Since I seem to be on a roll for interrupting my intended post series everywhere I go, I thought I'd continue the trend.
My hometown newspaper recently posted this article on a study's find that the brain equates beauty and morality. In summary, the same part of the brain is stimulated when viewing images of attractive individuals as when weighing the morality of an action (say, saving a dog from a burning building). Now, I'll say right off that I don't really know whether brain area is enough to indicate a certainty, but either way the concept is a familiar one, and it's one I'd like to apply to one of the long-standing topics here on the prairies.
It's almost a requisite for treading that fine line between Jerk You Shouldn't Mess With and But He's So Dreamy. A pleasing appearance counters beautifully with displeasing behaviour, and perhaps part of the reason they become appealing (and in some cases, to my personal chagrin, redeemable), is that we can't help but assume there's something morally laudable in them. Maybe it's not just that they're bad but nice to look at, and may one day not be so bad, but that their physical appeal actually contributes to the impression that they're not so bad after all, and gives us 'proof' that they will change.
But what about the ugly ones? We can debate the appeal of bad boys from any standpoint imaginable, social, cultural, biological (how about a Marxist take, anyone?), but what about the poor sods who don't get chiseled jaws, flashing eyes, or thick raven hair? Take Byronic heroes, for instance. Plenty of captivating, larger-than-life traits, but good looks isn't expressly one of them. Sure, plenty of Byronic heroes are good-looking, but their sheer force of will may often be what makes them appealing. Even then, though, I have a hard time coming up with many examples. I don't remember the precise descriptions in my mind, whether Emily Bronte ever called Heathcliff handsome, or if I've merely taken his traits and made them of handsome form in my mind. Any movie casting, of course, is bound to have a handsome face in the role. They're movies, even the ugly people are pretty.
So, writers and readers of romance, I turn to you, the supreme authority on bad boys in all their incarnations. How many unattractive bad boys can you think of, and what makes them appealing? Heck, let's be generous, even if they're just not expressly handsome, shout 'em out! Can unattractive men still capture that bad-boy appeal, or do we need some level of looks to think them, deep down, morally good and desirable?