There’s Something About a Vulnerable Bad Boi With a Troubled Past

“There’s Something About” is a series where writers chat about the type of babes that make them all hot and bothered by showing you fictional Pop Culture hotties that fit the bill.

These bad bois (and grrrls) fall somewhere in between the type of people I am legitimately into in real life and hot people I would date in an alternate reality. Would I actually go out with a soulless vampire who has murdered thousands? I hope not! Would I make the mistake of falling for a Shane-type? Sadly yes.

Are there two characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer on this list of four people? Of course, because the series’ two bad bois who I first encountered in my teenagehood were likely the start of this whole type which I’m apparently stuck with for life now.

Faith — Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Image shows Faith sitting on a couch wearing a black leather jacket and giving an attitudinal face to the camera

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my root. From the moment she arrives, acting all cool and tough and sexy and sharing stories about wrestling alligators in the nude, she had my heart. Of course, even in the first episode where she appears, we see she isn’t as tough as she seems — she is terrified of the vampire who killed her watcher and eventually opens up about it. It also becomes increasingly clear that, unlike Buffy, for her becoming a slayer was a big improvement over the life she’d had so far. Going over to the dark side later (hot!) is a result of no one looking out for her. Faith just wants Buffy to love her!!

*Shout-out to Sarah Michelle Gellar playing Faith in Buffy’s body and delivering this jaw-dropping monologue to Spike: “I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I’ve got muscles you’ve never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you pop like warm champagne and you’d beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don’t? Because it’s wrong.”

Spike — Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Image shows a blonde haired Spike leaning back on a motorcycle wearing a leather jacket and a white tank top
Speaking of Spike: Faith is a vampire slayer and Spike is a vampire, but otherwise, they are so alike. They both just want Buffy to love them! Oh, Spike does a good job appearing the classic bad boi with his Billy Idol look (Billy stole it from him, remember?), his punk music taste, and his murderous schemes. But we all know he started out as a big softie writing terrible love poetry and he is very much still that guy. I mean, there’s a reason Harmony nicknamed him blondie bear. He’s also the guy who loved his mom so much he turned her into a vampire only to have her go super creepy and try to assault him, causing him to have to kill her. Ouch, that’s a troubled past and a half.

Shane — The L Word

Image shows a young Shane staring into the distance with her mouth slightly open and her hair falling in her eyes gently shaping her face
Shane as the epitome of my type is a bit embarrassing to admit because it is so basic, but I’m being honest here. Shane was a big part of my coming out circa 2006. I’m mostly referring to Shane as she appears in the original series, as a lady-killing, non-committal, rakish lesbian. The Shane who had such a heart of gold that she forgave and slept with (again!) the woman who was stalking her and putting up slanderous posters all over town (Great performance, Tammy Lynn Michaels). Like Faith and Spike, she has the look and feel of the bad boi down pat: tousled hair, ample dark eyeliner, and low husky voice. We also know Shane’s childhood was shitty, her dad left, and she spent some time on the streets. But despite that background, she’s consistently the series’ most loyal friend and really has grown up in Generation Q — I think.

Frankie — Lip Service

Image shows Frankie sitting at her computer wearing a black tank top and resting one of her hands under her chin.
Is Frankie just Scotland’s answer to the American Shane? Maybe! But I am talking about my type here, so if Frankie is a lot like Shane that’s not my fault. She also has tousled hair, wears lots of dark eyeliner, and had a troubled childhood with shitty and/or absent parents! Perhaps to differentiate her from her American counterpart, Frankie is refreshingly bisexual, something we don’t see a lot with androgynous women characters. She runs around acting all bad, partying, sleeping around, and behaving terribly most of the time. She starts the series having ditched her one true love Cat right after convincing her to leave her current girlfriend for her. But it’s just because she was scared and didn’t think she deserved Cat, not because she’s really bad!

Okay people, tell me I’m not alone in loving these bad bois with troubled pasts and ooey-gooey vulnerable centers. And please, share with me more examples of these irresistible baddies so I can expand my repertoire.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer, librarian, and new parent. She writes for Book Riot and Autostraddle about queer and/or bookish stuff. Ask her about cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer books, drinking tea, and her baby. Her website is Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian. Find her on Twitter, Litsy, Storygraph Goodreads and Instagram.

