I just wanted to write this. This has nothing to do with anything. Hope you enjoy anyway.
So what does it mean to be badass? Well, Merriam-Webster defines the word to mean “of formidable strength or skill.” Wiktionary defines it as “ having extreme appearance, attitude, or behavior that is considered admirable.” These definitions give us a good idea of what a badass is: someone who encapsulates formidable skill and “cool” qualities. But just like how what’s cool varies from person to person, so does who can be considered a badass. What could be amazingly badass to one person may be inanely stupid to another.
When it comes to badassery, there are a few things I think should be kept in mind. One would be concentration, or in other words, how much badass is there in a work as a whole. Another key one is the overall tone of the work. These two go hand in hand; if the overall tone of the work supports a high concentration of badass, then it works. Likewise, if the work’s tone does not lend itself to an environment where badass can flourish, it would feel out of place. There are exceptions to this, as some works were badass would seem out of place have some moments of badassery, but generally speaking, if the work does not lend itself to supply badass situations, then badass would seem out of place there.
Another key thing to keep in mind about badassery is that it knows no allegiance. If the tone allows it, anyone in a work can be a badass, including both heroes and villains. If a character is capable of performing acts of badassery, regardless of affiliation or morality, they are a badass. This could lead to some interesting characterization, even creating some unique characters. However, it should always be kept in mind that being badass is not a substitute for actual characterization. Badassery is more a spice than it is a primary trait. It’s better to describe a character as “this, that, and he’s/she’s a badass” rather than just “he’s a badass.” Badassery is entertaining, but so is good characterization.
Allow me to offer some examples. First, we have Travis Touchdown, the main character of the No More Heroes games. He’s an otaku first and foremost, and is crass, perverted, and a total Blood Knight. Despite his unsympathetic character, he’s capable of top feats of badassery thanks to his beam katana and his mad wrestling skills. But being badass never fully consumes his character; he still gets a fair deal of characterization, and even some character development come the second game. Travis, while admittedly a terrible person, is not a terrible character, as he is well defined on top of being badass. In my opinion, the best badass is a characterized badass, even if said character is unlikeable.
On the flipside, we have Jack from MadWorld. Like Travis, Jack is an unapologetic killer, but unlike Travis, he lacks good characterization. He too is capable of great feats of badassery (which are not for the faint of heart), yet he has no notable traits besides said badassery (and his chainsaw arm). Jack did get some limited characterization in Anarchy Reigns, but regardless, he is an example of how not to write a badass. His whole character hinges on you finding him badass, not on being well written or interesting. Being badass is not a substitute for having characterization, nor is it a redeeming factor for a character.
Hope you enjoyed this. If you want to see more posts like this, let me know.