Part of the reason it took so long was because I was fumbling for a good idea to write about. This one kept coming to me. So I have to get it out of my system.
What Makes A Badass
In the narrative you have the hero and the anti-hero. You've got the typical (well, he's not typical) Jack Ryan type: saving the world, doing the right thing; you've got the anti-hero - Cool Hand Luke going up against the corrupt establishment and exposing it for all it's worth; and there's even the dude in-between: the Jack Bauer type (now watching Season 3 of "24," let's say I found my downtime Netflix fix) - the guy who gets the job done at any cost, even breaking every protocol in the book.
We applaud all these guys and wish we had the guts to stand side by side with them. They are all pretty badass. They kick butt. We could go on and on with the cheese-ball cliches here.
But what makes them tick? I care because 1) I'm a writer and I like writing strong protagonists; and 2) because deep down inside, I, like most people, want to be a hero of some sort, do something good for humanity, save people and all that.
I'm taking a look at a couple people I think are badass to answer the question.
A Few Good Men
These are in no real order, besides the fact that I'm saving my fav for last.
Yeah, I know I just mentioned him but he deserves it.
There was a lot of debate in ethics class about him. At the end of the day we didn't condone torture, I remember, because it goes against human dignity, civil rights, etc.; and from a practical standpoint, as Joan of Arc once said, "Torture me and I'll just say whatever you intend me to say" - it's a guessing game.
However, one can't watch the show ("24") and not admire the heroism of the man. A couple of badass characteristics come up in his character:
Jack may be a lot of things but he's always willing to take one for the team, even when it means laying down his own life, over and over again. That's no light matter.
At the brink of ever-increasing odds and imminent death, Jack doesn't play possum: he always tries to stay alive and "make the other guy die for his country" (from the famous Patton speech, movie of the same name). He's always got the mission in mind and kicks ass to complete it all the fucking way.
Don Corleone once said, "The man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." Jack will do anything for his family. (The end of Season One breaks my heart, no spoiler, you just gotta' see it.)
Sadly, Steve had to die five years before I was even fuckin' born (bastard!). A lot of kids my age have no idea who he even is, or was. (That's when I want to smash their head on a table and Clockwork Orange-like make them watch Bullit.)
Steve was a Marine, race car driver, did all his own stunts, and well-deserved being crowned the "King of Cool." He never came off as full of himself. It's funny how an actor plays a part but his own personality comes through. I fucking hate some of these modern pussy actors who would cry if they broke a nail. I won't name names but Steve McQueen is just the opposite of the spectrum.
This one you have to give to Steve. He defined cool. Watch him just walk into the room in any of his movies: he's so relaxed he puts everybody else on edge.
Jesus used an expression about Nathaniel, "the good disciple" in the New Testament (that's the ex-seminarian coming out of me). He said, "There is no gile or hypocrisy in him." I can translate that for the modern man. It means: "there is no bullshit in him." I fucking hate bullshit. If you got something to say, some point to make, even something to try and sell me - don't fuckin' bullshit me. And I do marketing. You can imagine what kind of crap I have to wade through on a daily basis.
Steve McQueen's characters always cut to the chase, confronted the corrupt official, and in the most matter-of-fact, you-know-I'll kick-your-ass tough tone of voice said exactly what he wanted to say. In just a few words. And they were exactly those words most of us would think of five minutes or five days later (there's a French expression for that, something about going down the stairs, like thinking of the perfect retort to an argument after leaving the room; I do it way too much). He was cool like that. Of course, that was written in, but he embodied it. You got the feeling he was like that anyway; and being a screenwriter myself, I know, you write scripts for particular actors. Steve was a superstar. Those lines were his.
Tough As Shit
He was a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Enough said, really (but I'm continuing to write).
Charles Bronson was a WWII vet. You don't get a soft-handed Patrick Dempsey out there and call the movie Death Wish. Fuck. That. You need someone that can convince you they really could kick some rapist ass.
There isn't a more exhilarating chase scene, in my opinion, than the Mustang verses the mob in Bullit. He did his own stunt-driving, at a fuckin' million miles an hour in San Francisco no less - flying off the dips of the notoriously steeply inclined hills. In today's cinematography, some Fast and Go Fuck Yourself movie producer would play off mostly CGI, plastic souped-up muscle cars, camera angles, and stunt drivers. McQueen had none of that. And it's still the greatest. It always will be.
Yeah, I said I'd save my fav for last. Named my frickin' kid after him for [I try not to take God's name in vain]'s sake.
I wrote a blog post on him in my last blog (read it here), but there's plenty more to say.
A Real Man
Okay, I kinda' stole this from myself in the other blog; but it was mine anyway. He's a carpenter, pilot, he spent Thanksgiving serving homeless people, he's accommodating to fans "unless I'm actually taking a piss at the time," he says. And he values being a father, adopting a child (in addition to his own) with wife, Calista Flockhart. I mean, the guy's Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Jack Ryan (as mentioned), and John Booke (Witness, you have to see it, just for the part when he confronts the tourists; and when he dances in the barn, something he ad-libbed with Weir): he's a fuckin' manly icon. What else do you want?
He's Got Heart
(Also stolen from last blog. Whatev.) He's got that dramatic flair. My encyclopedia as a kid (children of the internet age: those are big books with information in them stored alphebetically that you now find in a museum) said he starred in "mainly movies about men going through emotionally tramatic difficulties." (I've been a fan a long time.)
If you haven't seen Polanski's (I know, chi-mo) Frantic ("... And like Harrison Ford I'm getting fran-TIC..." [someone say "Chinese chicken"]) then you missed out on the great heart-wrenching ending. Or everybody knows "I love you" - "I know" from Empire (Star Wars 5, for you non-nerds). You can't not watch Regarding Henry and not almost cry (come on!). And - fuck it - Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may have been Speilberg's worst Indy and primarily made to sell toys to kids, but every fan had to see it; and I at least got choked up when he tells Marion [SPOILER ALERT]:
MARION: Were there other girls?
INDY: A few.
INDY: But they all had the same problem.
MARION: (A little pissed.) What was that?
INDY: They weren't you. (Turns and fires bazooka.)
Gosh, that shit gets me every time. (Lol.)
Makes Shit Happen
This is perhaps the most important point that all of these guys embody in being a badass, and the most important characteristic of a true protagonist by definition. He gets shit done and makes shit happen. He doesn't sit on his ass and wait for it and react; he makes everybody else react.
SALLAH: Indy, they're loading the ark on a truck headed to Cairo.
INDY: (Clenching his teeth, wiping blood off his chin.) What truck?!
You know who Chuck Norris looks under the bed for at night? Jack Bauer, who is hiding in the most-unsuspecting corner and has already shot Chuck Norris in the ass.
The point is: the hero - 99 times out of 100 - calls the shots as much as he can. In his mind, there aren't excuses or "reactionary methods"; they fuckin' cut the bull and take it by the horns.
Let Me Tell You This In Closing
Well, it's been fun. Hopefully this benefits the writers out there in writing better heroes and protagonists. I know my scripts will (benefit). And to the hero or heroine in all good people - go out there and kick some bad guy ass!
Good night everyone.