Saturday, April 14, 2012

Defining Badass

If I’m going to examine female characters for their worthiness to be included in my “Badass Female Character Compendium”, I think I need to set forth some parameters. What qualifies them as badass? Let us define, shall we. (This is of course my own definition and should be used with caution out there in the real world… just a little disclaimer.)

To be a female badass she must have:

  • Tons of attitude: She can be snarky, bitchily sarcastic or genuinely humorous. She exudes confidence most likely in her job or occupation/calling. She may even be a little cocky, but not arrogantly so. Above all, she is steeped in independence. She may need or rely on the people around her, but when it comes down to brass tax, she is totally capable of doing it all by herself. She is no shrinking wallflower to be taken care of by anyone.

Maj. Sam Carter, Stargate: SG1
  • Tote a gun: Yep, she knows about firearms, can shoot ‘em, disassemble 'em, and maybe even modify 'em. This classification can reach to a variety of weapons depending on genre. She knows how to wield one and isn’t afraid to use it.

    Agent Sarah Walker, Chuck
  • Physicality: She is unafraid to get physical with anyone and I’m not talking about sex… I’m talking about fists and head butting. She is skilled in combat, and if not, she has a natural instinct for self-preservation. Bad guys can come at her and she will fight to the death to break free or save a life.

  • An honor code: She will always fight for what is right. Whether it is saving her planet from invaders and extinction, or railing against corruption and crime, she stands by her morals and her code of justice. She may do bad things, but it is always with the intentions to do Good. She will fight and sacrifice for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Agent Dana Scully, The X-Files
  • Aptitude: She will have copious amounts of brains. She is intelligent, knowledgeable, and educated. Her skill set is a benefit to her cause. Her logic, strategies and wisdom are valuable tools in her arsenal and utilized frequently.

  • Imperfections: She will have flaws and vulnerabilities. No woman is perfect. There will be parts of her she may try to hide, ignore or fight against.  They may be a weakness and a possible burden, but she doesn’t allow it to ruin or rule her life. She struggles, but she perseveres. Her vulnerabilities make her stronger and more human.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
  • Sex appeal: Yes. I know. Cliché and misogynistic. I should turn in my own badass card, but then again the point of being a badass is that I don’t give a shit. This is what I believe. A woman doesn’t have to beautiful to be a badass but of course, let’s be real – it doesn’t hurt. Beautiful women have proliferated the action industry, mostly because of the 18-40 male demographic. But I have to admit, if I could sport a pair of leather pants and thigh high boots or kick some ass in a pair of 6 inch Manolo Blanhiks, (that is if I could stand in them for more than ten minutes), I so would! If my ass was tight and I could haul a RPG on my back, or run around in a metal bustier and a pair of angel wings, I’d be all over that in a heartbeat. Whether it's in a combat uniform or a tight little outfit... I’m not gonna lie. It’s hot. Does it always have to come in that package? No. But who doesn’t want to feel hot and sexy and capable at the same time? It’s part of fantasy and fiction is fantasy.

    Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight
  • Counterpart: Last but not least, she needs a partner. This partner could be romantic or a best friend. Someone to fight the good fight with, someone who has her back – even if it’s not at first, and someone who supports her to the bitter end. He or she becomes the yin to her yang, the peas to her carrots and the anchor or buoy to her soul. They will ground her, guide her and hold a mirror to her when she needs it most whether she likes it or not. They will be her equal in intelligence and inner strength and fight along the same fundamental principles of her goal. They may be in opposition with her in ideology at times but when their relationship is strong, they will come together on common ground. He, or she, will be her soul mate. A badass character without this integral counterpart may be in a constant search for meaning and will be out of balance until she finds that person.

This is the lens that I look through when defining a badass woman.  Its scope can be broad or it can focus down to the minutest details of what makes a powerful woman tick.  I like this definition and it suits the fictitious women I’ve admired for a lifetime. It may not describe or even fit all female characters, that is for certain, but it works within the confines of my examination. I’m celebrating those women in fiction who kick ass and take names. 

She is the badass action heroine.



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