My daughters and I recently discussed the experiences all three of us have now endured, regarding the transition from Bad Boys to Good Guys. I dare say we are in good company in that regard.
Women often dig guys that treat them mean. It's complicated. I've discussed the attraction of the Bad Boy archetype at some length, both here on the blog and in my other columns, so I won't go into his special charms again here.
But the thing is, many of us have our first significant relationship with a guy who is less than kind. Some of us never get past it, and repeat the mistake over and over. But a lot of us learn from the experience. We recognize that Bad Boys can be charming, and sexy, and exciting, but in the end are just not worth it. They may offer thrills, giddy emotions, and hot sex...but the trade-off for a Good Guy, who gives you support, respect, understanding, and nurturance, is totally worth it.
My daughters and are all currently in relationships of various stages, from second date to six months to 15 years of marriage, all with nice guys. None of them are the kind who walk into a bar and turn heads; but all of them are perfectly attractive and very sweet guys. Do we three still find ourselves attracted to Bad Boys? You bet. Would we be with one? Hell's no.
So...what about Benjamin Linus? Well, Lost fans, I was thinking about all the stuff reinterated above, and I realized something that may account for the irresistible power this character has over so many women. Paradoxically (and isn't the Island always good for another paradox?), Ben is both Bad Boy and Good Guy at once.
This has been true from his very first appearance on the show. Remember when he swore he was just another castaway, an innocent guy named Henry Gale? No matter how many reasons we had to think he was lying, he was really some sort of evil mastermind, there was always that chance he really was a nice man. This has remained his shtick ever since. Just when you think he truly is pursuing a higher goal, he really may be the savior of all our heroes, he pulls some nasty stunt like a mass murder.
But meanwhile, just when he's rubbed out his latest enemy in cold blood, we become convinced he did it for some higher reason: true love, maybe...or to save countless other lives. He can just seem so damn sincere. With Ben, somehow duplicity comes across as genius, outrageous gall seems like courage, lying seems like, well, impressive outsmarting. In his most recent outing, Ben murdered Major Good Guy John Locke with his bare hands...and yet, all the while I watched the act, I was saying to myself, "This has to be for a good reason. I mean, it has to be. Right?"
So, with Ben Linus we women get to have our cake and eat it too. We can feel all tingly when Ben fools everyone with his latest lie, and all fluttery when he orders people around. But in the next minute we can honestly entertain the belief that in the end, Ben could save everyone we love on this show. We can feel pathos when he gets brutally beat up yet again (how many times has it been now? Surely some devoted fan is keeping count). And in the next scene we can marvel at how it seems every string in the plot is pulled by Benjamin Linus the Master Puppeteer.
I'm not sure I can think of a better example in any fictional medium of a man being Hero and Villain virtually simultaneously. And I have to believe it is this complex hybrid of the two archetypes that keeps women fascinated by Ben.
There are a lot of plot lines up in the air on Lost, but for my money, the one I look most forward to seeing resolved in a couple more years is this: Is Ben Linus a Bad Boy or a Good Guy? I am so hoping for the latter, but in the meantime, it's his role as the former that keeps me glued to his scenes.
Funny how that works.
[Ben Linus fans, please see also my original Ben post: "Please Tell Me Why I Love Ben Linus"]