I commented to Michelle Witte about this briefly on Twitter after reading a blog post she was upset about. I then went on to read her own blog post on the same subject, and realized I mirrored her thoughts almost word for word. I then went to write most of what you're about to read below in the form of a comment on her blog. I suggest reading the two linked blogs above before continuing on here.
The glorification of the 'bad boy' in YA novels is troubling and disturbing, and needs to end. And you know what? I'm guilty of it myself. Though in saying that, I have to add that I am not guilty of this as a writer. The two male love interests in EVER are confused and confusing at times, but I don't think either one of them is abusive to Ever in any way. Now, that being said, I must admit that I am extremely guilty of this as a reader. I always swoon for the bad boys in fiction. The vampire with the broken soul, or the fallen angel with the bad attitude. Etc. Etc. Etc. The list is endless.
As women, the allure of the bad boy or the guy who needs to be "fixed" can be just that - alluring. It calls to our inner-fixers and we want to save him from himself. It’s almost a carnal call to our maternal side. But the allure is safe - for ADULT WOMEN. (Or, for most of us, I should say.)
Now, for our young daughters, glorifying the bad boy can be detrimental and can cause them to choose paths that lead to devastating results. There is nothing alluring about bad boys. They are bad. (bold, italic, and underlined to make a point.) I wouldn’t want my daughter with anyone who was dark and brooding, and those two traits tend to be the least of our fictional bad boys’ issues. Our vampires have a need for blood and occasionally kill people. Whoops! That's ok sexy boyfriend, you'll do better tomorrow. (Um, wtf?) Our werewolves have to run and hide for fear of scratching our faces off - by accident. (Doh!)
Edward Cullen was a stalker and a pedophile, and we sucked him up. Everyone I know who has read Twilight read the series in about two weeks tops. But we were the moms reading Twilight, not the tweens or teens. What we were getting out of it is completely different than what they were getting out of it. They were being taught through this fictional relationship that it’s ok that Edward was a super creeper because he loved Bella sooooooooo much. He was possessive and stalkerish and love is a many splendored thing - this is just one side of it, right? Right!?
Patch from Hush Hush was an abusive jerk who not only berated Nora any chance he could get, but he was abusive and tried to kill her. He tried to kill her! And oh man did we all swoon for him! But again, as adults, he called to our inner-fixers and we wanted to fix that broken boy. Mend his aching heart. Blah blah blah. What our daughters were getting out of it was that it’s totally ok if guys are total jerks, even understandable, but as long as they’re hot and brooding, you should ignore all of the other stuff. Focus on the positive, and the negative will fade away. Won't it?
NO IT WON’T. EVER.
And oh yes, Daniel Grigori. (See my friend Holly's amusing post on this here.) The first thing Daniel did when he saw Luce in Fallen was flip her off. HE FLIPPED HER OFF and she was instantly and irrevocably drawn to him! Yes. Really. And guess what? So was I. But I'm a grown woman who has the love of a wonderful man at home and fictional Daniel Grigori's shitty behavior will not affect me one little bit. It will however teach our daughters that Daniel cared SO much for Luce that he had to push her away by being mean and cruel to her. *insert utterly confused expression* THIS notion will then teach our daughters the one thing we've battled as women forever- that boys are mean to us because they like us.
NO! NO! NO! NOT TRUE.
(PS. I'd like to thank the brilliant woman who coined that phrase originally. What a moron.)
Dear daughters, when a boy likes you, he will treat you like GOLD. If he doesn't, PLEASE MOVE ON.
I want to add a bit about a soon to be posted letter to my YA self. This is something a few of us will be doing next week via Krystal Wade's blog, and my personal letter has a lot of tie-in to what I just wrote above and the rest of the comment below that I left on Michelle's blog.
It was my attraction to the ‘bad boy’ that had me in an abusive relationship at sixteen.
He was beautiful and broken and I wanted so badly to fix him. What I didn’t understand was that I couldn’t. There was no fixing that guy. He was a gorgeous sociopath with no concept of empathy or love, and I seriously wonder how many women he’s gone on to abuse, verbally, physically, etc.
The allure of the bad boy didn’t stop with him though, which is what I mean when I say that glorifying the bad boy can lead to devastating paths for our daughters/sisters/tweens/teens. Sure, some of us may walk away from that first mistake and never look back. Some of us may never even make that first mistake. But some of us may take a few tries to get it through our thick skulls that you can’t fix the broken boys.
Let me repeat that:
YOU CAN'T FIX THE BROKEN BOYS.
You will never be awesome enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc. because THAT’S NOT WHAT IT IS ABOUT.!!!!
YOU ARE NOT THE CAUSE, NOR THE CURE.
Teaching our girls that the heroine must be awesome enough to fix the boy is lying to them and setting them up for failure, self-loathing, years of confusion, and worst of all – possible years of abuse.
This has to stop.
NOTE: I loved all three of the books mentioned above. LOVED them. DEVOURED them. So please don't think differently. What I wanted to relay to you all with this post is that as writers, we need to really be aware of whether or not we are rewarding bad behavior in our stories, and thus GLORIFYING it.