Cue the Sopranos James Gandolfini. Not exactly a Brad Pitt look-a-like, his characters brutal and violent behavior, including the on-screen murder of a pleading woman (the secret informant girlfriend of his protégé) made him more not less sexy. As did later murders of his protégé, and numerous other characters. Bryan Cranston ("Walter White") of Breaking Bad is not exactly the stuff dreams are made of either. But the characters arc from nebbishy suburban husband to super-bad nascent drug kingpin and killer took him from chump to champ, in sex appeal. You see the same thing with Rescue Me's Dennis Leary, playing a "bad" firefighter who does awful things (like rape his ex-wife onscreen) and becomes even sexier. Showtime's "Dexter" about a "good" serial killer (who only kills other serial killers, sadistically) is par for the course. The whole point is that the characters brutal violence makes him more sexy not less, to the female audience (which is who watches Dexter, mostly). Michael Chicklis in "the Shield" is another such character. Boardwalk Empire's Steve Buscemi who portrays a character that is on-screen violently brutal and murderous, is probably the outer boundary of physical unattractiveness combined with physical dominance to see how "sexy" and physically unattractive a character can be and still play among the female audience.
Quite clearly, producers and writers are well aware of the female audience's desire for brutal and unrestrained violence among "sexy" and "bad" male characters. And they are giving the audience what it wants, full throttle. Sexy bad boys not limited by anything, not conscience, mercy, ties of family, patriotism, anything. Damien Lewis in "Life" played a guy who could be brutal but had definite self-imposed limits when it came to revenge, and a bit of compassion. No doubt those character qualities made the show a failure with the female audience. Playing a variation of the same character (one long and unjustly imprisoned) but with no patriotism, conscience, remorse, or even independence (he is dominated by a stronger, more charismatic jihadi) … the character has gone over like gangbusters.
Why is this? Well like the demand under Prohibition for ever more of the hard stuff, because casual drinking legally was impossible, the demand for "sexiness" in brutal dominance including the ultimate taboo, murder, being violated left and right, is nothing more than a reflection of the lack of sexiness in men around them. If most men were "sexy" then women would not want this hard-stuff.
Ultra-machismo Mexico and Columbia produce telenovela after telenovela that feature hard-working, often "ugly" women who become beautiful, powerful, and successful and snag that Alpha male. Who is the traditional "Fabio" type of character, strong and successful, but not violent. Ugly Betty is well within the range for that type of entertainment, wildly popular throughout Latin America. Men in those countries are plenty violent, women there don't need a fantasy of violence to get their thrills. They can see decapitated bodies, others hung mutilated off bridges, to what the real violence is. Instead their fantasies run towards being rich, famous, powerful, and with a devoted but hot/desirable husband who is "sophisticated" (think Fernando Lamas, not Lorenzo Lamas).
You can see this at work in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" where gee, give Apes the power of human intellect and speech, and they are "superior" and rule because modern (White) men are just too wimpy to fight back. Yeah, right.
Ordinary White women in sheltered, suburban America, have no idea of what any man is capable of, and tend to judge off superficial posturing. Equal and status-quo feminism in the workplace, in schools, in larger society, leave most women judging wrongly that only a few men are sexy, because they posture overtly as dominant, violent, or both. Hence the hunger for fantasy dominance through ultra-violence. Not impersonal violence showing people blown apart, but personal violence showing the male character is one without any limits and able to dominate other people and make it stick.
If we ever hit sustained, violent hard times (which is likely, to my horror, I am a comfortable middle class American, with much to lose) then obviously the female audience won't demand fantasy violence. They'll have real ones at their doorstep, or more, every day. Even if America degrades, slowly, as the "best option" then things will soon sort themselves out. Women who face being hassled every day by gangs of illegal aliens congregating on street corners for day labor, do not find fantasy violence arousing. Nor do women who live in real fear of being assaulted, robbed, and killed, at home or going to and from work. Nor indeed do women who must deal paying the rent or buying food or buying gasoline to get to work.
The desire for fantasy violence comes from the illusion of control, safety, security, and stability. Seen on First World Problems:
“Exurban growth has led to people I used to think of as hillbillies being socially promoted to mere hicks.”
[Yes elites HATE HATE HATE the "hillbillies."]
Not enough "sexy men" in the cubicle next to you? Too much deferential "niceness" and boring behavior? Not enough dominance and control in the men around you? THAT is a First World problem, soon to go away with the First World itself.
Look for this sexy bad boy killer trend on TV and movies to go away. Soon.