The Bad Girl: Is It a Worthwhile Character Type?

Way back in the first week of July, I touched on the topic of Bad Boys.  I was asked by a few people about Bad Girls.  It was noted that they tend to be called Femme Fatales, but that had me thinking.  Unfortunately, I had already scheduled the summer posts and October is reserved for Monster/Halloween stuff.  That left me with November, so here we are . . . I may have gotten distracted from this top.  Why is that?

The main reason is that I kept getting frustrated by what I was finding whenever I did a search for the Bad Girl.  Images alone were predictable in that they were predominantly sexy, promiscuous, flirty, and/or naughty characters.  Unlike the Bad Boy, who is defined a lot by his dangerous rebel side, the Bad Girl centers around sexuality.  Even now, I’m hard-pressed to think of a character who would fall into this category and not either look sexy or act sexy.  I’m reminded of the old vamp characters and the Scarlet Letter in that women who enjoy or use sex are considered ‘bad’.  Meanwhile, their counterpart could bed the whole cheerleader competition (judges included) and it won’t really bring in the same level of infamy.  Again, I got frustrated here.

You might be saying, “But what about Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel or Xena or Nyx?”  These are BADASS female characters.  Although, Xena does use sex at times, so she might be an outlier here.  To be fair, I was more of a Gabrielle fan . . . Moving on.  You can’t really call the other characters Bad Girls because they are working within the rules of system.  There has to be a rebellious nature to these characters, which comes off one of two ways.  Typically, it revolves around sex.  We went over this and I’m sure we’re all familiar with it.  The other is where it’s a woman rebelling against a man.  This pulls in the gender issues of society, but the Bad Girl doesn’t really appear here.  The women in this scenario don’t have that aura of danger that the Bad Boy does even though they are acting against a system.

This makes me think that there’s only a verbal connection between the two since we define a rebellious nature of every gender differently.  For men, being bad involves not following the rules and being socially aloof.  Don’t go near that outsider because he’s obviously dangerous and unruly.  For women, being bad involves indulging and accepting their own sexuality.  Don’t go near that woman because she’s *insert one of many insulting names* and you may need to get tested afterwards.  Seriously, you never see female characters who hook up with the Bad Boy heading for the free clinic when they really should.  It’s really unfair and kind of boring since it limits the versatility.  Not to mention people will have trouble sympathizing with a character whose key component is sex even if they’re shown to have a traumatic past.

So, those are my thoughts and frustrations with the history of the characters.  I can’t think of any character of mine who would be a Bad Girl . . . I think . . . Would Queen Trinity count?  She started as a villain and became a hero, but she had an anti-hero vibe.  There wasn’t much sex about the character even though she dressed in tight leather and flirted every now and again.  She was mostly a trickster and BADASS type.  Maybe that’s what the non-sexual Bad Girl has to be.  A BADASS female who is either borderline or entirely a villain.  This means the Bad Girl is found more often among antagonists . . . Is that a step in the right direction?

What are your thoughts on Bad Girls?  Do you think they get a bad rap?  I really hope somebody can show me examples that don’t fall into the ‘sex’ or ‘BADASS’ categories.  By the way, I’ve been capitalizing that word to make sure people didn’t mistake it with the other one.  Anyway, the topic will be here all week.  Enjoy.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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34 Responses to The Bad Girl: Is It a Worthwhile Character Type?

  1. Love me those bad girls. Nice job, Charles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Marie says:

    Would Livewire, Catwoman, or Poison Ivy be considered a bad girl? Or Jessica Rabbit? (She would fall under the femme fatale category.)

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    • Catwoman could work since she isn’t always designated as a villain. I think. I’m seeing bad girls here as almost anti-hero or anti-establishment without going evil. I guess the others could work too. Fine line better bad girl and villainess then.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was going to say Catwoman, but someone beat me to it. I think it’s more that you’re looking for a microcosm of bad girls. The femme fatales and sexuality counts, but you looking for ones who don’t. Older Sarah Conner is more of a bad ass. Mrs. Smith from Mr. & Mrs. Smith could count. There’s always Veronica Lodge from Archie comics.

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  4. Oh, I completely agree with you. I’m less of an expert than you on the characterizations, but suspect that a ‘bad girl’ being associated with sex is because of so many men seeing it that way -which, in turn, makes it so women see it that way.

    Do you think women generally choose to follow rules more? That could be part of it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think women have been written more often as law-abiding or obedient. So, the ones who go against that mold are newer. This could mean that the ‘bad girl’ character has yet to develop entirely. Kind of like a mid stage Pokémon.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Benjamin Woolridge says:

      I think that’s a very good question. I think that women are conditioned to follow rules more because they’re severely penalized if they don’t.

      Liked by 2 people

      • V.M.Sang says:

        That’s true, Benjamin Woolridge. What Charles says about the different attitudes to sexuality shows that. A man can get away with, and is even lauded and admired for his sexual exploits, whereas a woman is considered, to use an old fashioned phrase, no better than she should be. (Which actually means bad.)
        This, I think is why most bad girls are shown as sexy, flirtatious and promiscuous.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Benjamin Woolridge says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. I just recently started following Charles and I find his posts extremely engaging because he writes about topics that are crucial to writers. So when I read your question I was reminded of the double standard that still exists. Men are celebrated for their sexual exploits. Women are judged more harshly and are shamed. This has been the case throughout history because males have dominated literature. But when I read ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ‘The Awakening’ (1899) by Kate Chopin, and The Gilded Six Bits (1933) by Zora Neale Hurston and other works by female authors I was fascinated. Which makes me think that the “sexy, flirtatious, and promiscuous” Bad Girl needs to evolve. To me, it’s overdone.

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  5. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from Charles Yallowitz’s blog that asks the question: The Bad Girl: Is It a Worthwhile Character Type?

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  6. inkspeare says:

    Great post indeed. Two who come to mind are Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and Alice (Resident Evil). Also Selene, from Underworld.

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  7. I think you’re right, and there isn’t a female character type that’s equivalent to a “bad boy.” Bad Girl sleeps around. Femme Fatale uses sex to get close enough so she can kill you. Gold Digger uses sex so she can get your money. A Harpy is foul in her appearance and manner. A Virago is a woman so forceful that she dominates and humiliates men. I think the contemporary term for this is a Dragoness. An Amazon is a physically proficient warrior who scorns and humiliates men.

    Interesting aside: an “adventurer” used to be a man of low station who pursued wealthy women. A low-born woman who pursued wealthy men was an “adventuress.” See also Gold Digger, above.

    There’s nothing about broody, outsider women with a slightly dangerous vibe and smoldering sex appeal. Maybe this means we have the freedom to choose a term of our own!

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    • It does seem that way. I’ve seen various definitions in these comments. Some go right to the sex and others choose villains. Female badasses were another category. A big part is probably that nobody ever really tried to lock this concept down. In reality, the term ‘bad girl’ is used primarily as a joking tease instead of an archetype.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe using “gal” instead of “girl in some phrases? A Tough Gal would be a hardy warrior, equivalent to a Tough Guy, for instance. But a “girl” will always in some ways be a child.

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      • That might be down to personal choice and perception. I can see how ‘girl’ has childish connotations, but then one would have to say ‘bad boy’ does the same. Instead, it seems like the term is inherently adult or close to mature with no attention on the ‘boy’ word.

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