Ladies love an anti-hero.
Right around Valentine’s Day, Kim and I both posted our picks for our Top 5 TV Boyfriends. (My list is here.) Marshall Eriksen, Ed Stevens, Rory Williams, Ben Wyatt – these are the guys who show up on time, compliment your friends, and rarely ditch you for a blonde courtesan. But no more Mr. Nice Guy.
This list, my friends, this one is for the guys your mother warned you about. They’re not bad, per se, just…complicated. They’ll break your heart three times by Thursday and have you coming back for more.
Enjoy this rundown of my very favorite TV rogues and look for Kim’s list later this week. Face it: there aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.
1. Mal Reynolds – Firefly
The bottom line is this: Mal Reynolds is the second coming of Han Solo, our lord and savior. He may also be a smuggler and a criminal when necessary, but that just makes our Captain Tightpants all the more appealing. I mean, who would you rather corner you in the engine room: Luke or Han? That’s what I thought.
Thanks to Firefly‘s brutal cancellation, we have precious little Mal with which to line our dream pockets. At least the role made a star and a geek icon out of Nathan Fillion, who went on to play another Captain very close to my heart.
The one and only season of Firefly plus the Serenity film established Cap’s character as a man who’s been burnt by the system and now lives life off the grid. But for a “loner,” he’s awfully obsessed with family. Like his predecessor in intergalactic swashbuckling sexiness, Mal claims to care only about his ship and himself, but loyally protects his crew and the strays they pick up. Nathan once said that each of the crew members represents a quality that Mal thinks he lost in the war: Shephard – faith, Kaylee – innocence, and so on. But the fact alone that he admires those traits in other people proves that he’s not a complete emotional black hole. In fact, he’s kind of a big damn hero.
He is a bit of a shit to Inara though. He’s always giving her grief about her chosen career as a Companion (read: Fancy Prostitute), but that’s only because he is an overgrown child (a trend with the rogues) with little to no ability to express his emotions. One of the great tragedies of losing Firefly when we did is that Mal/Inara never happened. After all that heat and tension, it would’ve been goooood.
And I’ll meet you there, Cap. Browncoats for life. Next!
2. Brian Kinney – Queer as Folk
“Like I said, it’s all about sex. Except when you’re having it. And then it’s all about, ‘Will he stay?’, ‘Will he go?’, ‘How am I doing?’, ‘What am I doing?’. Unless, of course, you’re Brian Kinney. And then it’s ‘Who gives a fuck what you think? You’re lucky to have me.'”
It’s an ensemble show, but Queer as Folk is ultimately Brian Kinney’s story. He’s just an incredibly compelling character. Annnnd a bonafide sex god of epic proportions.
But my man has got issues. Brian has to come to terms with two major hang-ups over the course of the show.
#1: His own mortality: Brian is obsessed with staying young and beautiful, because he’s terrified that it’s all he’s got. This is the man who was so shook up by the birth of a child that he wasn’t even going to raise that he had to climb out onto the edge of a building to feel alive again.
#2: Allowing himself to be loved. I’m far from the first to apply the X-Men mythology to the gay community; but if we specifically set it in QAF‘s Pittsburgh, Brian Kinney is our Magneto. Brian Kinney doesn’t want to assimilate. Ever since his parents rejected him for being gay, he’s been determined to live outside of that normalcy that he finds so boring and hateful. His way of rejecting that world is to eschew love and monogamy in favor of sex. And on behalf of fan girls everywhere, I’d like to say THANK YOU FOR THAT.
Still, he has this depth of love inside him, especially for his best friend Michael and Michael mom’s Debbie, who since his childhood have filled the void left by his dysfunctional family. To be completely fair, part of why Brian keeps Michael around is Michael’s complete devotion to (and lifelong crush on) him. I’m still not sure if Brian’s refusal to sleep with his bestie was a selfish way of ensuring that Michael would stay attached to his very attractive hip or his way of protecting him. Knowing what we know about Brian, it was probably a little of both.
And then, sigh, there’s Britin. I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t experienced this series yet (GO DO THAT), but Brian and Justin’s love is for the ages. It’s all the more dramatic for Brian’s complete refusal to acknowledge how much he needs it. But it’s freaking beautiful, and my friend Sam and I have been known to get weepy discussing that time Brian let Justin top him. Shut up, it was super romantic.
Plus, he’s gorgeous, sarcastic, and has a SICK loft. I don’t care how damaged you are, Brian. I’d dance till the wee hours at Babylon with you any time.
3. The Doctor – Doctor Who
I could FEEL you guys questioning me when I posted my TV Valentine’s list. I know you were surprised not to find this man there. Believe me, I was too. But let’s be real: while the Doctor is a wonderful friend and my own spiritual leader (not kidding), he would be a fantastically terrible boyfriend. This is why you always listen to your mama. Jackie was right.
First of all, he loathes himself. We’ve all got self esteem problems, but this guy wiped out two complete races and, despite all his best efforts, usually ruins the lives of all of his friends. You don’t wanna mess around with that kind deep-seated self-hatred.
