Chuck Bass, Draco Malfoy, and other bad boys I don’t want to date

Thanks to Twitter, I came across a blog post by one Racecar Brown referencing one of my earlier rants diatribes explorations of the topic of bad boys and nice guys in fiction. And, naturally, I was reminded that I never did finish that series. I suppose that’s a good thing, as now, in the midst of an entirely new book, with a very different sort of romantic pairing than I’ve ever written before, my thoughts have changed again.

Racecar Brown talks mainly about the intense fan reaction to two odious but popular characters: Chuck Bass of the Gossip Girl television show, and Draco Malfoy of Harry Potter. I am most of the way through the second season of Gossip Girl now, and I think Chuck falls on the “love to hate him” side of the spectrum. He’s awful, and he whores around, and etc., but leaving aside the pilot episode in which he tries to rape both Jenny and Serena, his “awfulness” is mostly posited as a sort of rich guy boredom. This is the dude that flies in high priced call girls from Asia — usually two at a time. He opens strip clubs, he takes dirty pictures of Skull & Bones members who try to get him to hurt his friend, and, in a total 180 from his behavior in the pilot, he drops off an underage girl who is throwing herself at him in his limo.

Sailor Boy says that you should usually take everything you see in the pilot of a television show with a grain of salt. The characters aren’t really set yet. How often have you gone back to see the pilot of a show you loved and been like — wait, who IS that person? So I’m willing to give the Gossip Girl people a pass with the whole Chuck Bass: Rapist thing — at least, as far as I’ve seen the show (I just watched the Snowflake Ball episode where Jenny puts Vanessa in the see-through dress.) So I agree with Racecar on that one. The pilot is the problem. He gets it together later on — which is not unlike what the Veronica Mars people do with Logan, though aside from the bum fights and the whole [spoiler spoiler spoiler] at Carrie Bishop’s party, most of what he does isn’t too heinous (and is in fact very similar to Veronica’s shenanigans, and even those two things are certainly no worse than what Weevil pulls. Remember, he and Veronica were actually friends before Lilly died.

(I actually started watching Gossip Girl because I got so many letters from readers saying that Chuck Bass reminds them of Poe and now, having seen it, I can honestly say — Whaaaaaaa? They are both manipulative and given to cruelty, but loyal to the people they love, I’ll grant you that. But Chuck’s every action and entire lifestyle comes from a place of enormous privilege — no one has ever said no to him, and he is depraved because he’s so rich that he’s bored. He is a modern day Valmont. Poe is…. none of those things. His cruelty and manipulation actually come from the fact that he was not born into privilege and he feels he constantly has to fight for it, prove it, and hold on to it by any means necessary. And he isn’t bored because he does have to work so hard ot get what he has — as well as to protect himself from any idea that he might not deserve it. So… I don’t really see it. George and Chuck have more in common, except George is too happy go lucky. A bit more like Nate, perhaps.)

The other example of excessive fan-love Racecar points to is Draco Malfoy. Now, though a fan of Harry Potter, I’ve never participated in the vast, vast world of Harry Potter fandom. I’ve never read the fanfic that some of my writer friends are actually famous for. I don’t know what people like in Harry Potter fandom. I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the movies, I have a Griffindor t-shirt and a sorting hat keychain. That’s it. The nearest brush I ever came to was when a writer friend of mine were at Dragon*Con last year and she went to a panel with Tom Felton on it. Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the movies, is I’m sure a very nice young man, and he’s certainly an excellent actor. He was apparently discussing on the panel how a lot of times, the actors visit children’s hospitals and the like on goodwill tours, and he feels bad because the children always want to see the folks who play the “good guys” but never him.

However, this is not the case with the fandom. They love Draco Malfoy. Sometimes they may love him a little too much, as my friend who attended the panel told me that someone came up to him and asked him to autograph a photo she had, which was an erotic photo with his and Daniel Radcliffe’s heads photoshopped onto the bodies of naked men. Understandably, this 22 year old young man refused to do so, which apparently made the fan very upset. But I don’t blame Tom Felton at all. That was not a picture of him and why should he “legitimize” a fake naked photo of himself by signing it? Draco Malfoy may be a fictional being that you can do whatever you want with, but Tom Felton is a real person.

