Brooding Male Lead

I was watching Hannibal (the show) recently and was quite taken with the brooding sexiness of Will Graham. That Hugh Dancy is an attractive guy. But when he’s clean shaven and smiling, eh? Not as good IMO.

This got me thinking about the popular archetype of the attractive broken guy all the ladies want to fix (or gay men, whatevs). There are plenty of guys like this on TV: Jon Snow, Sawyer from LOST, every other TV cop (Stabler, Mike Logan, Tim Bayliss, etc). I was trying to figure out how far back that goes and who started it.

I’m not super old–but as far as I can tell it goes back to James Dean. The sad kid who nobody understood, was sexy and needed a nice lady to hold him and stay with him and tell him that he’s good. What is it about us that attracts us to such men? Is it that we’re also damaged and want to be around someone as damaged as us–if not moreso? I mean, hanging out with a broken guy allows us to put our energy into “fixing” him (which we probably call “helping him”) instead of looking inward and dealing with our own shit.

Uh oh, I just became aware of a RL parallel in my early years of dating. Almost exclusively, I dated broken men all through my teens and 20’s. Life-wise, I can’t be the responsible sane one in any relationship. Objectively, I am neither of those things.

And yet…this brooding male archetype is wildly popular. So it can’t be just me. How much further back does it go? Did people look at Caligula and say “Aw, he just needs to find the right girl?” I mean, even Hitler had a girlfriend–one who suicided herself right along with him. People love Severus Snape even though he’s a complete prick–it can only be because he’s so dark…and so sad.

As Rod Serling would say–there’s not a lesson here. We’re just taking a look into a broken thing in our world and wondering WTF.