Casey has written 126 articles for us.


  1. As a community we need to stop romanticising toxic, abusive women.

    Frankie especially was one of the worst characters imaginable to be created for a TV show that was trying to give viewers a look into the lesbian community. A violent, using, cowardly crackhead that played with people like toys then disappeared. She had none of my pity as a character. Many people grow up with abusive and absent families and do not turn out that vile, yet the TV show used it as an excuse. Like it’s okay to act like trash towards the people who love you if you have a crap childhood. It’s not and never will be.

    I meet so fellow many young lesbians who want to cure and change women like it’s some badge of honour to be treated like sh*t by their partner, instead of realising that as adults we need to take responsibility for ourselves, especially our own mental health care, and not expect a partner to do it for us.

    Lets start romanticising people who have their sh*t together regardless of their dark past.

    • yah i agree w/ u for the most part. coincidentally all these toxic queers are all white. hmmm! i see it a lot w/ toxic queer women that treat other ppl like shit and they get away w/ it cuz they’re white. if shane isn’t white would we idolize her as much? no, we will probably exile her.

    • As the editor on this light-hearted series where a few of our very grown writers chat through their highly fictional crushes from TV & Film I wanted to chime in.

      It’s interesting to me that you have such a deep request for change within our community yet casually drop damaging language like “crackhead” when referring to a FICTIONAL character who was an addict at a point in their fictional life.

      Thanks so much for reading though.

    • I agree that we need to stop romanticising toxic abusive women. I don’t think it’s unique to the queers though. Straights romanticise toxic abusive men. I think everybody needs to stop romanticising the poor storytelling of “they couldn’t stay away from each other and kept cheating on all their new partners with each other so….REAL LOVE?!?!” in general.

      Idk man, I think it’s ok to give critique of who we crush on.

  2. Thanks for the excellent bi rep Casey! Bad bois / grrls don’t usually do it for me, although I enjoy the swagger of not-as-bad-as-they-think-they-are grrls like Michelle on Derry Girls or Max on Living Single. Max acted tough and she could be mean but she wasn’t killing people or cheating on her partners.

    This AS series is so interesting – it’s making me think about my own types and how they show up in pop culture. Having trouble finding a theme. So far I’ve come up with pretty women who look sweet and wholesome but have a bit of an edge. Also women with nice butts.

  3. This is slightly beside the point did anyone see the season of Torchwood where James Marsters (Spike) was Captain Jack Harkness’ ex boyfriend/arch nemesis? Because that was…very good. And definitely pinged…one of my sexualities.

  4. the piece and comments are a real trip down memory lane. digging it.

    also though, Spike on Buffy is difficult for me because i can’t forget the non-consensual sex scene with Buffy. if that had happened 5 years ago, i would never have finished the show, let alone now. adding to that who Whedon turns out to be, well, i can’t disassociate how much i love the buffyverse with what i understand now. i try to avoid the characters and anything that might give attention to, or make money for a guy who sucks. instead put my fan-ness into supporting the actors who seem cool. and i super get why people hang on to touchstone characters/media – i’m not a harry potter person, but the constant cultural references make it clear how foundational it is and how it would be hard to let go of. maybe these creators write bad bois & villains so well because they have the capacity to tap into.

    wondering about there not being any Canadian bad bois on your list – is it just that there aren’t any? i’ve not seen enough of your country’s media to have a sense – but of what i have seen, i can’t recall any.

    • Oh yeah absolutely hear you on Spike! I have complicated feelings too.

      As for Canadian visual media, it is not in a very good state compared to books and music. There is some available of course but fairly few and far between and I also don’t watch a ton of TV or movies to begin with. One Cdn show I really like is Working Moms, which has a really hot sometimes mean mom played by Dani Kind. Not quite a fit here but look her up!

  5. Very late but I’m all about Faith and wanted more for her Spike as well. I’m heartbroken about all the RL bad behavior that Buffy actors had to endure. But, Eliza/Faith will always have my heart too.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!