Posted by: Jess Riley | September 28, 2008

The Subtle Badass

I was reading Sean’s most recent post, and it got me thinking. Perhaps it’s worth explaining my thought process here, to some extent, because I assure you it only makes sense to me since I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and I have a headache.

One of Sean’s points was about concluding a scene; he suggested getting angry and throwing everyone out of your house. Being secretly in love with Christian Bale a fan of the film Batman Begins, I was reminded of an excellent scene in that film (which I wouldn’t be surprised if Sean was directly referencing), wherein Bruce Wayne stands up to deliver a speech at his birthday party, which culminates in him drunkenly shouting at everyone to leave because they’re just there to mooch off his money and drink his booze.

Has he been hitting the booze a little hard? That’s what all the guests think. Is the youngest Wayne actually a spoiled brat living off his parents’ money without his father’s generosity and kindness of spirit? People are certainly starting to think so.

Of course, his guests were actually all in grave danger and he needed to get them all out of Wayne Manor before anything happened, and without revealing his secret identity, and I feel that he did that brilliantly.

Now, Batman is a badass, and the more recent Batman films (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both) have been really good at playing up this idea of Bruce Wayne being some fool with more money than brains, as far as the public can see, so he can hide his secret identity without arousing suspicion. But Batman has nothing to do with World of Warcraft, so you’re probably wondering why I’m recapping the film instead of talking about the game. Well, it’s like this; my roundabout, I’m so tired, when can I go back to sleep point is this: Bruce Wayne kicking all his guests out of his manor through a drunken speech is subtle and clever, as well as amusing. It’s not actually all that badass a move, if you look at it that way. But Batman is a badass, and he’ll always be a badass.

Being just that awesome by kicking ass and chewing gum doesn’t preclude also being awesome by subtly using your intelligence and wit to achieve something without having to pull out the big guns. Batman isn’t the only example of this in popular culture; take a look at James Bond, for instance.

It all comes down to what kind of character you want to play, obviously, but I have seen a lot of variants on the awesome fighter and few of them include this point of using brains to solve things sometimes, and brawn on other occasions. Worse, few seem to justify this in-character – there are plenty of reasons not to, from establishing the character as blood-thirsty, to establishing the character as not all that bright or witty, but I haven’t seen that approach all that often.

And don’t get me wrong – it can venture into Mary Sue territory if it’s done poorly. Let’s be honest. Those heroes I’ve talked about – Batman, James Bond, virtually every other hero out there? In the wrong hands, they’re Mary Sues, the lot of them. I can definitely see how someone who isn’t confident of their ability to pull it off would want to stay away from this idea, and it’s perfectly justified. The same people may applaud when Batman does it and just roll their eyes when you do it in RP, but honestly, if you can pull it off, give it a try.

I’m not suggesting that everyone start becoming the Best At Everything, but a little more mingling of brains and brawn would be nice. Heck, even someone who isn’t all that brawny but can pull off a great Drunken Speech Of Go Away ™ would be nice to see from time to time.

Everyone takes lessons from popular culture in both their own writing and in their RP, and the lesson I’d like to see more people take away is that it’s just as awesome to be like Drunk Bruce Wayne as it is to be like King Leonidas or… I don’t know. Some other cool fighting guy. Did I mention I need more sleep?

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