Good guys finish last, they say — but that’s not so much the case anymore. These days, good guys are in.
In the ’80s, perhaps, bad boys ran popular culture. Michael Jackson’s Bad album helped create a movement that informed the way guys dressed and danced.
By the ‘90s, that bad boy culture lived on. In fact, Bad Boy, one of the most powerful record labels of the ‘90s, capitalized on the love affair that women had formed with bad boy images, by calling itself “Bad Boy,” and by encouraging some of its artists to present that image.
Also, during the ’90s, gangster rap climbed to commercial heights, and gothic fashions that touted a negative image were considered aesthetically appealing.
So, yes: bad boys finished first back then.
Today’s men reject “bad boy” image
These days? Celebrities reject bad boy labels. Even NFL player Richard Sherman — whom a few racists labeled a thug for having an adrenaline-fueled moment that led his team to the Super Bowl — refused to tolerate that label when it was applied to him.
He was a high school salutatorian with a 4.0 GPA, who graduated from Stanford University with honors and is completing his master’s degree there, too. He showed everyone watching that alleged scandal unfold that thuggery was nothing he seeks to embrace.
At 25, Sherman is representative of his generation.
Welcoming the era of the “good guy”
What is his generation? What is this new era? It is the era of the good guy.
It is the era of the Obama Man, and those who want to be like him. It is the era of “suit and tie” behavior à la Justin Timberlake — an era in which sports players wear suits when not in uniform, an era in which rapper Jay Z, who released the song “Suit & Tie” with Justin, wears handkerchiefs rather than bananas — and raps more about wealth, entrepreneurship, and legitimate business skills than about the bad boy hustling of his 1990s heyday.
If you remember, both Justin Timberlake and Jay Z wore bandanas in the ‘90s — similar to Will Smith’s character on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — in contrast with Carlton, who was mocked for his nerdy sweaters and moccasins.
Now, Justin Timberlake and Jay Z dress like Carlton. Now, every fashionable man of this generation dresses like a good guy, and owns at least a pair of nerd glasses.
Today’s bad boys held accountable
Even if some bad boy rappers continue to spew negative, misogynistic language in their music today like they did in the age of gangster rap, the difference is that society limits that poetic license to just music.
The instant a rapper spills any of his misogynistic “badness” into a public forum, e.g. uses the b-word in his music and then refers to a woman as a b-word in real life or on Twitter, he is publicly roasted.
The masses instantly rise against him and crown him a jerk; his stock plummets, and his career ends, as legions of women desert his wannabe “bad boy” self.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, bad boy rappers endured none of this social media accountability. They could live a misogynistic, bad boy life without the Internet embarrassing them virally—so their bad boy image thrived.
Women want the good guy
Today, the bad boy is quite simply: dead. He has expired. No one wants a bad boy or thug rapper for Valentine’s Day. Everyone wants an Obama, a Stanford grad, a Will Smith or a Justin Timberlake in a suit and tie.
Bad girls, on the other hand… now, that’s a different story for another essay.
China Okasi is a regular television news contributor and new media expert who focuses on women-based audiences. She has built and sold several high-revenue websites, and newly launched The Daily Mocha. China is the executive director of the Women Of Media organization, and a forthcoming author.