Why Do Girls Like Bad Boys? 6 Truths About This Trope From Classic Film ‘A Face In The Crowd’

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A Face In The Crowd
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Have you ever fallen in love with the narcissistic "bad boy"?

Lonesome Rhodes (played by Andy Griffith), a brash, charming drunken drifter, is turned into a radio personality by Marcia Jeffries (played by Patricia Neal) in Elia Kazan’s 1957 classic, A Face in The Crowd.

The film explores the climb to power of a rabble-rousing, anti-social con man, as well as Lonesome’s ultimate tantrum-ing downfall. Sound familiar?

Perhaps the real question lies in why a woman like Marcia falls for such a man. Yes, "sexy sells" to some women.

But, aside from the sex appeal of narcissistic bad boys, why does Marcia fall so hard? What draws her in? And what fateful mistakes does she make in loving the wrong man?

RELATED: 9 Things That Suck About Bad Boys (And 1 Big Reason Women Stay)

Why do girls like bad boys, anyway? A Face In The Crowd takes a deeper look at this trope.

The answer to this age-old question is hidden in the subtext and in the longings of both Marcia and Lonesome.

Lonesome openly tells Marcia his sad story: How his mother was too busy with all the "uncles" from this town and the next to love him. And he shrugs it off as if it’s had no effect.

But the reality is that he has an insatiable hunger for the adoration of any woman he can find. He’ll eat anyone up, spit them out, and move on to the next — just like his mother.

We unconsciously seek out our "type" — for better or for worse.

Lonesome’s hunger is obvious, but Marcia’s desire to be special isn’t.

Does she know she’s lonely? Maybe not. Maybe she’s hidden her need for love. That blatant desire in Lonesome — a mirror of her own — is the unconscious hook.

Marcia’s a go-getter, a small-town radio producer working for her uncle’s station after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College.

When she needs an angle for her show, "A Face in the Crowd," she decides to interview men in the town jail's drunk tank. In comes Lonesome Rhodes — a drifter — haunting seedy bars, drying out overnight in jail.

Can he sing? Does he have charm? Is he outrageous? Can he talk up a storm? Yes, he might just be the draw the station needs.

Lonesome captures his audiences. Lonesome also captures Marcia. She’ll do anything to have him. That’s her first mistake.

Here are 6 truths about falling for the wrong men, as seen in the classic film A Face In The Crowd.

1. You hide your need for love.

Marcia appears to need nothing, at first. Yet, it isn’t only Lonesome who’s hungry for attention. He eats it up. That’s typical of narcissistic men.

Marcia’s hungry for love, too — she just can’t let herself know it. She does everything for her uncle’s station and takes care of herself. She’s tough.

Plus, she keeps rebuffing the loyal Mel Miller (played by Walter Matthau), her equal and a nice guy, who tries to get her to see the light of day about Lonesome.

Women like Marcia can’t let down their guard. She doesn’t even admit her real attraction to Lonesome for a long time. Instead, she focuses on the show's ratings and takes care of him.

There’s something about Lonesome’s crass sexiness that draws her in. Yet, what she sees in him is the hungry little child in her that needs love, the one she keeps hidden from herself.

2. You make yourself essential to him.

Being essential to a charming man who takes but gives nothing is a trap many women fall into. It’s the illusion that he won’t leave you if he needs you.

Marcia’s afraid she’s not enough, so she feeds into Lonesome’s insatiable narcissistic need for attention. She’s always there for him, happy to be his "right hand," and gets sucked into his fears, trauma, and insecurities.

They’re a mirror of her own shadows, although she doesn’t know it.

When Lonesome is given the key to all 25 rooms on the top floors of a prestigious hotel, he calls her, panicking.

"I feel like a shipwreck that fell on an island. If you don’t come, I’ll dive off this balcony. It scares me. All those people waiting to hear what I have to say… I need you, because you level with me. You’re my lifeline to truth. Marry me, Marcia, will you?"

He doesn’t love her — he’s using her. Narcissistic men are capable only of thinking of themselves. And since she’s made herself essential to him, he needs her close at hand.

Change his ways? Of course not. He’ll do what he pleases, even if it hurts her. And she lets him, pushing her needs aside. She’s the one doing all the giving and all the work.

3. You push yourself aside.

Marcia pushes herself aside as a way of feeling safe, asking for nothing and being there for Lonesome's beck and call.

Yes, she’s essential and Lonesome needs her. After all, he’s "just a country boy." What does he really know about life, or fame, or playing with the powerful? He’s all bluff and outrageous bluster.

But make no mistake, Marcia’s as enamored as all of his screaming fans. She's the always-quietly-adoring face in the background.

Yes, she’ll push herself aside to keep him around. He’s a fantasy man in her mind.

She doesn’t see how Lonesome demeans those who help him, sends the town dogs to the Chief of Police’s house, or had kids invade her uncle’s pool. He can do no wrong in her eyes.

