?[Ed’s note: Bobby “Fatboy” Roberts is part of Cort and Fatboy, a Portland-based podcast show. This is noteworthy because they do dramatic readings of TR‘s Fan Fiction Fridays. when you’re done with the list, check ’em out here. -Rob]
This is, undoubtedly, the Enlightened Age of the Nerd. Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory is a legitimate TV sex symbol. James Cameron got $500 mil to make a furry fetish movie. Hell, the President is getting in lightsaber fights on the front lawn. Hipster douchebags are at the clubs, rocking $200 scarves over designer Starfleet Uniforms. Nerds are cool — it’s amazing but true.
But in this new culture of nerd cool, many people have failed to notice one particular reason behind it — nowadays, nerds can kick ass. Seriously. While most of the best and baddest head-crackers and throat-punchers pop-culture has ever seen are decidedly un-nerdy. Or are they? It wasn’t until I took a look back with a more discerning eye that I realized the biggest ass-kickers of all time were pretty ginormous dorks. And I’d be a pretty poor geek if I didn’t turn it into a online list, arbitrarily put together based on specious judgment and selective research, to back up my wrongheaded claims full of glaring omissions. So without further ado…
8) Peter Parker from Spider-Man
? Socially awkward science aficionado
? Sews his own clothes
? Constantly humiliated at school by athletic types
? Inventor of multiple gadgets like spider-shaped homing beacons, and super-adhesive wrist jizz
Evidence of Sheer Badassitude: There aren’t too many people that could get in a wrestling ring with the Bone Saw and come out alive, but Peter Parker didn’t even break a sweat. In the first movie, he saved Skeletor (played by Kirsten Dunst) no less than two times, and even more bravely, endured an entire performance by Macy Gray. In the second movie, he stopped a moving train by ejaculating all over New York until the train went limp. Then he stopped an entire building from collapsing by holding it between his shoulder blades while Doc Ock pulled a sun into the ocean. But it wasn’t until the third movie that Parker finally let all the pretense drop, and set his inner badass free – with the power of dance.
Sure, it’s pretty badass to climb walls and swing on ropes of spider goo and kill crazy dudes in Power Rangers costumes. But to be so secure in your manliness that you can actually dance down a New York City street? That is the sort of stuff that real badass is made from. Other than that, he’s kind of a whiny douche, actually.
7) Willow Rosenberg from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
? Spent all her free time at the library
? Member of Math, Science and Computer Clubs at Sunnydale High
? Thought Seth Green was sexy
Evidence of Sheer Badassitude: Willow’s badassery is sometimes forgotten, because it’s buried in what is largely considered the worst season of Buffy, its sixth. Sure she does some pretty badass things in the previous five seasons, like helping beat up a hell-god, re-ensouling a vampire, and levitating pencils. But it’s the sixth season, amidst all the ham-handed drug allegories, where Willow lets rip.
Literally, she lets rip. As in the skin. Off of a kid. Nonchalantly, even. Granted, the kid killed her girlfriend, which is at the least, poor form. So she ties the kid to a tree, (so far so good,) and has fun abusing him, (what you give is what you get,) then she announces her boredom, and with a wave of her hand, completely flays a living person (fuuuuuuuuck). From dude to meat at 190 mph. I feel like I’ve accomplished something if I can peel an orange in one continuous motion, no breaks in the rind, in under 30 seconds. Willow peeled a whole human in 0.2 seconds.
6) Kevin from Sin City
? Dresses like Charlie Brown
? Lives with a priest and silently reads hymnals all day long
Evidence of Sheer Badassitude: In Frank Miller’s Sin City, Marv is basically Batman. In most Frank Miller anything, the main character is pretty much Batman, except for when his main character is Batman, and then he’s a demented kidnapper and child abuser, with alarming insensitivity towards the plight of the mentally handicapped. Anyway, who came closest to getting the best of Marv?
Kevin — a veritable ninja in a Charlie Brown sweater with fingernails that would make Freddy Krueger jealous. He never speaks, he just smirks, kills hookers and swallows their souls. And when Marv comes looking for him, he performs a hammer-wielding, face-shredding dance around the hulking figure like someone playing Street Fighter II against a paralyzed quadriplegic.
