Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Secret Bad Ass

I've been watching Fox's new macro-series (more on that term later) Drive because I'm just enough of a tool to watch a TV show about a high stakes illegal road race starring that dude from Firefly but not enough to watch a movie about a high stakes illegal road race starring Carmen Electra.

Well, last night the secret was revealed as to why our lead character was inducted into the race (aside from the already improbable kidnaping of his wife.) It turns out he's that special kind of fictional character that fills a specific niche, a certain kind of fantasy that has held some facination with me.

It turns out, he's a Secret Bad Ass.

It's one of the action genre's more interesting archetypes. There are two distinct types of Secret Bad Ass-the first, probably most common is the Reluctant Secret Bad Ass. The Reluctant Secret Bad Ass has a vague and horrible past, a past in which his Bad Assness was no secret. But then something happened...maybe he couldn't save that one true love and that's why he holds everyone at a distance. Or he found a true love and gave up the life for her. Or he couldn't stand the horrors anymore, he's turned over a new leaf.

There are plenty of examples of the Reluctant Secret Bad Ass. John Rambo just wanted to pass through town, maybe get something to eat, then the sheriff pressed him and his Bad Assness had to come out.

Tom Stall of History of Violence just wants to start a new life until someone starts some shit in his diner.

Casey Ryback was just the ships cook until Tommy Lee and the boys try to take over his ship.

Then, and this is even more intriguing, there is the Unknown Secret Bad Ass. Our hero goes through his life with a blank spot, or maybe wakes up lacking a certain degree of his memory only to have events trigger his Unknown Secret Bad Assedness.

I first encountered the Unknown Secret Bad Ass was in American Ninja. What? Don't look at me that way, I was a teenager in the 80s. Ninjas were where it was at.

In it, Joe Armstrong (seriously, Joe Armstrong. Follow the link, I'm not making that up) is given the "Enlist or go to jail" option where a attempted hijacking reviels that the blank spot in his past was when he learned and mastered Ninjitsu.

The Bourne Identity relies on the Unknown Bad Ass as its premise. A character has no memory except the muscle memory neccisary to be an Unknown Secret Bad Ass.

Even The Matrix hinges on an everyday hacker in fact being the Unknown Secretest Bad Ass, in this case some sort of digital messiah.

It doesn't take much imagination to form a theory about the appeal of the Secret Bad Ass. It's the portal out of your mundane existance, day to day you are your usual workaday self. You go to the same job, do the same work, eat the same muffin. But just under the surface, just below the tie and morgage payments is a Secret Bad Ass waiting for that one crucial moment for it to surface. You go from Everyman to Superman in the blink of the eye with no clue except for that pained look now and then and avoidance of discussing the past, or in some cases not being able to remember the past.

For the Unknown Secret Bad Ass the appeal is even greater. Just replace that vague period in your memory with the time that for some reason you recieved your Secret Bad Ass Training but then, because of a traumatic event blocked the experience from your memory, or simply didn't know you possesed the power to save the world.

I'm not stranger to this, though I can recognize it and its pitfalls, I am just as suseptable. When I had my sports car I had a portion of me that secretly hoped that someone would jump in my passenger seat brandishing a gun and telling me to 'run for it.' My Secret Bad Ass driving nature would come out as I use my blank check to make a run for it in traffic and my Secret Bad Ass cunning to outsmart my kidnapper.

Or maybe I could have been 'forced' into an high stakes illegal road race.

Instead I'll watch a show about it...if only because there isn't anything else on at that time anyway. My Bad Assness can remain secret a little longer.


  1. I agree with you. Link to our blog.

  2. I giggled like a schoolgirl when they unveiled the Charger. Kathryn was not as exited, she just likes Nathan.

    The whole AWOL soldier storyline makes me want to puke but I'll keep watching for the same reasons you pointed out.

  3. Shaun is one of my new favorite secret badasses, but he’s not quite as powerful as Ichi. He’s just plain scary.