Bad Bad Bad Bad Girls


Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Touchstone Pictures, 1988

From The Independent:

From Donna Summer to Dante, everybody loves a “bad girl”. She is a social construct that runs the cultural gamut from classical to cartoonish and back again, wearing only high heels and a smirk. She is literary artifice and historical fact combined; she is both retrograde and modern, a product of the patriarchy and yet empowered; she is every man’s worst nightmare and his best daydream too. No plot is complete without her, no soap opera or great tragedy doesn’t boast a brace. We are a society obsessed with bad girls, and we always have been.

But what’s the allure of this mythical creature? There’s no specific definition – it’s a catch-all phrase which scoops up sulky teens and hard-faced ballbusters alike – but we all have a vision of what it means to be a bad girl. It goes something along the lines of Bettie Page in an Eighties power suit, teamed with Wonder Woman boots and wielding a bazooka – that is to say, a hybridised version of any given cliché of female independence. So far, so foggy.

The bad girl, and all her attendant archetypal baggage, has however become less of a personage and more a mental motif in the latterday power struggle between men and women. American psychiatrist Carole Lieberman has recently published a self-help book, entitled Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, which argues that a bad girl mentality is something we could all use to our advantage – even if we’re undeniably good girls.

“There are fictional bad girls like Becky Sharp, Odette de Crécy and Jessica Rabbit,” says Jonathan Beckman, assistant editor at Literary Review, “but there also wannabe bad girls, like Emma Bovary. The difference is that successful bad girls are able to manipulate their sexuality for social advantage, and drag easy beguiled men down while hauling themselves up; while the wannabes have a naive belief that they can expres their sexuality without any consequences. Bad girls normally turn out to be bad for men.”

“Finding good in bad girls”, Harriet Walker, The Independent