4 Badasses You Never Saw Coming

The Man With No Name, James Bond, Dwight McCarthy, Lara Croft, Indiana Jones, Marv, Al Swearingen, Titus Pullo, Tony Soprano, Han Solo.

Badasses are in no short supply these days–you could come up with probably five off the top of your head, and hands down everyone would agree ‘Yup, pretty badass.’

But what about unexpected badasses? Those badasses who don’t come immediately to mind but nevertheless can ‘tho down’ when necessary? What about badasses that come at you sideways?

Today’s entry is all about 4 Badasses You Never Saw Coming.

4. Princess Leia.

Way more than a steel bikini no matter what a Google Image search says, Princess Leia is more than capable of Throwing Down when necessary.

Just a small girl and her Big Gun

To wit: We meet Leia when she is running from the cops–that might not sound so badass, but consider what running from the police got her: dropped like keys into a storm drain.

Storm Troopers don’t know the meaning of the words ‘civil rights.’ That’s why the Galactic Empire is evil–because they do whatever the shit they damn well please, which is why rebels are even more badass in this situation: breaking the rules gets you zapped with lasers. And lasers are HOT. They burn through things. Sometimes those things are meaty, because they are people.

Consider also that Leia fed the Imperials bogus info concerning the rebel base–knowing full well they’d figure that shit out. Then she WATCHES while her home planet/family/pets/house/neighborhood/wallet/everything in her entire life, gets blown to hell. She’s definitely upset, but she also WATCHED HER HOME PLANET GET DESTROYED and still didn’t give up the real rebel base. Leia knows what the stakes are–keep silent and one planet gets destroyed, talk and LOTS of planets get destroyed. Considering that the death star’s main purpose is, you know, destroying planets.

In this rare exception, it might have been better for Alderaan to run from the police.

3. Babe The Pig

Who’s a good piggy? WHO’S A GOOD PIGGY?


Babe the Pig is, and by and large, he’s a bonafide hero.

After all, on the one hand, he saves the farm (twice!), stands up to feral dogs and disapproving orangutans, faces a terrifying elderly clown and saves a bull terrier in one of the most moving and humane moments in film.

Some day I’ll get drunk enough to post my semi-hysterical and embarrassingly earnest review of Babe: Pig in the City, but today is not this day. Today is for Babe, and our other unsung badasses.

Watch this clip and tell me this pig doesn’t have guts.

Could YOU turn around and face an oncoming bull terrier bigger than you?

2. The Mad Hatter

Back in the Old West, you judged how ridiculously badass a gunfighter was by how outlandish and insane their outfit.

This would be the equivalent of holding a Desert Eagle and many shooting trophies in your hands at all times.

The logic went that if someone was fool enough to dress like a pretty pretty princess, they were the walking equivalent of an apocalypse.

From Doc Holliday to Wild Bill Hickok, who never met an ascot he didn’t like, nature’s maxim of  ‘the brighter the plumage the more serious the danger’ was for a brief time, applied to humans. What had been true of insects and poisonous plants for millions of years finally, and gloriously, applied to mammals.

Enter the Mad Hatter, Alice’s long lost friend and guide to the weirdness she finds through the mirror in the recent Tim Burton adaptation.

'At My Signal, Unleash Hell. And Cucumber Sandwiches.'

The statement his outfit makes is nothing short of a declaration of war on every living being on Earth.

There are alien satellites observing this shit and transmitting this declaration back to their home planets, and in about five thousand years a bunch of Lovecraftian horrors will land and demand to know where the BeHatted One is so they may kill him and bring order to the galaxy, Dagon Style.

But consider also the weapon the Hatter shows up with at the third-act battle:

The Hatter Comes Heavy.

That is a CLAYMORE. The folks who used them were called Highlanders, and the only thing that differentiates Highlanders from Vikings is that they wear plaid. Nothing else.

Here is a demonstration of what Claymores can do. It is worksafe and very entertaining, if by entertaining you mean HOLY SHIT LOOK WHAT THAT SWORD CAN DO. Please also note the hefty fellow waving that pigsticker around–if a weedy little fellow like the Hatter is using one, then it means his eyes probably got that way through a constant and consistent application of Angel Dust. Not the man you want to be facing on the battlefield.

1. Mr. Faun Tumnus

'Would you like to walk back to my house? I seem to have misplaced my big white molesty van!'

When first we meet Mr. Faun Tumnus in the recent Chronicles of Narnia adaptation, he’s a timid little fellow who drops his shit and screams when surprised by the terrifying countenance of a small girl.

He gets wild by breaking into the sardines, and making hot tea. He is adorable, except he has goatlegs and entertains children without wearing pants. Or maybe for some folks, that’s a plus. It’s a big world out there.