Also, he’s kind of a slut. You drop your entire life to run away with him, and suddenly he’s on the other side of a magical fireplace tongue-kissing a French aristocrat? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
And he always pretends that it wasn’t his fault.
In all his regenerations, the Doctor can be downright terrifying. All that anger is directed towards the bad guys, of course, but that doesn’t mean his rash decisions won’t fuck things up for you too. Just, let this one go and find a nice boy from this planet who knows how to process his feelings.
But you wouldn’t, and neither would I. As the very wise Sarah Jane Smith once said, “Some things are worth getting your heart broken for.”
4. Fox Mulder – The X-Files
Spooky Mulder is a geek girl institution. For us (and to borrow a phrase from Carrie Bradshaw), he’s like a Chanel suit. He never goes out of style.
Ugh, Special Agent Mulder. Those glasses. That determination. That beautifully tortured soul. That hand-on-the-lower-back lead you always gave Scully. This is why the Duchovny is sitting pretty in my Common Law Top 5.
Yes, he’s handsome and brilliant. But you wouldn’t take Mulder home to mom, mostly because the visit alone would probably get her murdered by a shadowy government organization. Thanks to Clyde Bruckman, we also know he’s going to die from autoerotic asphyxiation. You don’t want to be the widow who has to stand around at the wake and answer questions about that.
It’s not that Mulder is going to run around on you. Well, maybe after aliens, but certainly not with women. He’s hardly even interested. If his sister Samantha hadn’t gone and gotten herself abducted (YOU HAD ONE JOB, SAMANTHA), he’d be the Ivy League man of your dreams. But if you dated Mulder, all you’d ever hear would be quest this, and conspiracy that. He had to get together with Scully eventually. She’s the only woman who could stand it.
He’s also really into porn and leaving sunflower seed shells everywhere. I honestly don’t know which is worse.
I would never have forgiven him for this.
Oooookay, so I would have. Mulder is the definitive romantic sci-fi anti-hero. There’s a line in Million Dollar Baby that goes, “There’s a magic in fighting battles beyond endurance.” And Mulder never, ever gives up – not on his fight, and not on his partner. If he wasn’t that kind of guy, Scully would be dead about 26 times over. That loyalty – that poetry of the-two-of-us-against-the-world – that’s what made me such a Mulder devotee. And Rose/Doctor I’mma let you finish, but Mulder/Scully are my favorite ship OF ALL TIME. *mic drop*
(Soon, my pets, Kim and I are going to share our 5 favorite XF episodes with you. Stay tuned.)
5. Tim Riggins – Friday Night Lights
Lyla: “I was baptised yesterday and accepted Jesus as my lord and savior. What have you done recently Tim?”
Tim: “I had a three-way with the Straton sisters.”
There is no question: Timmy Riggins is the most tragic figure on this most tragic of lists.
First of all, it’s tragic that the show has been off the air for a few years and we tragically don’t get to ogle his tragically chiseled face/body ever week. Tragedy.
But seriously, folks: he’s got the rawest of deals. His mom is god knows where, his dad is an emotionally unavailable deadbeat. His brother loves him, but is hardly role model material and is always getting him into all manner of shit. Riggins has no cause to be as noble and loving as he is.
#33 wouldn’t be a bad boyfriend because he’s a bad guy, but because he’s missing a self-preservation chip. He gets himself into awful situations because he always takes the rap rather than making excuses or getting someone else in trouble. (I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Julie for getting him kicked out of Coach’s house.) He expects life to be difficult and unfair. He doesn’t think he deserves the alternative.
But he hides it, of course, with booze and sarcasm and rally girls. He cultivates the bad boy persona, and that’s what most of Dillon are buying. Pair that reputation with that body, and you’ve got a set of low expectations. He’s not bad, he’s just drawn that way.
Underneath all of that, Tim is nothing short of a hero. (And a master of making up adorable nicknames. I screamed with delight the first time he called Luke “Fours.”) He took the entire fall for the chop shop so that Billy wouldn’t have to leave his family. He encouraged his best friend Jason to go off and find his life, even though it meant letting go of his own dream. (“Ten years from now, Street, good friends living large in Texas.”) Even supporting Lyla when she went off to school was selfless.
In the last episode of FNL (spoiler alert), it looks like Tim will end up with Tyra. I was surprised at first, because it seemed like Lyla (even though she’s boring with a capital “B”) was meant to be the love of his life. But I think it’s a turning point for Tim. Tyra was essentially the female Riggins, only with a greater drive to escape her circumstances. She understands how he views his own life, even though he rarely uses his words. I hope that Tyra encourages Tim to think about himself for once and get back some of the love he’s giving out. More than anyone on that show, he deserves to have someone finally looking out for him.
Ugh, these boys give me all of the feelings. I’m going to go and compose myself while you leave your favorite TV rogues in the comments. Look out for Kimmie’s Top 5 later this week.