The more I explore and attempt a systematized analysis of the bad girl, the more I realize this is a vast subject matter that defies explanation. I’m on her turf now, and I’m simply going to have to abandon a wholly reasoned perspective (though I will still make attempts at some constellation points).
One could say my even treading here is invoking certain tropes that keep getting repeated. Yeah, I see a lot of bones in the shadowy alleyways and misty marsh corners of bad girl outer boundary sector two-point-two. Yet, I’m waving my candle around because even nice guys need to be bad boys sometimes, and bad girls know most all of the cool stuff.
You opened the door and extended an invitation, right? Let the bad girl come in so she can speak and act to assert her vitality. You’ve got stuff to identify that she can point out. Stuff that haunts you that you fight: “I should be angry but…” or “I want to own a horse again but…” or “I need to weep but…”—but but BUT.
Time to recognize this stuff and draw it into your own life because the bad girl is carrying a rejected element in you, for you. Get ready to chat, cause there’s stuff you can do to get your bad back.
Subversion is her friend
Take a summary of an art form’s schools of thought (for example, genre) and see how it can be infiltrated and corrupted. We can look at Shojo (Japanese comics for girls) and Shonen (Japanese comics for boys) manga, for example.
Typically, Shojo is composed of daily life from the perspective of the female experience. A major theme encountered in stories is that of love set against narratives of self-realization.
Usually the stories are set against a backdrop of romance, fantastical worlds, or a typical everyday life situation (living in company housing, for example)—all worthy and good interests for creative enjoyment. Particularly noteworthy is the prevalence of Sentai, or teams of superpowered girls working together.
Shonen tend to cater to what are considered young male experiences—goofball humor, themes of loyalty, and explicit naughtiness. These take place along backdrops of technology, sports, and heroic adventure. The role of females in these stories tend to be single, pretty girls.
A bad girl isn’t giving up any of her privileges, but she will transpose as she feels like it. Put the guys in stories demanding emotional complexity and relational intrigue. Let the gals into the stories of exploring the unknown and conquering obstacles. Transposing of the sexes is a common plot device in manga, by the way.
Bad girls with a crew of handsome male robots and gigantic spaceships with cool space gadgetry. Bad girls playing contact sports in all their brutal, high-stakes action and behind-the-bench struggles for what it takes to be a winner. Bad girls hunting down werewolves in eighteenth century splendor and rescuing clueless but basically good-hearted guys who need to be protected so they can continue to be single and handsome.
That’s a good start. But it doesn’t have to be merely mutual transposing; it can be a direct beam-in where the default assumption becomes both genders on the field and the working out of those complications.
Bad girls AND guy space adventurers. Bad girls AND guy sports-playing—against each other as rivals at times. Bad girls AND guy hunters in the night saving both standard Joes and good girls from monsters. Mix it up, stir the stew, do what’s fun…and bad.
Admiration for her bad qualities
Recognize and honor the bad girl for the qualities you like. Contemplate the things that draw you to want to be like her, and the things that remind you of her influence. Remember, she’s everywhere—the bad girl has been keeping storytellers in business for a long time.
I think of Maleficent the evil sorceress in Sleeping Beauty. A withering wit, a spooky castle that reflects her own ghastly outlook (yet functional!), a horde of evil beings at her command, and deadly magic. Competent, dangerous, fashionable, dramatic, exciting, and complicated—weary at being the only bad girl in the kingdom yet still able to crack a joke.
It’s fun to think of how much havoc she causes on the simpletons in the story. Who probably wrote it to make her look bad. Remember that the movie begins with the opening of a book; History is written by the victors (or the hopeful who cling to the folly that she won’t turn up again like the proverbial bad penny).
There’s Pippi Longstocking, who goes where she wants to go, does what she wants to do, and refuses to compromise her freedom. Super strong, endlessly inventive, unabashedly contrary, afraid of nothing, and always ready with a prank for anyone who takes their authority too seriously.
Oh, to be a close friend of hers like Annika and Tommy! To disdain all the rules and have unalloyed fun—to accompany a girl so alive and unstoppable as to be a force of nature.
On a less fantastical note, I think of Foxfire and The Devil Wears Prada. In both of these movies the good girl brings herself into the field of the bad girl and forms a mentor relationship with her. In Foxfire, Maddy learns about friendship, loyalty, and courage from the wandering loner girl Legs. In The Devil Wears Prada Andrea endures hardship and challenge under Miranda’s unremitting demands, and emerges tougher and more resourceful than before.
It should be noted that in these two movies, Maddy and Andrea both voluntarily depart their bad girl mentor and strike it out on their own. I imagine they create and shape a power for themselves, strengthened by their experiences. And I also imagine the effect they’ve had on their mentors, for in teaching one learns the last few clues one needs to advance to the next level of awesome.
Telling her story because you can
My grand and wonderfully creative friend Hexe knows a thing or two about bad girls. This last holiday I gave her an Edward Gorey calendar based on various neglected murderesses.
All this past year she’s been taking the murderess of the month and making an artistic creation out of each entry, based on imagining what the murderess’ side of the story might have been. You could say she’s been studying her subjects and drawing out of them the bad girl for everyone to see and contemplate.
That’s right, every month is bad girl month!
This is a form of invocation—putting yourself at the disposal of the bad girl and giving her a voice. Bad girls need to recognize each other and realize how much they have in common. Like it or not folks, there are things they can only get from each other.
Pick a form—writing, painting, music; whatever. Choose a subject. A particular bad girl or theme associated with bad girls you find interesting. Dedicate it to your own bad girl and just see what happens.
You got all that? Because now its time to meet the biggest baddest girl of all.