Which is what Kevin becomes, essentially, once Marv gets his mitts on him. Normally, this is where any normal story of Nerd vs Uruk-Hai Batman would end. But Kevin gets turned into the stump from Metallica’s “One” video, and instead of thrumming his head against a pillow and mmmffmgh-ing at James Robards to have his plug pulled, keeps silently grinning in Marv’s face. A bloodthirsty German Shepherd grubs on his shredded stumps like a 6-year-old digging into a bag of Big League Chew, and Kevin doesn’t even blink.
5) Darth Vader from Star Wars
? Built a gay butler robot with his bare hands at age 8
? Says things like “That was Wizard,” with no irony whatsoever
? Thinks talking about the consistency of sand is a great way to get laid
? Wears a cape, like the real hardcore Dungeon Masters do
Evidence of Sheer Badassitude: Before we discovered what a whiny douchebag young Anakin Skywalker was, it was widely known on every playground in the United States that Darth Vader could beat anyone in a fight except Batman, because given any amount of time to prepare, nobody beats Batman (that’s just the rule). Vader looked like the obsidian robot offspring of a samurai and a gargoyle. He wore that suit because his skin was set on fire after rolling too close to a river of lava. It’s hard to stop rolling when all of your limbs have been hacked off by your teacher/mentor/best friend, but through sheer hate he forced himself to live.
He blocked Han Solo’s lasers with his hand, and then strapped him into a wicked dentist chair and didn’t even wait to hear him finish screaming in agony before striding out and effortlessly cutting the nuts off the biggest space-pimp in the galaxy, Lando Calrissian. He can choke you with his brain, and he can do it from outer-space if he wants. He cut his own kid’s hand off as a warning shot. And when he’d finally had enough of murdering innocents, destroying the insolent and crushing the windpipes of the inept, he picked up his wrinkly old boss and chucked his ass down a reactor shaft.
But those prequels, man. Knocks quite a bit of shine off those shoulders in the badass department. It’s like finding out Chuck Norris ate his own scabs, or Clint Eastwood used to pick his butt and deeply sniff his finger. You just can’t respect a guy after things like that are brought to light.
4) Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter
? Grew up with Gramma
? Spends most of his time hanging out with houseplants
? Manages to out-nerd Hermione Granger on a regular basis
? His teeth look like the Hogwarts Express derailed in his mouth (to be fair, he is British)
Evidence of Sheer Badassitude: Hermione almost took this spot. But Neville Longbottom was an even nerdier nerd, which made his arc throughout the books so much more satisfying, culminating in the soaring aria of badassery that Neville performed in book 7. First, he let himself get his ass beat by Death Eaters in school every day, just as a symbol of solidarity with Harry. It’s one thing to make a grandiose display of suffering as an inspirational call to arms once. Hell, Jesus only did it that one time, and we’re still hearing about it. Neville did it every school day of his senior year.
And that’s nothing compared to Neville talking shit to Voldemort’s face, and subsequently being forced to kneel and swear loyalty to ol’ No-Nose, or be executed. Neville, having more balls than a Chuck E. Cheese playpen, refused, and was rewarded with the Sorting Hat being forced onto his head and set on fire. While the smell of his burning skin and hair filled his nose, he pulled Gryffindor’s sword out of the hat and beheaded Voldemort’s giant pet snake in one motion, making it possible for Harry Potter to save the world. Then he went and kicked a werewolf’s ass. That’s not goofy hyperbole for the sake of making a humorous aside – he actually followed having his skull set on fire by killing a giant snake and then beating the fuck out of a werewolf. Neville Longbottom might have started out a chubby, nebbish fondler of ferns, but he ended up being the Wizarding World equivalent of George S. Patton.
3) Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
? According to the theme song, “does machines”
? Invented The Turtle Van, The Turtle Blimp, and the Turtle Com
? Chose purple as his bandanna color
Evidence of Sheer-Badassitude: The Shredder is widely recognized as the Turtles’ archnemesis, but did you know that in the comics, Shredder got his ass handed to him in the first issue, and it was Donatello who killed him? It sorta went down like the end of Die Hard, but instead of just dropping the guy off the side of a skyscraper, an amphibious mutant — ripped like Stallone on an HGH bender and skilled in the deadly art of ninjitsu — knocked the ninja off a building by hitting him in his face with a giant stick and sending a fucking hand grenade down after his body.
