I am thoroughly sick of the phenomenon I call the Draco Malfoy Effect. This is the process by which young (and not-so-young) women become convinced that not only are evil bad-boy types desirable, but completely reformable. Liking the maverick is nothing new for the Hollywood-hypnotized masses, especially seeing as how he’s so often played by a desirable star. However, liking the villain–the kind who has not yet been definitively shown to possess a heart–to the point that you believe he can be saved through sex with either a) you, b) your Mary Sue, or c) the ingenue of the cast is, to my thinking, simply bizarre.

I’d love to have a discussion on this. Please comment. (Even if you think I’m the one with her head on crooked.)

9 thoughts on “Bad Boys

  1. This kind of female-sexual-mind-altering-power fantasy can be traced at least as far back as the Garden of Eden story). It pervades popular culture in myth and literature as well as Hollywood, and can be connected with the idea that men aren’t responsible for taking any action in response to their irresistible sexual urges which reduce them to instinct-driven robots. It’s part and parcel with misogyny–women have to be the guardians of morality and women are to blame for everything that goes wrong. Men can’t help themselves. And other idiocy like that.

  2. Daniel: The problem with chalking it up to misogyny is that it reduces any sort of “girl power” claim to nothing but a flailing at the bars. Women’s sexuality has been a source of fear and a thing to be controlled for a bloody long time. If we take the tack that women being in control is just as bad as women being controlled, then we’ve gained nothing.

    That said, I get the impression that many marriages fail because the wives hoped to change their husbands, who didn’t respond favorably. This is probably the closest to what I was really aiming for: the fact that love turning someone around doesn’t happen often in real life, despite media evidence to the contrary. It’s more disturbing given that a large portion of long-told stories deal, at their heart, with common situations or lessons; but what we get now in the way of stories is all about the extraordinary. And they’re more popular. We’re a culture raised to believe in the million-to-one-longshot, whether it’s the lottery or the reformation of your favorite Evildude. I worry for all the fourteen-year-olds, dewy-eyed and makeup-slathered, who buy into the cult of Malfoy worship; and I worry about how many of them will find an Evildude of their very own to take home, have kids with, and then run from for dear life.

  3. I don’t mean female sexual power in general. I mean the idea that women can use sex to reshape men’s minds. It’s another form of putting women on a pedestal, only it involves assuming they inherently possess a kind of creepy super-power (cf. Grayza) instead of assuming they have superior moral fiber. My argument leads not to a general criticism of female authority and control, but of the supposition that women MUST be held responsible for everything that happens, that the bad boys are just being boys and it’s a woman’s role to change them, which makes the bad boy attractive because it gives the woman a chance to fulfill her role. This is not to say women should be denied responsibilities they’re willing to take on, but that it’s preposterous to assign those responsibilities to women by default because of their supposed power to liquefy male brains, with the corollary that males are wild by nature, that the wild male is uber-masculine and extra-attractive, and that men aren’t responsible for their own poor behavior.

  4. If I may chime in my 2 cents on the idea of the Draco-love… I understand the temptation of moony 14-year-olds wanting to use their Mary Sues to reform him – he’s cute, he’s rich, he’s bound to piss off your parents, if you make him “yours” he’ll probably beat up your enemies, if you reform him it is proof that you have power, etc. (Those are why I think girls want to reform bad boys.) What disturbs me is that Draco Malfoy in particular is not just a rude, obnoxious school-aged jerk; he’s not just unpleasant, he’s evil. He gloats about the murder at the end of Book 4 and hopes that other students will be next. He is shown as having two emotions – mean and murderous. He is (rather one-dimensionally) BAD. At least with all those Mary Sue writers who want to reform Snape, for instance – he’s damn unpleasant and cruel too, but at least he is shown saving lives when it counts, not taking them. His canon “good side” (the size/depth of which is debatable) is a justification for his reform – canon Draco does not have a good side. I think real-life women hope that real-life bad boys have this unrecognized good side too and hope to bring it out – too bad some people simply don’t have them.

  5. I think its also about the good guys in most children’s fantasy, being as one-dimensional as cardboard. That said, Draco is hardly multi-faceted. But it’s also damn boring to read about the “power of seduction”.

  6. Came across your posting and felt I should comment as a 34 year old on the Draco Malfoy effect.
    I will not deny in the book that Draco comes across as an evil charcter. However, Draco is still a child in these books. He thinks like a child and is influenced by his mentors and adult figures in his life. Like any child raised hearing their parents “preach” the same thing over and over, they will begin to believe it or assume that it is so, until proven wrong.
    I am not saying that Draco does not have a mind of his own, but he like all other children learn attitudes in childhood from their peers and mentors. Draco, therefore is able to be converted to another more acceptable way of thinking, if he finds a greater influence than the teachings of his parents and is also taken away from their beliefs.
    Are all bad guys able to be redeemed? No, of course not. But neither do all good guys stay good either. Human nature as a rule is neither absolutely good nor bad, but somewhere between.
    I, for one, am shocked by how many adults condemn Draco as being pure evil and not looking to see where to place the true blame…his parents. It says a lot about our society in general, if we blame the child first without looking at the cause. Oddly enough, in reality, it is found that quite a few children who are bullies in school are the ones abused at home.
    As for JK Rowling’s world, it doesn’t focus on reality, as much as stacking the deck where we cheer a hero, who at times can be just as a trouble maker as Draco Malfoy. After all, JK Rowling has set him up to be a murderer and he was more than happy to talk about killing Sirius Black. But, since he is the hero, we can overlook all his bad deeds.
    As for saving anyone through sex…well, that frankly is impossible. People change because they want to and no other way. But it does make a nice change from the old “Prince saves the helpless Princess” deal. Also, it brings back the innocence of the 50’s movie classics when the virgin girl could always save the bad boy from himself. 😉 Sadly, it never worked on Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, or James Dean in reality. Let us just hope that most of these girls can tell the difference between reality and fiction.

  7. are you a guy or a girl cus if you are a guy then you probly dont get girls that take to them. if you ar a girl u probly dont get it cus you dont like bad boys. i love bad boys (like draco espshly cus they dont hurt people with ther fists just with ther words) cus i am your comin good girl and i so wut my mom and dad tell me. so i guess i just like bad boys cus they are difrent from me and i would not want to date some one that is the same as me in every way. and besides bad boys are sooooo hott!! lol!


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