Not only does she push herself aside, but she also makes excuses for him and is with him the whole way. She won’t listen to her instincts or to the smart Mel Miller.

RELATED: 8 Smart, Simple Steps For How To Deal With A Narcissist

4. You make excuses for him.

Do you turn a blind eye to what you know, ignoring the whole reality of him and focusing on what you want to see and who you want him to be?

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Lonesome makes false promises, lies, and does what he wants. He proposes to Marcia, then has another girl in his room. And then his "wife" shows up.

But Marcia is drawn into his "magic" — his irreverent, rabble-rousing appeal. She thinks he’s hers.

That’s not the story, not when they return to the home of "A Face in the Crowd," where he’ll choose Miss Arkansas of 1957.

He’s welcomed as a "great humanitarian, our very own Lonesome Rhodes." No, he’s not. He just knows what to say to get what he wants.

Lonesome’s not the man who lives in Marcia’s mind. He feeds on adoration, stirs it up, ignores Marcia’s feelings (as she ignores her own) and his so-called commitment to her.

Yes, Lonesome gets lots of that adoration from all the "hot" 17-year-old flirtatious majorettes, the Miss Arkansas contestants.

Not only will Lonesome pick the next Miss Arkansas, but Marcia Jeffries’ supposed fiancé can also have his own personal pick.

5. You ignore the red flags.

Marcia doesn’t see what’s right in front of her: The women he’s lied about, his wandering eye, his infidelities, and concern only for who wants him at any given moment.

And Betty Lou, 17-year-old "unanimous" winner of Miss Arkansas, has pasted his photo on her ceiling so he’s the first thing she sees when she wakes in the morning.

Who can beat that? He lies (again) to Marcia that he’s going to Mexico to finalize his divorce. But when he returns, he’s married to Betty Lou.

And what does he do to hurt Marcia more? He makes her feel just like he did as a little boy when his mother came home with all the "uncles." He flaunts his "love" for Betty Lou right in Marcia’s face.

She wanted him to love her best and tried to be essential so he’d change and choose her over all the others.

Narcissistic men do not and cannot change. When she’s no longer of use to him, that is that. She's now the unwanted child.

Mel tried to warn her, but as he says, she’s "a lackey," someone clearly tied to her early trauma, which Lonesome replays.

6. You're blind to his cruelty.

Mel sees Marcia’s role perfectly.

"You’re the shock absorber for ex-wives, new wives, tramps. You’re the wheel of efficiency without which Lonesome Rhodes plunges off a track and leaps to destruction."

Marcia doesn’t see that. She wants to prove she’s more. Yet, the signs of such a man are there from the start.

On the way to Memphis, he said: "I’m glad to shake this town." When Marcia looked askance at him, he distracted her. "Aw, come on, honey. You know me well enough not to believe everything I say.”

Everything he’s done is cruel. He has no respect or cares for anyone’s feelings. Narcissistic "bad boys" only think of themselves. No one else exists. And,worse, he’ll blame you for how he’s treated you.

Lonesome says he was afraid to marry Marcia. "You know more than I do and you’re so goddamned critical... The bigger I get, the smaller you make me feel."

It’s never his fault. But, watch out. He’ll take everything he can and drain you dry. And he’ll leave you feeling smaller than he feels, if you don’t protect yourself.

Breaking free from a narcissistic "bad boy" isn't easy.

It’s not easy to get free.

Marcia pines for him and watches his shows, unable to let go. When Betty Lou "betrays" Lonesome, he shows up, undressing in Marcia’s room, expecting her to want him at his whim.

She almost gives in, her longing to be special stronger than her hurt. But, struggling not to be seduced again, she runs.

Lonesome now begins to openly demean everyone who works for him. And when Marcia intentionally doesn’t show up to coordinate the show, he throws a fit, calling her a "self-important, neurotic female."

Thinking he’s off the air, he says what he really feels.

"Good night you stupid idiots, you miserable slobs… They’re all a lot of trained seals. I throw them a dead fish, and they’ll flap their flippers."

Women often retaliate in reaction to a bad boy type's destructive ways.

Marcia broadcasts it all. She feels her rage. She won’t be one of his trained seals anymore. And the loyal Mel Miller is with her, as she and Lonesome’s fans hear the real monster he is.

Retaliation is part of it. Hurt can make you strike out, mixed with anger at yourself for what you’ve allowed. Yet, the sensitive Mel says the truth. It’s not her fault.

"You were taken in like we all were. But we get wise to it, that’s our strength."

Marcia is finally strong and wise. With Mel by her side, she gets into a taxi, blocking out Lonesome’s screams not to leave him. Leaving him is the only way Marcia can get free.

RELATED: 6 Signs You're In Love With A Serious Narcissist

Dr. Sandra Cohen is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and psychoanalyst, who specializes in treating childhood trauma, persistent depressive states, and all types of anxiety. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Sandra E. Cohen, Ph.D.'s blog, Characters On The Couch. Reprinted with permission from the author.