He also created a van that puts the A-Team’s to shame, primarily for its ability to fire weaponized pizzas at those who tried to stand in the way of street justice, Turtle-style. The mind that can conceive of weaponized pizza is beyond most masters of badass, but imagine the mind that builds a van just to shoot those pizzas at people. The Turtle Van could conceivably match Batman’s Tumbler in pound for pound vehicular virility.
But probably the biggest mark in Donatello’s badass favor is that he was the only way you could beat the Turtles’ 87 NES game, a.k.a. FUCK YOU LITTLE KID: The Videogame. That single cartridge led to more loss of innocence in the ’80s than the death of Optimus Prime. Only the smart kids, the ones who recognized Donatello’s awesome-osity, ever had a prayer of beating the game, thanks to his lengthy bo-staff. Why did he get the best weapon? Because he’s Donatello, and that’s how it should go. He even survived Corey Feldman portraying him in a movie. Almost nothing survives Corey Feldman, including Corey Feldman.
2) Spock from Star Trek
? Prides himself on being ruled by logic
? Earned the Vulcanian Scientific Legion of Honor
? Really, I gotta keep going? He’s fucking Spock. The only person with more nerd cred is Stephen Hawking
Evidence of Sheer Badassitude: Spock is not beloved by dorks the world over simply because he makes having Asperger’s look cool. He filled many a pointy head with dreams of real heroism via science. Kids (frail, gangly, awkward kids) entertained the possibility that it wasn’t fists and flying jumpkicks that saved the day, but math and cold, satisfying logic — but that doesn’t mean that Spock wasn’t ready to physically kick ass when necessary.
Spock once shoved his head into a warp engine to fix the Enterprise with his bare hands, knowing it’d kill him. He did it for his best friend, Jim Kirk, who he beat like a child molester in a horned up rage called Pon Farr. Some Starfleet academics will note that Kirk was drugged by McCoy and weakened by the thin Vulcan air, but c’mon – watch “Amok Time” and tell me that Kirk had a prayer against that pointy-eared, savagely grinning boner-tornado made of fists,
But the most badass move in Spock’s arsenal? He can drop you like a sack of hammers by simply touching your neck. Many a nerd comforted themselves post-demeaning, ass-rending wedgie by daydreaming about sneaking up behind some jock, deftly pinching just the right nerve, and mockingly raising an eyebrow at his slumped, prone body collapsed in a fleshy puddle of fail.
1) Tetsuo from Akira
? Can rattle off the design specs of motorcycles just by looking at them
? Bullied at school, and by his own street-gang, for being small and weak
? Anti-social, self-loathing little guy who just wants to be liked by the cool kids
Evidence of Sheer-Badassitude: While he wasn’t much more then a wet sack of crap preceding the events of the movie, once Tetsuo wrecked Kaneda’s bike, he became probably the biggest badass in the history of cinema. Badder than McClane? Badder than Clubber Lang? Badder than Megatron? Impossible, you might say. Well, let me ask you these questions:
? Did John McClane ever punch a fucking hole in the moon, just because he could? Tetsuo Shima jumped to the moon and socked it in the balls with no remorse.
? Did Clubber Lang ever dismantle an orbital satellite with his mind before surfing the flaming remains back into the atmosphere? Maybe Clubber could have kept Rocky on the mat if he could have telekinetically merged concrete, steel, cables and wires to form his right arm.
? Now, Megatron not only had a giant gun on his hand, but could turn into a giant cannon, or a tank (or in the case of the Michael Bay movies, a collection of loosely taped together bionicle turds), but can Megatron transform into an amorphous 50-story tall blob-creature full of teeth and veins, a sentient puddle of telekinetic flesh that, once in tune with the brainwaves of Akira, can create its own big bang? No, he can’t. He can’t even keep that frecklepuncher Starscream in line. Tetsuo, however, did all of this and more.