Anyhoo, we realize this is all a big act. Later on, once all the statues have been brought back to life, Tumnus is more than ready to plow furrows across the White Witch’s ass and he heads down to the battlefield to do it…

…in nothing but a fancy red scarf.

There was a name for the guys who used to go to war without clothes on: psychopaths Berserkers.

Mr. Tumnus hasn’t brought armor, or even a weapon. He IS the weapon.

I have figured out the secret of Faun Tumnus, and it is that he is a Berserker. He doesn’t have the spear and the wolf pelt, but just give him a few minutes and he’ll have a pile of them–taken from the enemy and dumped on the field.

You only see a brief scene of him running towards the battlefield, but it’s because ostensibly this is a children’s movie and watching a goatman tear monsters apart with his bare hands and then eat their organs would incur at least a PG-13 rating.

No more child molestation jokes. Seriously.

Additionally, Mr. Tumnus has HOOVES. Which are hard little pointy things.

It’s bad enough being kicked in the face by a human foot, imagine taking a hoof to the face–it be like being bludgeoned.

Now imagine that foot belongs to the mythological equivalent of Bruce Lee, and realize that Mr. Tumnus was the Narnians’ secret weapon all along. Aslan was just there to tell him where to go.

There are dozens, hundreds more unsung badasses to go, but I hope you enjoyed this little sampling. As always, there’s More To Come.

4 More Life Lessons from 80’s Movies

There is no saving Artax. He has reached his limit, and will not be moved. Atreyu can’t save his horse, because Artax doesn’t want to save himself–and when someone loses the will to live, even after the intervention of their friends and family, there’s little that will drag them back.

Every culture in the world will eventually produce a set of maxims for behavior; from the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, to the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas, to basic Internet Etiquette, there are morals and suggestions for human interaction everywhere–you could trip over them and someone would be there to tell you what you did wrong.

Oddly enough, I noticed a lot of 80’s movies had such maxims, and have been collecting them and posting them as I think of them. The first part of the list can be found here.

4. The Secret of Nimh – ‘Crying doesn’t solve anything.’

Sometimes, your best isn't good enough--whatever it is, it needs to get DONE.

Mrs. Brisby has some serious problems.

Her husband was recently killed in an accident, one of her three children is desperately ill, and she needs to move her family (including her house) to a new location, otherwise they will be crushed by the farmer’s tractor when it is time to harrow the field they live in.

Lady has a lot on her mind.

So when the tractor starts up unexpectedly, she and her friend Auntie Shrew (who I always thought of as one hardass bitch–she either had some messed up stuff happen in her life or did some time in Vermin Jail), who are both about the size of a lemon, take it on.

A mouse and a shrew take on a tractor.

While all the other animals in the field are hauling ass from the path of the tractor, Mrs. Brisby and the shrew are running towards it, screaming warnings. They reach the tractor, clamber up a loose chain, and begin scrambling about its interior in search of a way to shut it down. Brisby, faced with the prospect of falling into the churned earth the harrow blade turns up, shuts down, and can only cling to the tractor and shake. The Shrew winds up tearing out a crucial hose (oil?) and the tractor shuts down.

Later, as the two gather their wits in the high grass, Brisby breaks down crying over the ordeal, but also the recent traumas she’s faced.

Coldly, almost hatefully, the Shrew snarls at her to “Stop it.”

You'd be surprised how many good pictures there aren't of her.

The Shrew is disgusted, not by the display, but because Brisby doesn’t have the luxury of being selfish right now, of thinking about her woes and weeping. She needs to get her shit together and figure out how she’s going to save her children–when Brisby plaintively weeps ‘I wish Jonathan [her husband] was here’ you get a sense that Brisby was overly reliant on him, that he would have figured something out himself, saving her the trouble. She wants to be taken care of again, to have someone else fix her problems, and she doesn’t have that option anymore–it’s up to her.

Brisby is now a single mother. The rest of the movie consists of her learning how strong she truly is, as she faces terrifying creatures and learns to trust herself to do the right thing. I can’t think of another movie in recent years that so elegantly explores the plight of a single parent and all that it entails. Not a children’s movie about talking mice, anyway.

3. Legend – ‘Trust People.’

Who is our Generation's Tim Curry? What actor in recent years could step into these pants? WHO?

With all the fantasy trappings surrounding Legend–unicorns, goblins, fairies, pixies, wild boys in shorts, princesses, giant castles, monsters,  and a certain giant red campy fellow–it’s easy to lose sight of what the film is really about: trusting people.

Jack is a recluse, living in the woods with his animal friends and relaxed dress code. There’s a reason he’s there and not in the city, and it isn’t to save money on production costs–he’s a hermit, he doesn’t trust people. Only Lily, a spoiled Princess, can get close to him.