Apparently, even JK Rowling is of the opinion that people’s obsession with Draco is a product of their confusing Felton, who imbues his character with pathos (and good looks) with the very bad person that Rowling created in the book.

“People have been waxing lyrical [in letters] about Draco Malfoy, and I think that’s the only time when [pulling for a certain relationship] stopped amusing me and started almost worrying me. I’m trying to clearly distinguish between Tom Felton, who is a good-looking young boy, and Draco, who, whatever he looks like, is not a nice man. It’s a romantic, but unhealthy, and unfortunately all too common delusion of girls that they are going to change someone.”

(And yet, Malfoy gets off scot-free in the books. I never understood that.)

As I said in my previous post, I was never into the fantasy of the bad boy. I don’t buy that we can really change someone. There’s a part in Pride & Prejudice where Elizabeth explains to Mr. Wickham that Mr. Darcy improves upon acquaintance, but not in “essentials.” She is saying to him that she now understands that Darcy is prickly, closed-off, etc. but essentially, he’s a stand-up guy. (Also that she knows Wickham is lying about Darcy, but that’s a whole other thing.) But that is pretty much where I draw the line, too. I’m okay with bad boys who are essentially okay.

Darcy is not changed by Elizabeth, except in the minor way that he realizes he needs to stop being such a snob. His changing is not from cruelty to kindness, but from impoliteness toward people of a lesser social station to politeness. Still, this is not a major change in who he is. Yes, now he can be friends with Mr. Gardiner. But one imagines that, had he met Mr. Gardiner before, he would not have been cruel to him, but perfectly cordial and distant.

I think we can all agree that getting a snob to lighten up is on a whole different scale than getting an accessory to murder/attempted murderer (which Draco Malfoy is) to “change.”

Jane Austen loved writing about the bad boy/nice guy dichtomy. There’s one in almost all of her books. Yes, even Persuasion. But enough about that for now.

Posted in Austen, boys, other writers, PAP, romance, SSG, veronica mars

14 Responses to Chuck Bass, Draco Malfoy, and other bad boys I don’t want to date

  1. Chuck Bass and Poe are nothing alike, Poe is loyal, comfortable in his skin, he is all half-smiles, silences and smart plans.
    Poe works hard, is not “damage goods”.
    Chuck Bass aka Piece of Dirt

  2. The reason Chuck Bass had the rape thing in episode #1 is because at that point they were still following the storylines of the Gossip Girl books. Then they completely went in a different direction. The Chuck Bass in the books is a minor character and I don’t believe he’s ever into Blair. (Though over the course of 10 books, I can’t remember for sure.) Basically Blair and Serena just swap Nate over and over again, with Jenny dating him for a bit, too. Chuck in the later books is maybe gay and he walks around with a monkey named Sweetie.

    Also can I just say I’m rewatching VM and my God Logan is awesome.

  3. Diana says:

    A MONKEY NAMED SWEETIE?

    Why doesn’t the show have that? Everything is better with a monkey!

  4. Shoshana says:

    I don’t buy that we can really change someone either. Which is why I’m so into the TV/movie/book bad boy. Because in the magical world of fiction, he really can change. You get the excitement of falling for him without any of the real-life danger.

  5. Tiff says:

    I agree with you, Diana – I don’t think we can ever really change someone either. It’s incredibly unhealthy to think that way. I *am* curious as to why this seems to be a more common phenomenon in women than men – men don’t seem to have this problem as much. Is it just the whole “everything I read and watch tells girls that they can make someone better” thing, or is it something much more primal than that? I also think it has a lot to do with the whole Team Peeta vs. Team Gale thing – the reason Peeta isn’t the obvious choice to Hunger Games fans is because he’s so damn NICE, and so obviously loving of Katniss. He doesn’t need to be changed, he’s already an amazing (if fake) boyfriend. And I guess for a lot of women, that’s not exciting enough…do we women need a project or something? Do we need to triumph over something? Is that why a lot of girls/women want children?

    Sorry, I digress. But maybe we’re conditioned to think that what’s easy and right there is not enough for us. Maybe it’s a social consumption thing – it’s so easy to just want more and more of something, and maybe love is no different.

  6. So, hi! Thanks for linking to my humble little blog. This piece got me thinking, and I like talking about things that make me think, so here are some random points.

