Wednesday (on Saturday) Takes the Bad Boy Too Far

Hey guys. My YARebels vlog this week: a quick look at abuse/manipulation in YA.

Now I’m off to Memphis for the weekend to help my aunt move! SO BUSY. BUT you should be very happy to know that this morning I *gasp* SLEPT IN. Yes, yes, I know, it’s a MIRACLE.

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6 thoughts on “Wednesday (on Saturday) Takes the Bad Boy Too Far

  1. dawn_metcalf says:

    Thanks for putting this out there! I think you really nailed it by pointing out that this specific form of violence has a very different connotation when it’s part of the love interest — that this is supposed to be the “ideal” person, the one the reader, through the characters, want most. If being violent/dangerous/threatening/manipulative/emotionally abusive is set up as desirable, we better be saying something very intentional about these characters.
    I don’t necessarily agree that we all want the bad boy (or the pretty boy or the most popular boy, either), but there *is* a darkness that we’re drawn to as curious people: the mystery, the unknown, the person who we can “save” by being a good person and showing them the way to the light, as it were. But there is a very dangerous message that has become prevalent in YA where this type of person is sexy-hott, a mixture of danger and threat and love, and THAT can become a pretty nasty trope when played out in reality.
    Of course we write fiction and of course these aren’t real people and of course there is a lot to be said for trying on “What Ifs” in the safety of our favorite books and those authors we trust most to take us on this ride. But there is a time to get off the ride and know what is desirable may not be what is real or good or healthy. This line is a personal one to tread, but I’d like to think folks do so knowingly and consciously and not as a default. Writing with full intention is part of the responsibility of being a writer.
    Our #1 job is to write our story. I believe a close second should be to remember who is on the other side of the page and treat them with the honor and respect they deserve. To cop out to dangerous tropes because they are easier/expected/gritty/edgy is a disservice to everyone if it doesn’t serve the story or the reader. (This coming from someone who wrote a violent book, but hopefully, I did so with every intention to put love/anger/action & mercy in its place. We shall see.)
    Thanks for making me think!

  2. Love this, Victoria. I guess i don’t care much for the dark love interest in general because really, those types of guys aren’t the kinds that most women and girls are going to be able to have a long-term healthy relationship with. Yes, the brooding bad boy is attractive, and it’s intoxicating when he’s obsessed with you. But fast forward 5-10 years when he can’t hold down a job due to being too cool for everything, when he’s alienated all your friends and family, thus isolating you, when he still hasn’t “found himself” and you’re supporting both your asses? Yeah. You’ll be looking at the nice, boring guy who was always there for you but didn’t tatoo your name on his bicep and wishing you had his stable family life. I know I’m probably too practical in my old age, but I seriously think girls need to be looking at their love interests with this kind of eye as early as possible.
    Sorry for the rant. I’m just a big cheerleader for the nice, stable dude – which I should probably reconsider when looking at how lucrative my career could be…

  3. Which isn’t to say I don’t think girls and women should be reading stories with dark love interests, or that those books shouldn’t be written. I’m a fan of any great story and Wuthering Heights is a classic, right? But we should be able to look at how realistic these types of relationships are in our own lives, as far as how likely they are to bring long-lasting happiness.
    OK – rant really over now.

  4. megancrewe says:

    I think this is a really important topic, and I agree with everything you say in the vlog. What’s really troubling, to me, is that people may say that “it’s just a book” and no teenager would actually decide abusive behavior from a guy is okay just because they read a relationship in which the main character did… but as a psychology major and someone who’s still working in the field, I know how easy it is for people to form unconscious associations.
    I don’t think a teenager would consciously think, oh, if a guy stalks me and ignores me when I tell him to back off and makes belittling comments all the time, that means he’s in love with me and I should love him back. But I do think that a teenager who’s gotten emotionally wrapped up in several fictional romantic relationships where that happens may start responding emotionally to that sort of behavior in real life. They’ve been pairing the idea of abusive behavior with the exhilaration of falling in love.
    Which is why I automatically become uncomfortable when I read a book where a guy is abusive, and then the girl falls for him and it’s revealed he’s in love with her, and he is *never* called on his nasty behavior. I have no problem with authors writing characters who aren’t perfect and do sometimes very disturbing things, but the fact that those things are disturbing should be acknowledged and have consequences, or we’re doing the reader just as much a disservice as the sort of book that makes it out that, say, premarital sex is inherently evil and will only result in ruin.
    So, um, yeah, I may have some strong opinions on the subject. đŸ˜‰

  5. jmeadows says:

    Thanks for this vlog, Victoria. It’s a good topic (as I suspected it would be when you asked about it).
    The abusive love interest in YA has really been disturbing to me lately. I’ve read a couple popular books that just — why is this portrayed as a GOOD and DESIRABLE relationship? The author seems to like it. Worse, readers like it.
    I’m not, nor have I ever been, attracted to the bad boy. So maybe I really just don’t get it. I can read about girls liking bad boys though, because I’ve seen those work out okay. But when he’s abusive, either emotionally or physically, that’s where the romance stops.
    (On a different note, is there a way to make your tiny tiny text bigger? My aging eyes can’t see your writing unless I zoom in on the screen. I suppose I could just change it to my style, but that weird me out. Like looking at you dressed up in my outfit. Heh.)

  6. jessica_shea says:

    Great vlog! I find the abusive love interest troubling as well. Besides romanticizing something that isn’t desirable in real life, it plays into such weird gender stereotypes too: a domineering, jealous guy is supposed to be alpha hot but a domineering, jealous girl is a high-maintenance crazyface. I’d love to see a book where the girl calls the alpha guy out on his behavior and he realizes it isn’t cool.

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