Which is why, when Jack takes Lily to see the unicorns and she ignores him, breaking a major rule and actually TOUCHING ONE, he loses his trust in her. He doesn’t know that the reason the unicorn freaked out was due to the goblins’ poisoned dart, or anything about the machinations of Darkness and his goblins. He thinks that Lily touching the unicorn is what ruined everyone’s day.

So though he spends the rest of the movie trying to make right what happened, and save her, it is also about him remembering to trust her, no matter what she’s done or how she’s changed. Remember, when he left her, she was all ‘Disney Princess Barbie,’ with the smiles and the charm and the giggling. When he finds her again, she looks like this:

If it doesn't fit, you improvise!

Since he dumped her, she’s been rooming and sharing clothes and makeup tips with Klaus Nomi Darkness, a red-skinned fellow with an infectious laugh and an even more relaxed dress code than Jack. They’re kind of like Mickey and Donald–Mickey (Darkness) wears pants, and Donald (Jack) wears a shirt–together they make a whole outfit.

Anyhoo, when Jack has to make his choice, he’s got a bunch of fairies yelling in his ear that Lily can’t be trusted, that she’s changed. His faith in her is an illustration of the pure goodness alluded to in the rest of the film–after all, being good means being good ALL the time, not getting to pick and choose when you follow the rules–the fairies hearts’ were in the right place but they don’t know everything, as is established earlier by Gump not being aware of Oona’s secret.  Jack trusts Lily–and the day is saved.

2. The Burbs – Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playthings

Dear Tom Hanks: Comedy misses you. Please take its calls again.

I miss the comedy films of Tom Hanks.

I haven’t seen too many of his dramas the last five years or so–no particular reason other than I already see more than enough dramas and have no interest in Dan Brown’s books.

But one upon a time, he made comedies. Fantastic, creative comedies the likes of which aren’t made anymore because of the lack of fart jokes and horrible people in them. Hanks took a middling comedy and elevated it to hilarity.

The Burbs is a comedy about a man who decides to spend his vacation lying around the house, drinking beer with friends and speculating on the new neightbors who have just moved in. He wants to garden, to vegetate, to putter, to wear his pajamas all day and relax.

But his bucolic rest is interrupted when he and his buddies begin inflating the importance of neighborhood events into something sinister–a missing neighbor, an errant toupee, the new neighbors digging in the backyard during a rainstorm in the middle of the night… conclusions are drawn and plans are made.

The lesson here (although it turns out that the neighbors WERE up to something unsavory) is that boredom can lead to invention the same way necessity can, the difference being that being bored usually gets people into trouble–boredom in a relationship can lead to cheating, boredom with a job leads to dissatisfaction and doing it half-assed, boredom with your life breeds a need for escapism.

Not only that, but The Burbs were one of those early movies that had the courage to suggest that maybe the good old days..weren’t so good? Like No Country For Old Men, it dared to present the idea that rose-colored glasses were a pretty poor medium for viewing the past.

1. The Neverending Story – When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.

This is the big one for me.

Just looking at it breaks my heart all over again

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from The Neverending Story–about following your dreams, about courage, about trusting people–but the one that always, always, always jumps out at me when I am watching it is that no matter how shitty things get, you have to keep going.

Depression is a pervasive illness many people don’t realize they have. It’s insidious, it creeps in and ruins your good times, pushes you away from happiness, makes you hurt others (this numbness, where the things you usually enjoy bring no pleasure, is known as ‘anhedonia’) . Many people think of depression as being sad for a time, as a period with a fixed beginning and ending. Depression is not being ‘down in the dumps,’  it’s a chemical imbalance that can become more or less pronounced, but never really goes away. It can be medicated, and combated with therapy, but at best you will learn how to manage it and live with it.

Enter the nefarious scene with Artax the horse–Atreyu tries to drag the horse bodily out of the swamps of sadness, and when the latter won’t move he becomes angry, screaming, insulting the horse, then just pleading and begging as the horse sinks deeper into the black muck. ‘Move, please,’ still brings tears to my eyes, every time I hear that barely-teenaged boy’s voice.

There is no saving Artax. He has reached his limit, and will not be moved. Atreyu can’t save his horse, because Artax doesn’t want to save himself–and when someone loses the will to live, even after the intervention of their friends and family, there’s little that will drag them back.

It’s a scene that doesn’t get the cinematic respect it should–I mean, the movie isn’t Schindler’s List, but it’s no Battlefield: Earth, either. It’s a moving metaphor for depression: after all, it’s easy to stop moving, but sometimes nearly impossible to get going again.

More than anything else, depression is what happens when you forget the feeling of joy, of hope. Remembering it, rediscovering that warmth and happiness, can be one of the most rewarding moments in your life, but my god, getting there can be an uphill battle.

He Kept Going.