafe? They finish last. I'm rooting for T.J. mostly because he got to her first, while hoping that Rafe is about to turn sinister (he even seems to be growing his hair longer to look that part), but if I were Molly, I'd find this triangle's nearest exit. Surely there's a bad-boy teen lurking around the fringes of another soap, someone like J.J. Devereaux on Days of Our Lives. Now there's a bad boy who could win the heart of any girl (or boy) who loves to flirt with danger. He has the face of an angel, but his halo is broken and smells like weed, and he's hiding a pitchfork behind his back.

J.J. smokes pot, sell drugs, vandalizes public property, terrorizes his mom's boyfriends, sings, plays guitar, and he can even make "Silent Night" sound like a pick-up song. Plus he's played by 20-year-old Casey Moss, the prettiest boy to grace my TV screen in ages. Be still my beating heart.

Surprisingly, that's exactly what I found myself saying after the December 15 midseason finale of Revenge when Daniel Grayson pumped two bullets into the stomach of Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke. Now Joshua Bowman is one good-looking Brit, talented enough to make you think he's all-American blue blood, but for two and a half seasons, I'd been asking myself how Emily could even pretend to be in love with him. He was the epitome of bland, even more vanilla yawn than the equally hunky Jack Porter, who at least had the good sense to become a tad more interesting at the end of the second season by getting all vengeful and homicidal.

Of the three men who have been vying for Emily since the series began, Aiden Mathis, the sexy, fighting-fit Brit, probably would have been my choice, if only because there's a little danger lurking behind the James Bond facade, but Emily's heart, oddly enough, seems to belong to Jack. I'm convinced it's more out of habit (they were in puppy love as kids) than any actual adult heat between them.

Daniel was at the bottom of my list, until he started falling for someone else (a former love, who conveniently re-entered his life shortly before he said "I do" to Emily). Though I'd never root for a cheater, at least it finally made Daniel slightly interesting. Then he got even darker: Any guy with the nerve to put two bullets into his new bride on their wedding night has the potential to hold my attention. Was it a crime of drunken passion, or is he finally becoming his father's son?

Not even Conrad Grayson would go that far. He always has other people do his dirty work for him. Daniel, however got his own hands dirty, and he didn't even wash them afterwards. I'm ashamed to admit it, but that sort of made me want him to put them on me even more.

That's just my bad-boy fantasy. Now that Emily is recovering and remembering what happened (as of the conclusion of the January 5 episode, which featured perhaps the most stunning example of someone falling overboard and swimming from death's door to safety since Heather Webber survived being stabbed and buried alive by her son Franco on General Hospital), I'm hoping she puts Daniel in prison. He belongs in jail and off my TV screen. Not just because he's a would-be killer, but because he's still not interesting (and bad) enough to want to cover it up.

Somewhere, Christina Aguilera must be yawning.
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