    Firstly, regarding Chuck Bass vs. Poe, I think it ties in to a conversation I was having the other day about a person’s feelings versus a person’s actions. I think the similarities readers see between Poe and Chuck are in those actions. A lot of people in this world care very little for the motivations BEHIND a person’s actions, and only care for the actions themselves. Looked at in that way, I think the presumed similarities are more understandable.

    Secondly, to Marianne, I always suspected that the GG pilot was far more in keeping with the books than the rest of the series. You can sense an immediate change in tone from that pilot (which is actually surprisingly caustic) to just the second episode, where it’s like “Hey let’s be funny!” Which was fine, though I thought the Pilot was far more interesting for that bitter, broiling vicious streak that occasionally reared its head.

    Thirdly, A FREAKING MONKEY WHY IS THIS NOT IN THE TV SHOW THIS IS SUCH A WASTED OPPORTUNITY THAT IS THE BEST IDEA EVER.

  7. JulieLeto says:

    Just wanted to say that I do NOT understand why the Malfoys got off scot-free in the books, either. In fact, if I ever met Rowling, that’s probably the one question I’d want to ask her. I’m heartened by the fact that this may change in the second movie…with rumors swirling that the amazing Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy might come to a more definitive end than his character did in the book.

    The same goes for Snape, as you well know. People confuse him with Alan Richman. Snape might have been courageous and cunning, but he’s not a good guy. If you look past his treatment of Harry to how he treats Neville and Hermoine, you can see how depraved he is. He’s awful to both of them–especially Hermoine, who has done nothing to warrant his cruelty except be friends with Harry and have no magical blood.

    I think Tom Felton is a fabulous actor–perhaps the most talented of all the Harry Potter child actors. He stole the Half Blood Prince. I’m glad he refused that fan’s request. How disgusting for him. And how harmful that could be to his career and livelihood.

    I do hang out in some of the HP fandoms…but I don’t read fan fiction because, well, you know how I feel about THAT. Some of the fans are just NUTS…but then, you can say that about any franchise, I suppose. Fan doesn’t come from fanatic for nothing!

  8. Diana says:

    I don’t know why Harry forgive Snape, either. I mean, Albus Severus? If I were Ginny OVER MY DEAD BODY would I name my kid that. What about Albus Sirius? Albus Remus? Albus Frederick?!?!?!?! (I’m surprised Ginny wasn’t pulling for that one.)

  9. alaska. says:

    you guys, the BEST PART ABOUT THE MONKEY?

    it was white. chuck dressed it in monkey-sized outfits that matched what HE WAS WEARING. IT WAS WHITE. HE BROUGHT IT TO SCHOOL.

    the chuck bass in the books was also gay, i’m pretty sure. i mean, i think he comes out at some point.

    the show itself changed a lot in the first couple of episodes. what i love about chuck is that he reminds me of my dad in a way – chuck never had anyone to show him HOW to love! he wants to love blair, but trusting doesn’t come naturally! and he does love blair. but he can’t figure it out. he never had a shot!

    i’m still confused about snape, also. i mean, what WAS IT that made dumbledore believe in him again?! man. ALBUS SIRIUS ALL THE WAY.

    luckily, i like nice boys, and i found one. i’m the one that likes peeta best. and trivia boy is my darling nice boy who brings me flowers as a surprise and doesn’t like to play games and makes me happy.

    poe doesn’t remind me of chuck. at all. poe reminds me of peeta, more than anyone. poe doesn’t have money, but more than that, poe doesn’t know how to play games the way chuck does. poe knows how to love!

  10. phyllis towzey says:

    I love Snape – I think he was always a good guy. A little – ok a lot — twisted, but a good guy nonetheless. Glad Harry and Ginny named their kid after him.

    As for Draco, as the books progressed he seemed more and more a victim to me, manipulated evil adults, which is I think how Dumbledore saw him. Anyway, if he’d died in the end, then Voldemort would have gotten one of the things he wanted – to punish Lucius by killing his son. Draco was always bad, but in a spoiled preppy boy sort of way. It was Lucius, and Draco’s need to please him, that pushed him to the point of true evil. JMHO.

  11. Diana says:

    Draco was a criminal. yes, he was manipulated by older people, but he was a criminal nonetheless. No one said “died.” But why wasn’t he put into prison?

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