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Scoundrels, Scallywags and Scurvy Dogs
Why Do We Love Rogues?
Rogues, scoundrels, scallywags, scurvy dogs or ne'er-do-wells, whatever you call them, we all have a soft spot for the bad boy with a heart of gold, but why? What is the allure of the lovable rogue? In popular fiction stories such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, roguish characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones are both characters with questionable morality and yet they remain some of our most icons. Han Solo is a smuggler and a criminal but he is also many fans favorite personality from the saga while Indiana Jones is a grave robber. Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy from the Iron Man franchise is far from a role model with his over-drinking, his womanizing and his many other flaws but he is, undeniably, one of the most beloved superheroes. So why is it that we love these morally ambiguous rascals and how is it that they capture our imaginations and win our devotions?
Real Life Rogues
While fictional black sheep like David Gemmel's magnificently amoral rapscallion, Jarek Mace, in his novel Morningstar are fascinating to read about or to watch on the big screen, real life reprobates have always been more intriguing because their exploits are true. In fact, many of our fictional anti-heroes antics are directly based on the actual adventures embarked upon by their true life counterparts. For example, the misogynist antics of the world's most famous spy, James Bond, agent 007 is actually based on the true tales of people like Forest Yeo-Thomas, a British secret agent. Paying tribute to the notion that truth is stranger than fiction, we are going to take a look at some of histories most scandalous and charming scoundrels.
Hooker With A Heart Of Gold
Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read
Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read (1954-2013) was an Australian Gangster, author and entertainment personality who's real life story was documented in the Eric Bana film, Chopper (2000). Tough as nails Chopper earned his name when he asked a fellow prison inmate to help him saw off his own ears as a means of getting transferred out of his current cell-block.
A merciless predator on other gangsters, Chopper nevertheless was not a monster and, when he doctors told him that he needed a liver transplant or would die, this hard boiled murderer refused, saying that he wouldn't want to rob some 12 year old girl of a chance at life by stealing a liver from her. In short, he chose to die so that another might live.
His series of books, a semi-autobiographical account of his bawdy and brawling life, are alternatively chilling and hilarious.
The Allure of the Bad Boy
It has been intelligently argued (by me) that the 'bay boy' archetype is the male version of the 'hooker with a heart of gold' played so brilliantly by Julia Roberts in the hit film, Pretty Woman and many other women in other films. But what is it that draws us, both men and women alike, to these miscreants? Surely some of it is sex appeal but that's most often true with the fictional characters and less true with the true-life scamps.
The nefarious, Australian gangster Mark 'Chopper' Read, for example, was an extremely well liked personality but he would never be called handsome, with his missing front teeth and the ears have been cut off his head.
They Are Fun
The real appeal of these delinquents partially comes from the simple fact that they are a lot of fun. They are usually very charming, with a warm, beguiling smile and are often quick to laugh. Who wouldn't prefer to spend their time with someone fun and entertaining that makes us laugh and tells us great stories? It is this age old desire to be entertained that has kept bards, authors and movie directors gainfully employed since the dawn of man.
Knaves give us several gifts. Not only do they bring exciting things into our routine lives that titillate us with their stories of tantalizing trysts and thrilling adventures, but they also do something far more powerful. They fulfill a desire we have to break the chains of our unremarkable days and allow us, vicariously, to breach our restrictive, social conventions and do the things we might want to do but don't dare do, like steal a kiss from a beautiful girl.
They Make Us Fearless
The charming rogue laughs at the things that bind us, the things that we fear and because of that, we feel fearless whilst in their presence. Rogues live for adventure and do daring things. They don't sit on sofas, in front of televisions, eating frozen dinners and worrying about electricity bills and how they will pay for their old age care.
They seem to have not a care in the world and never worry or suffer from crippling angst. They never spend their nights sitting by the telephone, pining for the lover who isn't calling. They don't whine about their regrets nor complain about their bosses or their thirty year mortgages, they just get on with living and they love doing it. In short, they seem happy, something that we all want for ourselves. They don't waste time with petty revenges (if a rogue seeks revenge you can bet it's going to be epic!)
They Set Us Free
No one tells these rakes what they can and can't do so they are free to live as they please. No home owners association to tell them to repaint their houses; no boss to tell them they have to work late; no kids that they need to pick up from school. They don't sit in a cubicle under fluorescent lights, they travel the world, seeing wonderful, new places and just seem to live better lives than the rest of us. And because we share in their stories, we go with them, experiencing a little of their exciting lives by hearing about them.
William Henry 'Bully' Hayes
William Henry 'Bully' Hayes (1827-1877) was far from perfect. Called many things, including a pirate and a bigamist, he was most certainly a blackbirder i.e. a practice that often involved kidnapping natives to sell them to plantations as workers. While not quite slaving, it was VERY close to it. But far from the snarling, nasty faced brigand that we have seen painted in many pictures, Bully was a charming man who often used that charm to con others out of their money.
A Pacific Trader, survivor of shipwrecks and a sea captain who once squashed an attempted mutiny by killing the two ringleaders with his bare hands, Bully's name was synonymous with adventure and robbery.
In 1983, Hollywood star Tommy Lee Jones portrayed William Hayes in the movie Nate and Hayes and previously in His Majesty O'Keefe (1954) where Charles Horvath depicted the mighty bilker.
Rogues vs Heroes
So why do we love the rogue more than the hero? Because the rogue is fun. The hero, no matter how brave and strong, is still confined, weighed down by responsibilities. Heroes are without the simple, carefree love of life that the daredevil enjoys.
If the ongoing, often heated, debate between Batman fans and Superman fans has taught us anything, it is that anti-heroes, like the dark knight, are popular because they are not as constrained as the classical, archetypal hero such as Superman, who always behaves responsibly and above reproach.
Rogues Aren't Perfect
Rogues aren't perfect and that makes them more accessible to most of us because faultless heroes can remind us of our own shortcomings. By not being perfect, rogues allow us to forgive ourselves our own failings, which makes us like ourselves more.
Because they are not perfect, rogues are not boring. They have quirks and idiosyncrasies that are interesting. One of the most common complaints about Superman is that he is too good. He does good just because he is a do-gooder and many people find that dull as well as hard to relate too. (Oddly, Superman is my own favorite superhero but I'll dedicate another article to that at a later date).
Being imperfect and forgiving of those imperfections means that the bar is not set too high for us. Heroes expect too much from us and we fear we will not be able to live up to their standards whilst rogues accept everyone for who they are.
About Bully Hayes
Scurvy Dogs Under A Black Flag
Why We Love Pirates
Accused pirates like Bully Hayes were both condemned and applauded in their day but their undeniable popularity of the romantic image most people have of pirates is unquestionable. They go where they want, do as they will and get all the best looking girls, not to mention have chests of gold.
Pirates, at least the swashbuckling, Hollywood pirates made famous by the likes of Errol Flynn and,more recently by Johnny Depp, are probably the most iconic lovable rogues of all. Scurvy dogs, every last one of them, they might be murderers and robbers but we still can't hep but want to be them.