Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crazy Sexy Asshole

by Cara McKenna

I'm afraid I've got no clue where this post is about to go. I've got no thesis to prove, no conclusions to blather toward, just a concept and a cold beer to guide me.

I'm not a big fan of inspirational quotes, but this week's post was triggered by two. The first was uttered (or twuttered) by Ellora's Cave Editor-in-Chief (and my new editor, as my first editor sadly had to step down for completely understandable personal reasons) Kelli Collins:

"Authors, there's a huge difference between alpha and bully. Sometimes that knight in shining armor is just an asshole in tinfoil."

And the second is from Eminem:

"Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell records / well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too."

Don't read too much into that second quote…some weeks my running playlist gets suspect. Count your blessings that wasn't an O.D.B. quote.

But let me visit that first quote a moment. A sage bit of advice all authors would be wise to heed. And yet…I sort of like assholes. Obviously, there are admissible levels and circumstances for assholery. A hero can be an asshole and probably get away with it if the readers are adequately informed as to why he's an asshole. But careful you don't just saddle him with daddy issues or a no-good cheatin' ex-girlfriend…there's a fine line between seeking empathy for your characters and seeking pity. Pity's not a turn-on.

But still, my favorite characters from books and movies and shows are frequently the assholiest, and that doesn't necessarily mean villains, either—Snape from the Harry Potter books (and Alan Rickman in just about every movie he's in), Colonel Tigh from the new Battlestar Galactica (and indeed Starbuck), Brad Pitt's half of Tyler Durden's character in the movie version of Fight Club. Marla, too.

Of course some people are just plain old assholes. Not of the truly evil Hitler variety, but of a more run of the mill persuasion. Simon Cowell is one, I suspect, and not because he's mean to aspiring pop stars, but because he came off as such an utter narcissist dick on Top Gear. There are a thousand examples to be listed, and I bet for the all most popular ones, the douche in question is simply missing the possession of at least one of these two grace-saving qualities:

bat-shit crazy

fuck all y'all fearless

Cowell is neither—he's snarky with no charisma or crazy to give it charm. But of the earlier examples, Tyler Durden is properly insane. Eminem might be crazy, but more importantly, he doesn't care what you think of him or who he pisses off, which is magnetic. Starbuck is both crazy and fearless, and that makes her character impossible not to forgive and to even admire. Everyone on that list is also wildly damaged, and maybe I'm just insensitive, but damn, that's hot.

Tigh, Starbuck, Eminem (I know, not a character per se, but arguably a persona), and both halves of Tyler Durden are all massively self-destructive, but as their audience we know they have good reasons. Not pity-me reasons, hopefully, but a set of past illnesses that make the symptoms of assholery understandable. Heck, natural. And watching someone you aren't actually personally acquainted with self-destruct is amazing entertainment. I mean, that's the premise of all the best reality shows. But anyhow, I think there ought to be another type of character. Alpha, Beta…

Batshit sexy asshole.

Maybe we don't want to marry these people, but I know for sure a few of us want to bang their brains out. So now it's your turn. Who's your favorite crazy sexy asshole? To summarize, here are the criteria: acts like as asshole, must also be nuts and/or so immune to others' judgment it borders on pathology. Let me offer a few more examples.

Han Solo from the Star Wars trilogy

Jayne from Firefly

Vyvyan from The Young Ones

Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous

Brenda from Six Feet Under

John Malkovich's character from Dangerous Liaisons, who I think may have inspired a more contemporary magnetic asshat—Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl

Bernard Black from Black Books

I haven't watched enough House to know if Hugh Laurie plays one, but I have my suspicions.

Sawyer from Lost, you're soooo close…but your daddy issues keep you firmly on the traditional damaged goods side of the fence.

But let's not be so picky as to take the fun out of fingering our favorite jerks. So come on, lay 'em on me! They can be characters or actual people—who can you not take your eyes off, despite their acts of unapologetic assholery?

12 comments:

Wynter Daniels said...

One of my books, Can't Stand the Heat, features an asshole hero who, of course, redeems himself by the end. I had a reviewer rip that book apart because she hated him so much. Another loved the book. Go figure.
I definitely love a couple jerks. Russell Crow comes to mind, but I can't stand Christian Bale or Ray Liotta.

Cara McKenna said...

Ooh, Russell Crowe—good one, Wynter. He's not my taste but I know what you mean. And he does seem to have a touch of the batshit. Let's just hope he doesn't go all Mel Gibson one day.

Katie Reus said...

Totally second my love of Kara Thrace (or Starbuck)! She was such a dick almost the entire show but I always rooted for her! And ditto for Tyler Durden. Absolutely certifiable but I lurved him too.

Hmm, douchbags that I still like...this isn't necessarily a 'dark' character but Barnie from How I Met your Mother is a total asshat and not a great human but I still love his character!

Missy Ann said...

Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly). Yes Jayne was an asshole, but he was a sneaky asshole. Mal, was the true hard ass & not a nice man.

Riddick from Chronicles of Riddick. Oh yeah...

Detective Quinn from Dexter (TV), he's pushing really hard at that douche bag line. Wait, he's over it. Pinky ring.

And speaking of pinky ring douche bags Guy Fieri (Food Network): massive douche bag, but I would put up with it all if he'd cook me breakfast the next morning.

Seems like my list is divided between the truly dangerous and the harmless with bad fashion sense. No middle ground for me thanks.

Cara Bristol said...

I'll weigh in and say that I can't think of a single asshole real or fictional that I think is sexy. When a guy acts like a jerk for the sake of acting like a jerk (that's my definition of asshole), it's a turn off...kind of like a guy who kicks a puppy.

A man who is super tough (but fair), is way more sexy to me.

Cara McKenna said...

Ooh, I thought of another one—McMurphy from Cuckoo's Nest. Funny, since Jack Nicholson went far more batshit in The Shining and yet that role didn't turn me on in the least. Jack Torrence is way too psychotic to be foxy. There's such a thing as too-crazy. I also suspect McMurphy's knit cap and sideburns has something to do with it.

Made me think of Heath Ledger's Joker as well. Now that's some magnetic-ass CRAZY.

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

My current love, Sam Rockwell, in nearly anything. But especially Choke (sex addict) and The Winning Season (loser coach).

He doesn't give a shit, he dances randomly, he's a jerk to everyone. And he sometimes had a totally badass moustache.

Hearts are in my eyes.

Dalton Diaz said...

I find Dr. House to be too much asshole. Waayyy too much. Asshole and pathetic, and even his kindnesses are self-serving.

Hmmm. The ultimate for me would have to be Zsadist from JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, with Wrath, V, Rev and Butch as close seconds.

Cara McKenna said...

Cara B.,

I think of forgivable douchebaggery as more nuanced than that. Willful, puppy-kicking-type jerkiness lacks both the crazy and fearless factors and wanders into your run-of-the-mill inexcusable cruelty territory. It's that difference between the villains you can't take your eyes off of and the ones you simply can't stand to look at.

Dalton Diaz said...

Z fits that bill for me. Loooove him!

House would kick a puppy if it suited him. Treats his coworkers (and people he supposedly loves) like crap for no reason other than he enjoys it. They keep coming back for more, but I walked away.

Cara McKenna said...

Dalton—I haven't seen more than two episodes of House, though what I did see intrigued me… Sounds like he may be a bit more sociopathic than I realized.

Michelle Polaris said...

Late chiming in. I don't see enough movies. But I've always been in love with Alan Rickman and all of his characters.