Amy Dawson on the allure of Mr Wrong
Distraught War And Peace fans were left yelling ‘Noooooooo!’ into their sofa cushions this week, taking to Twitter en masse as Natasha (Lily James) betrayed her good-guy fiancé Andrei (James Norton) in a cloakroom clinch with Callum Turner’s villainous Anatole. For many, it was a howl of personal recognition.
Sure, the Beeb’s lavish adaptation of Tolstoy’s doorstop novel is about Napoleonic-era Tsarist Russia but some things are universal. Bad boys are a sexy archetype and many women (and indeed men) will have a dalliance with one at least once in their lifetimes.
Films and books abound with Byronic anti-heroes – from the rogue who dumped Miss Havisham on her wedding day to Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones. While in the real world, celebs from Kate Moss (Pete Doherty) to Katy Perry (Russel Brand) have proved themselves partial to a slice of not so nice. But why can’t we resist?
Well, because bad boys keep us on our toes, the sexual tension is amplified and there’s initially a certain social cache in dating one. ‘Women are often attracted to the thrill and the gravitas that comes with being the girlfriend of a bad boy,’ says relationships expert Helen Rice. ‘Especially if they have always been something of a good girl.’ A penchant for rogues can also stem from a sense of insecurity. ‘Perhaps due to bad experiences, some people don’t believe they deserve to be with someone who treats them right,’ says Rice. ‘As a result, they tend to seek out people they know won’t treat them well.’
A relationship with a bad boy often equals anxiety, paranoia and low selfesteem – a life spent in a strange limbo, waiting for long overdue text replies and scraps of non-committal affection. ‘Women – and men – have this curious attraction to hitting their head against the same brick wall and hoping it will morph into a bed of roses,’ says Dr Annie Kaszina, author of How To Stop Waiting For A Jerk To Love You Back.
So can seeing a bad boy ever lead to a happy ending? Rice says it’s often more valuable as a rite of passage. ‘It usually serves a purpose but rarely delivers a lasting relationship,’ she says. ‘You won’t be able to change him, unless he is ready for it.’ More than one woman has convinced herself she can magic a rotten egg into a delicious plate of eggs Bennedict.
In fact, going out with bad boys can be an attempted ego boost of sorts, of thinking yourself the one to finally tame them. This is a delusion. As Dr Kaszina advises: ‘Get over the fantasy that good guys are boring. How boring can it really be to be loved, cherished and appreciated?’ If only Natasha had taken note.