Monday, September 5, 2011

Well-Mannered Bad Boys

As much of an oxymoron as the title may seem, bad boys with impeccable manners tend to be some of the defining personalities of the Victorian Gothic genre. And with very good reason. Allow me to explain.

In this day and age when someone refers to "bad boys" the immediate image that springs to mind is the quintessential rabble rouser, the anarchist. The extroverted, opinionated anti-everything, leatherclad devil-may-care instigator that shakes things up and makes huge waves. Or as I have often referred to them, most affectionately... The Rebel Without a Clue. These paragons of testosterone most assuredly have their appeal in a somewhat superficially feral way. For many, they represent that aspect of ourselves that needs to speak up, slap someone back to reality and shatter the rafters to make our point. But even the most diehard bad boy groupies soon tire of their 24-hour-a-day predictability.
Enter our iconic gentlemen in vest and waistcoat. I am quite certain that upon reading the title of this piece, if one stopped to think about it, the first individual to spring to mind is our own Prince of the Immortals, Vlad Dracula. With a little more thought, it would not take much to recognize this archetype many places in print and film, and to recognize that slight flutter of excitement at the mere thought of these paragons of brilliantly controlled danger.
A large part of the appeal lies in the obvious confidence exuded by someone who does not exhibit the usual signs of insecurity such as the constant need to look down his nose at others, to proclaim himself as anything other than himself, and even then to proclaim himself at all, to tell others how he is polite (or dangerous), or seek the approval and adoration of those around him by comparing himself to kings, killers and other symbols of benevolent or malicious power. Our bad boy exudes a quiet self-assurance and nobility that dictates that he hold himself to a strict code of conduct. He knows his inner beast well, has embraced it, and does not let it rule him. He coexists with it quite well. He would never be the rude host or guest, maintaining an even, intellectual and balanced demeanor.
A lot of thought is not required to sense the many facets of our gentlemen. At a obvious level he appeals to our refined side: that sense of civility and order that both comforts and attracts. He also appeals to our more feral nature, as the glimpses of the beast within can be glimpsed just beneath the surface. Please note that I did not refer to a "veneer" as his courtly, gentlemanly behaviour is sincere and in holding with his own self-imposed standards.I tend to think it is that sincerity that only adds to his power and allure. He does not second guess or worry what others will think.
The difference between our VG "Bad Boy" and our historic hero (Please see the many wonderful YouTube vids of men in period film) is an incredibly thin line. While his own brand of evil is formidable, and the elocution of his plans is nearly always flawless, unlike a James Bond bad guy, our VG villain has a back history steeped in passion and pain. He becomes a somewhat sympathetic villain and the observer finds they wish either to emulate him, or fall victim to him. Very often, his allure to women comes at a more complicated cost. There is a priceless sense of accomplishment that comes with being the love interest or "weakness" of a man like this. The wise woman is a good match for him, respecting who and what he is, never dreaming of exploiting her power over him. The unwise female quickly becomes the subject of ghost stories and less than a fleeting memory for our anti-hero.
And even though I could probably go on for chapters on this topic, I will give my rambling a rest and leave it to each of you. Who is YOUR favourite Well-Mannered Bad Boy? Do share.. I would love to hear.

Until next... Happy Pondering...


1 comment:

  1. Dracula in the novel doesn't really fit the "tragic" part- he doesn't have any heartbreak, and Mina is terrified rather than attracted to him. The Phantom of the Opera, on the other hand...