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Judy Balan
Judy Balan


The worrying appeal of villains

fword-judy (L-R) Gabriel S. Macht as Harvey Specter (Suits); Bryan Cranston as Walter White (Breaking Bad); and Colin O'Donoghue as Captain Kilian 'Hook' Jones (Once Upon a Time)
  • And while I got over my rockstar crushes in a few years, I have to admit that I still find grungy men appealing. Add a borderline rock personality to that mix and I am weak in the knees. It is most humiliating.

In the last decade or so, television has been hell bent on telling us the villain’s story. From serial killers (Dexter), meth cooks (Breaking Bad) and remorseless vampires (The Originals) to misunderstood pirates (Once upon a Time), secret agents gone rogue (Homeland) and douchebag lawyers with mommy issues (Suits), we’ve been bombarded with new definitions of ‘sexy’ on a daily basis. And as a writer, I get it. We are fascinated by all the complexities that make us human and what better place to look for conflict and complexity than a villain’s past? Also, as a sucker for most things that enjoy mainstream popularity, I have had prolonged crushes on said fictional villains; with the exception of Walter White, of course (we could have all seen less of him in his tighty-whities).

But it’s had me worried. Not for me—I’m a bit of a lost cause in that department—but for the entire generation of teens and pre-teens growing up on this stuff; whose only frame of reference for ‘desirable’ is going to be—well, a criminal of some sort.

It’s true. I was an impressionable 11-year-old in the early 90s when men in ripped jeans who broke guitars for fun and looked like they hadn’t visited a salon or the shower in years, were celebrated and idolised in popular culture. In no time, I identified my own brand of ‘desirable’ (Jon Bon Jovi, Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain) on the exclusive rock menu that was handed to me courtesy of older sibling who was hooked to MTV at the time. And while I got over my rockstar crushes in a few years, I have to admit that I still find grungy men appealing. Add a borderline rock personality to that mix and I am weak in the knees. It is most humiliating. Especially since it can be safely assumed that any man above 35 who still walks around in ripped jeans and Van Halen hair, probably has more issues than I do.

There’s more. I also grew up on a very high dosage of fairy tales so I’m wired to believe in true love and happily ever after. Except, for the longest time, I expected to get fairytale outcomes from troubled rock types. And while I’m acutely aware of this now and choose not to act on it, I can still neither change my fairy-tale beliefs nor my natural attraction to dysfunctional individuals.

And that’s my point. Nineties rockstars are like the Easter Bunny in comparison to what this generation of wide-eyed pre-teens are lapping up and unwittingly identifying as sexy. Take the girls growing up on Breaking Bad and Suits, which involve regular men leading a double life, for example. They are going to form emotional attachments to or worse, marry low-key nerdy types expecting epic twists to their stories. And when they realise that they are just good guys who love their families and are law-abiding citizens, they are going to be very disappointed. Just imagine how that conversation would go:

Girl: So you really have nothing to hide?

Guy: No.

Girl: So this is all there is to you. You’re just a good, responsible guy.

Guy: Yes.

Girl (Disbelief): Oh, my god. This is not happening. This is not happening.

Guy: What’s not happening? What’s going on?

Girl: This is not what I signed up for. This is supposed to be the smoke-screen. You are supposed to moonlight as a drug lord or ex-con who is now helping the police or I don’t know, tell me you at least have two passports or something!

Guy: What in God’s name are you talking about?

Girl (in tears): So it’s true. I married the smoke-screen. I married the SMOKE-SCREEN!

Guy: What smoke-screen? Are you alright?

Girl (exasperated): It’s like Bruce Wayne acting as a smoke-screen for Batman or Walter White and Heisenberg! Get it? Now tell me. Do you or do you not have a Heisenberg?

Guy: You need help.

Girl (devastated): Are you at least having an affair?

Guy: Absolutely not!

Girl (breaks down): I cannot believe this. I CANNOT believe this. Was I not even worth something as boring and cliché as an affair? Do I really inspire nothing in you?

Like I said—Easter Bunny.

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Topics : #opinion | #Judy Balan

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