There’s always been that cliche concept of falling for the “bad boy,” but what if you don’t even realize the guy you’ve fallen for is bad? Whether we accept it or not, not all bad boys ride motorcycles and wear leather jackets. And usually, when we do, we label them as the dude with a tough exterior but a heart-of-gold.
At some point or another, we’re going to have to face the facts: some of our faves are super problematic. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes… not so much. It’s not going to stop up from swooning every time they step on screen, but realizing there’s a problem is the first step to solving it, so we’ll take it for now.
Caution: Some TV spoilers and major tea up ahead.
1. Chuck Bass on Gossip Girl
Chuck Bass is beautiful, sophisticated, rich and…a little bit abusive. Who can forget season one when Chuck attempts to rape Jenny Humphrey? While people can change, Chuck never really did. We probably should acknowledge the time he manipulated Blair into having sex with his UNCLE in exchange for a hotel. Chuck’s grand, romantic gestures and alleged #RelationshipGoals with B often take the spotlight, while the pain he leaves behind him tends to fall to the back burner. Chuck does have major character development by the end of the Gossip Girl series, but we can’t totally overlook the dark and brooding side that’s always creeping in the background.
2. Alex Karev on Grey’s Anatomy
Karev being one of the top problematic TV heartthrobs is nothing new, but I add him here with a heavy heart. He’s such a beautiful, child-saving pediatric surgeon and, yet, he’s done a lot of crappy things. Just recently he beat up a guy, almost to the point of death, because Alex thought the dude was touching his girlfriend, Jo. No matter how much you love him, you can’t deny his serious anger issues. He’s a reformed ladies’ man who has some major kicked-puppy vibes, which makes it so much easier to ignore his poor actions.
Almost every awful thing he does or says can quickly be soothed with, “But he’s been through so much and he has a good reason!” That’s not necessarily an attractive quality — being able to quickly justify all of your terrible actions and shift the blame. It’d be nice if he owned up to his faults without trying to justify them more often.
3. Dean Forester on Gilmore Girls
This guy has a lot of mixed reviews. He built Rory a car after they had only been dating for a short amount of time and, when his “I love you” was not reciprocated, he basically threw a temper tantrum akin to that of a five-year-old. He’s incredibly obsessive about Rory, often belittled her, and he probably (definitely) has some kind of anger issues. Generally, his response to most small relationship kerfuffles was anger or yelling. Oh, and he cheats on his wife.
He’s very much one of those “nice guys” who have underlying emotionally abusive and awful personalities. You half expect him to tip a fedora at any moment, hold the door open for a lady and then scream at her when she doesn’t thank him enough. No, thank you!
4. Clay Jensen on 13 Reasons Why
The 13 Reasons Why Netflix series had plenty of problems in and of itself, and one them was Clay. He’s pretty cute and portrayed as a sweet friend, but really he wasn’t all that great. To be fair, Clay was going through a lot so some of his behaviors and actions can be somewhat excused… Not all of them, though.
Honestly, his biggest issue was his lack of common sense. At least three times per episode he went up to someone from the tapes and demanded to know what happened next. Each time, the person answered by telling him to just listen to the tapes. All Clay needed to do was listen to the damn tapes, instead, he spent his time riding around on his bike, ignoring the festering, nasty wound on his head and trying to get answers that he could get from the tapes that are literally in his hand. He’s more frustrating than anything else.
5. Jim Halpert on The Office
You probably weren’t expecting Jim in the list of problematic TV heartthrobs, were you? While Jim is often viewed as the quirky, sweet and romantic boy-next-door, he’s got some major flaws. His pranks on Dwight Schrute were harmless and funny (ie: stapler in Jell-O) MOST of the time, but others were flat-out despicable. Remember the time Jim convinced Dwight he was being recruited by the CIA? Or convinced Dwight he was a vampire? Jim spent more time being a bully than he did actually working.
Pranks aside, Jim is pretty cowardly. When Pam is at the center of sexist and misogynistic comments, Jim is usually sitting feet away — not saying a word. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really seem like Best-Boyfriend-Ever material.
Let’s also talk about how he bought the engagement ring for Pam a week after they started dating. That might be totally romantic to some, but maybe it just proves that he was obsessed with the idea of her since day one. He bought a HOUSE without asking his wife if it was okay with her, which is a definite no-no when it comes to marriage. Sure, Bob Vance might not be King of the quizzicle facial expression or puppy-dog-cute, but he seems like a much better beau than Jim, TBH.
6. Ezra Fitz on Pretty Little Liars
He’s so beautiful and the whole English teacher vibe is incredibly swoon-worthy, but this guy went from sweet to stalker real fast. Remember when Ezra revealed that he’d been watching Aria and her friends for years to write a tell-all book about Alison DiLaurentis’ disappearance? Yeah, no, that’s not romantic or acceptable in any sense. It’s plain old creepy. Ezra also started dating Aria when she was 16 and although the two feigned an attempt at splitting because… you know… student/teacher relationships are wrong, Mr. Fitz never really prioritized staying away from his minor-GF.
7. Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Topping off the problematic TV heartthrobs we have this silvery-haired stud. Spike really isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Can we really ignore the fact that he attempted to rape Buffy, a woman he claims to love? His love always turns to obsession (remember Drusilla?) and his self-hatred doesn’t really excuse his straight-up disgusting actions. Even before he attacked Buffy in her bathroom, he made a freaking sex-robot of her… which definitely puts him in the “creepy” category. Sorry, Spike, you’re cute but you crossed the line too many times.
8. Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy
I know we’re not to *spoiler alert* speak ill of the dead but COME ON. While originally coined McDreamy — the guy quickly turned into McAngry. (Sorry, that was a bad one.) He’s had two spouses throughout the series and blantantly disrespects them many times. Heck — he never bothered to tell Meredith that he was LEGALLY MARRIED when they were exclusively dating, then dropped Mer to be with his wife, just to cheat on Addison with Meredith while Addison had been trying to mend things. He’s awful.
9. Logan Huntzberger on Gilmore Girls
Sorry, Rory, you’ve got crap taste in guys. While Logan seems like a gent at first, making sure he and Rory are both on the same page as far as a casual relationship goes, he quickly gets jealous the moment he realizes she’s chilling with another dude. Double standards galore. He also treats people who don’t have as much money as him like crap, uses women sexually to make himself feel better while “on a break” with Rory. At least Jess was upfront about being a bad boy, Logan is a jerk in a nice guy’s clothing. Plus, he continues an affair with Rory in A Year in the Life despite his ENGAGEMENT to another woman. No, thank you.
10. Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother
Barney is supposed to be the jerky-but-lovable womanizer on HIMYM. Ted was annoying, but Barney was straight-up problematic. Should we overlook the fact that he lies to and manipulates women to get them to sleep with him? Newsflash: Your sexual engagement is not consensual if the other person is being persuaded into it. Period. Add the fact that Barney typically treats women like $h*! once he gets laid, he’s just a bad dude. No way around it.
11. Damon Salvatore on Vampire Diaries
Ugh. Yes, it’s hard to say. But Damon is problematic AF. Even if we decided to overlook the fact that he manipulates (there’s that word again) Caroline Forbes with compulsion to get her to have sex with him (read: he rapes her), he also bites/feeds off of her (like, how can we act like this is not abuse?), his relationship with Elena is far from healthy, as well. I mean, he murders her brother to get back at her for playing with his emotions. Just because Jeremy comes back to life doesn’t erase that.
At least Spike actively feels remorseful over his attempted rape of Buffy once he gets a soul. Damon never apologizes to Caroline for abusing her and even if he did, I’m not sure a simple apology would cut it.
12. Danny Castellano on The Mindy Project
Because we start out disliking Danny for his brash ways, it’s hard to see his abuse towards Mindy for what it is once they get together. No matter how many times Mindy says she doesn’t want more kids, he tries to “accidentally” make her pregnant by refusing to wear condoms and secretly tracking her ovulation. That’s not okay. While accidental pregnancies happen, trying to force your partner into getting pregnant when she doen’t want to be is abusive.
Danny prioritizes his needs and happiness over those of the supposed love of his life and frequently tries to make her feel like a “bad mom” for wanting to have a career and a family. If that’s love, then I don’t want it.
13. Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell
Ugh, Zack is supposed to be one of our favorites on this throwback hit but he’s actually the worst. Looking past the fact that he’s a terrible friend to his supposed BFFs, he’s also just a straight-up misogynist and low-key sexual predator. He secretly takes photos of women in their swimwear without their consent so he can make a calendar out of his pics, he basically pimps out his female friends in an effort to make some money from his job organizing the year book and dresses his friend up to sneak into the girls’ locker room and then brainwash his crush into reciprocating his feelings. I’m sorry but what the actual f***!
14. Lucas Scott on One Tree Hill
Okay, so the obvious choice from OTH might SEEM like Nathan because he — ya know — uses Haley to get back at Lucas in the start of their relationship and doesn’t really take no for an answer when she rejects him. So, jury’s still out on Nate, but you wanna know who is for sure a manipulative and sh*tty d-bag? Lucas, played by Chad Michael Murray. Along with jerking around Brooke and then Peyton and then Lindsay, too, he also tends to manipulate these women, their feelings — and then act like it’s their fault when he plays them? Sure he’s such a “nice guy” but… we all know what that means.
15. Mon-El on Supergirl
Supergirl should be all about woman-power but unfortunately, Mon-El seriously takes away from that. While he was brought in a little later in the series, some are wondering why the eff this “hero” had to show up on the Arrowverse show at all. He’s clearly misogynistic and at one point even said he missed the good ol’ days where that mindset was acceptable.
16. Logan Echolls on Veronica Mars
Cue hordes of people whining “but he changes!” Is his apparent growth (and honestly, I don’t really see it) enough to excuse the terrible bullying he puts Veronica through in the first season and his clear acts of racism towards the latino community in his town? I don’t think so. During one flashback, we can see that he encourages partygoers to take shots off of Veronica’s partially unconcious body after she’s been date-raped, which TBH is truly unforgivable.
While he is also the victim of abuse by his dad, that doesn’t excuse the abuse he puts others through.