Why we need bad boys

Why we need bad boys

05 Jun 2013

Where gittishness grows, greatness usually follows. Martin Robinson makes the case for the motivated men who won’t play nice

Let’s get this out of the way: we’re talking bad guys here. Not evil men. Not dictators, murderers, terrorists, politicians. These people are a different matter. One which shouldn’t be dealt with in your friendly neighbourhood ShortList (A windowless cell with an iron bar, is my suggestion).

No here we’re talking about bad boys, the men who we admire because the normal rules do not to apply to them.

Behaving in a good, morally-minded, responsible manner is important to make the world go around. Being good is about community, looking after each other, and protecting against the potential risks of the future for the greater good. Society can’t truly function without it.

However, the fact is the only people who actually push the world forward are the people who ignore all that. Bad boys (and girls, but we’re a men’s magazine, so forgive me for my momentary tunnel vision) are necessary if the human race is to make any progress. In art, entertainment, business, science, technology, and even origami I’d imagine, the forward-thinkers, the people who make breakthroughs, are generally arseholes who think the usual social mores do not apply to them. Steve Jobs. Vincent Van Gogh. Elvis Presley. Sigmund Freud. Alexander the Great. Charlie Chaplin. Mozart. Pablo Picasso. Arseholes, every one of them.

And quite right too. It had to be so. They had to behave like arseholes because society – necessarily out to protect itself – has to constrain people, control their behaviour, and keep them in normal patterns. It will instinctively try to crush anyone who tries something new. By definition then, the only people who can make breakthroughs in the world are bad boys. History is littered with these men, many of them destroyed by the people they are trying to save. Jesus Christ could even be termed the original bad boy, in this sense. That’s why you’ve got to love JC, folks.

Let’s have a closer look at our modern messiah, Steve Jobs. The guy was still warm in the ground, when ex-colleagues and associates began to blurt out stories about how Jobs had been a terror. Apple designer Jonathan Ive said of him, “The normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don’t apply to him.” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said, “I don’t believe Steve had to be as much of a rugged bastard, putting people down and making them feel demeaned.” Jobs himself said he wanted to “put a dent in the universe.”

What arrogance! What selfishness! What a horrible man! And we should still be applauding him for it. Because that very uncompromising, perfectionist approach allowed him to change the world.

As Jobs shows, because they go where no-one else has dared, risking society’s rejection and the hostility of its citizens, bad boys need balls. Massive ones. Confidence is their fuel. Ludicrous, soaring self-confidence which gives them the ability to defy everything and everyone in the name of what they believe in. More names? John Lennon, John F Kennedy, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marlon Brando. These men were not shrinking violets.

Which is why we truly love bad boys in a deeper way than any whiter-than-white hero. Who wants to be humble, when you can feel like a God. Which brings up what constitutes a bad boy we admire: like God, you must create. There are plenty of people who just break the rules but don’t really do anything, they just sit at home and despair themselves to death. But the bad boys we love, we love because of the achievements which their confidence allows.

They are holy warriors, shamans and superstars, who forge ahead and live a more heightened, fiery, flaming way than us normal folk could ever imagine, and steal glory for themselves. We live through them, and hope that one day we may get a taste of the freedom they extol, and the prizes they attain.

More than anything, bad boys live in the moment. They don’t care or even think about saving money, looking after their health, worrying about mortgages. They want everything Now Now Now. They’re essentially big kids, refusing to adjust to the furrow-browed serious adult world. And it gives them an irresistible charm, a boyish innocence, even as they behave terribly. Jack Nicholson is the perfect example. Jack is a big kid who treats the world like a sweet shop.

The classic Jack persona as seen in Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is someone with barely suppressed glee. A mischief maker who loves to rattle the cages of the straights in the adult world. It’s more than a joy to watch him, its cathartic for the rest of us - it’s acting as voodoo. The best thing about Nicholson, is that such behaviour seemed, and still seems, to bleed into his private life too.

I love the quote he recently gave about his time living in this country during the making of The Shining, “I thought to myself, ‘OK, I’m going to show all of these people. I am working with the toughest director in the business - and I am going to burn London to the ground every night with partying.’” That’s just sensational. The combination of working like a bastard and playing like a bastard. That’s the kind of bastard we like. A bastard hitting all aspects of his life with everything he has. That’s called charisma.

So bad boys are mean, rude, arrogant, abhorrent sometimes. They want every day to be Christmas, and they have no feelings. Yet these are the men who give us all psychic outlets, they are experimentalists and in the end, the leaders, who show us what the possibilities of living can be. Nice guys finish last. Long may the arseholes reign.

(Image: Rex)

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