Story Psych: The Draw of the Bad Boy

Despite criticism of the trope, the “bad boy” character remains immensely popular among readers and audiences. Whether he’s got a supernatural side that makes him potentially lethal, like True Blood’s Eric and Twilight’s Edward, or a callous side that could turn him into a heartbreaker, like Lost’s Sawyer and Gossip Girl’s Chuck, they catch other characters’ eyes and make fans swoon. (“Femmes fatales” likely serve the same function, for similar reasons, though they seem to be less common in stories these days.) The theory most often suggested is that we like the idea of a love interest we can change for the better. But wouldn’t it be easier to go for someone who doesn’t need changing in the first place, and who isn’t so likely to rip out our hearts (figuratively or literally)? Why is dangerous so much more appealing than safe? I think psychology may provide an answer.

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