Here’s my confession: I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was smitten from the moment I watched the pilot. The year was 1997. I was in grade 2. And even though I didn’t understand the plot or the witty turns of phrases I knew instantly that the two of us would be in each other’s lives for a long, long time.
And I was right. Every Tuesday night for the next seven years I tuned in to watch our blonde valley-girl dust a vamp and say something awesome like: “We haven’t properly been introduced. I am Buffy and you are history!” I’ll admit, though, that it wasn’t just the empowered woman aspect of the show that intrigued me. That was cool, but what was even cooler was this: Angel was incredibly hot. He had cool spiky hair and was always lurking in the shadows being sexy and mysterious and leaning. I’m not sure how, but his leaning abilities were very hot and it’s been a while since I’ve met someone who could lean on walls like him.
And then a few weeks ago I realized something: Angel is a dick. My best friend and I were watching the Christmas episode where Angel is being haunted by the ghosts of former victims he tortured. I don’t recall the finer details but he was being super depressing in this episode and at one point he grabbed Buffy and started shaking her, yelling things like: “Why do you love me?! I’m weird!“
Why indeed. For one thing, Buffy, your boyfriend used to kill people. I don’t mean that metaphorically. I don’t mean that he made people laugh really hard. I mean he used his big, sharp teeth to tear into people’s necks and drink their blood. That is gross. That is unhygienic. Sure, he’s really sad about it now that he has a soul or whatever, but really… he murdered people! Then he lost his soul and tried to murder you! And your friends! And he drew freaky pictures of your mom while she was sleeping! And then once he got his soul back he told you he’s at risk of killing you again!
And your solution is to do Tai Chi with him?!
Second of all: he’s 230 years older than you. I know that when you’re young it seems sexy to date older men. But why can’t he find someone his own age? Why is he going after 16-year old schoolgirls who wear ridiculously short skirts to boost network ratings? And why is he always lurking in a shadow – even at night? In my experience, people hide in shadows for two reasons: they are either hideously disfigured or on the run from the law. You should probably ask his parents what his deal is. Ya can’t? Oh right. He killed them.
Now that I’m older than my grade 2 counterpart, I realize that boys like Angel don’t make ideal boyfriends. Boys who are tormented by their pasts might seem sexy when you’re 7 or 17, but you’ll learn later on that this will just make your relationship awkward. You will learn this either first hand when you accidentally start dating a psychopath or (if you’re like me) once you accidentally sign up for a women’s studies course.
I’m not sure why people love bad boys. Is it because we think we can change our significant others? I feel it’s a terrible message to tell young people that you should date tortured weirdos because maybe – just maybe – you can turn them into good people. In Vampire Diaries, Elena seems to have completely forgotten that Damon killed her brother. In My So Called Life, Angela Chase still thinks that Jordan Catalano is a godsend even after he basically tells her that he hates commitment (and reading – because he is illiterate).
Our culture’s fascination with bad boys start before teen dramas, of course. The literary canon, which supposedly includes great stories with great life lessons, are chalk-full of dickbags. Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre lies about being married and then locks his wife in an attic and spends all her money on vacations and women’s clothes he randomly starts wearing in his effort to test Jane’s loyalty. Sociopathic tendencies, much? And this Bad Boy Phenomenon hasn’t only touched the western world. In Japanese yaoi (which is boy-boy love in manga form), there’s often a virginal-looking guy who falls in love with a sadistic older dude who will kidnap, torture, or abuse the aforementioned virgin because he is just so infatuated he can’t help it. Ahhhhh young love.
Do not be a slave to the Bad Boy Phenomenon. Sure, in fiction land it’s entertaining enough, but in real life you should go for the nice guy who is afraid of his own shadow. Sure, he might seem like a dweeb but maybe he’s got other good qualities. I dunno: maybe he loves his mom or whatever. Your heart (and your physical safety) will be much safer this way. Take it from someone who knows. Wink.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have 8 cats to feed.