Bad Boy Archetype

Learn all about the bad boy archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Rebel archetype.

What is the Bad Boy Archetype?

The Bad Boy archetype is one of man, usually relatively young, who is hiding from something in life which has, and still is, affected them deeply.

Their method for hiding from this past trauma is to build a wall around themselves, to put on armour, in order to shield themselves from the world and further harm. In doing so they prevent others from seeing the real, vulnerable and traumatized person deep inside.

This tactic of hiding their true selves means that the archetypal bad boy presents themselves to the world in very distinct ways.

The bad boy may not purposefully set out to hurt other people but they inadvertently do through deflecting their own internal pain onto others around them.

Bad Boy Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • They cannot commit to relationships, resulting in a series of false promises, infidelities and deceit.
  • They rebel against society and conformity without any real cause for their rebellion.
  • The bad boy can be tremendously charismatic and charming.
  • They lead rather than follow, using resourcefulness to find their way out of difficult situations even though that may mean hurting other people around them.
  • They are resilient, able to bear slights thrown at them because of the walls they have built up.
  • However, they cannot be depended upon and are wholly untrustworthy.
  • They will avoid problems rather than face them wherever possible.

Bad Boy Archetype Examples

In literary and film depictions of the bad boy archetype there is often one other character who will see through the walls that the bad boy has put up to the real person underneath.

That individual will stick with the bad boy, refusing to give up on them until they are finally able to be honest about themselves and shed their bad boy persona.

Real life examples of the bad boy archetype were the so-called ‘Rat Pack’ group of entertainers from the 1960s, whose members included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.

Examples of the bad boy archetype in film are actor James Dean’s character Jim Stark in the film ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, John Travolta’s character Danny Zuko in ‘Grease and Judd Nelson’s character John Bender in ‘The Breakfast Club’.

Further Reading

Further reading on the queen archetype includes:

  • The Rat Pack: The Original Bad Boys – by James Kaplan and The Editors of LIFE
  • James Dean: The Biography – by Val Holley
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