Thursday, July 21, 2011
BADASS WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE: AFRICA
The Badass World Cup draws near! International competition, as we saw in the recently concluded women's soccer World Cup, rules. And speaking of rules, the Badass World Cup has very few. Every country on Earth is eligible. The catch is, that nation needs to have produced a movie character of sufficient badassery. Real people are not eligible, that's a separate competition, and the problem with using real people is you're like, who would kick whose ass in a fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris? Well, that answer is simple now, because Bruce Lee's dead (the shit'd still go a couple rounds; don't fuck with Bruce Lee, now). So then you have to get into “if 1973 Bruce, the Bruce who fought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game of Death fought the prime, matured, grizzled, admittedly fearsome Chuckster of the early to mid 80s,” and at that point, you might as well just say, Bruce in Game of Death vs. Chuckster in Eye For An Eye (my personal favorite of the Norris oeuvre). Hence, the Badass World Cup is between fictional movie characters. (And I know it's going to look sexist that it's all dudes, but the standards of female badassery are just different enough that we need to have a separate Cup, which we will).
First up, Africa. The way it should be, goddammit. Actually, the greatest slept-on feat of historical badassery took place in Africa a really long fucking time ago. I forget where I was reading this, otherwise I'd link to it, but apparently some geneticists figured out that after having attained a pretty good level of prosperity like a zillion years ago (like seriously, hundreds of thousands of years ago), something really big happened that knocked humanity down to only a couple thousand TOTAL human beings. And they survived. And that bunch of human beings were the ones who spread out and settled the rest of the world over the next couple dozen millennia, I guess because they were like “fuck this, if we spread out, there'll still be some of us even if the Motherland takes another hit, let's explore.” The cats who had that can-do spirit, thanks to whom we all exist today? Africans. Give it up.
But as anyone who's ever been around “these goddamn kids today” knows, each younger generation is an order of magnitude bigger shitheads than the previous. It is thus that even though we owe everything we are to Africa and the early Africans' resolute refusal to bow to extinction, the whole rest of the world are just fucking horrible douchebags to Africa and have been for like ever. So even though even discussing it in such a light tone belittles the horrors that have been visited on Africa by the rest of the world, I'm here to set the record straight by putting them first in this most important of all international competitions. I know, Africa as one will roll their eyes and go “thanks, fuckface,” but goddammit I'm trying.
So, first, a list of the top four also-rans (that may be incomplete, and bizarrely there are no Djimon Hounsou performances on here, but as you'll see in a minute, it doesn't matter because the winner owns any omitted ones you can throw at me):
4—Othello, Morocco or somewhere
Has the advantage of having been written by Shakespeare. Gains massive amounts of points for the “put out the light, and then put out the light” business (Billy Shakes had a way with words) and his military career truly was spectacular. His one fatal flaw as a badass, though, especially in a competition, is that he lost. Iago fucks his ass up good. Sure, Iago is Iago, greatest villain of all time blah blah blah, but hey, Harry Potter killed Voldemort maybe before he even got laid (Ginny Weasley was a redhead, but still, ya never know). Othello was a stone badass, one of North Africa's best, but he doesn't advance to the intercontinental stage after getting owned by Iago. World-conquering badasses own, they don't get owned.
3—Desh, The Bourne Ultimatum, somewhere in North Africa
A definite sleeper, and he does lose fairly early in the competition (for the same reason as Othello, ultimately; he gets owned by Jason Bourne, though he puts up a hell of a fucking fight). And really, his badassness is externally defined: it's all in Julia Stiles' line reading when she looks up in the computer to see who the baddies are sending after Bourne and she goes “It's Desh.” Like, she's in awe, and even though she's standing right next to Jason Fucking Bourne, she has a moment of doubt, and this was after two and a half movies of him kicking everybody's ass up and down the known world. So, he doesn't advance, but he definitely warrants mentioning.
2—The Scorpion King, Egypt
An early upset. He was played by The Rock, and was thus enormously muscular. The sword helps, as does the horse—swords and horses are awesome—and you'd think he'd be in position to fuck everybody up and maybe even win, except for another fatal flaw: neither the Mummy sequel he initially appeared in nor his spinoff vehicle were terribly good. They're fun and everything, but still. Also, loses points for something I didn't mention in the first two entries, but I bring up now as foreshadowing for the winner of this group: he was in an American movie. You do not get to represent your entire continent if you were a character in an American movie. Unless you're repping America.
1—Christopher Johnson, District 9, South Africa
Not Wikus, because Wikus was cool and everything, but he had to evolve beyond putzhood, and if you're going to take the continent-wide Cup that just ain't gonna cut it. No, Christopher, the main Prawn character, represents District 9 due to being a member of an extremely oppressed ethnic group, risking life and limb to save his kid's life, and in spite of his ferocious anger toward his oppressors, was still a good enough guy to accept Wikus as an ally. His badassness is what makes Wikus mildly badass by the end of the picture, and if you're enough of a badass that you make your teammates better (pardon the sports metaphor) then that makes you more of a badass. Unfortunately, the reason why Christopher has to finish 2nd is because . . . well . . . he's not from round here. Even though District 9 is a big ol metaphor for race relations in South Africa with layers and layers of irony, Christopher Johnson was nonetheless not born in Africa (even though his kid was, I think; it's been a while). Thus, even though he was a wonderful character—so much so that by the end of the movie he'd ceased to be weird-looking—he comes just short.
Before we get to #1, a qualifier: there are a lot of wonderful movies made in Africa. The tenor of this list should not be read as ignorance or dismissal of Africa's extremely underrated cinema. When I was up on the Cape visiting Mom back in May we saw this really good, gorgeously shot picture from Burkina Faso called Rêves de poussière that told a very simple story through symbolism, allegory, and the composition of the shots. A movie about gold miners out in the middle of the desert where everything's a hot, dusty, searing, abrasive gold color, hey, that's unity of form and content. But, and this is not that movie's fault, nor is it in the rich cinemas of Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, and so on, but these movies tend to be a bit low on ownage. The destruction of dreams, tragic misfortune, fatalism? Sure, they got lots. Africa's got art cinema on lock. But where are the action heroes, you ask?
Fortunately, there is one. And ho boy will he kick your ass.
Makmende will fuck your entire shit the fuck up. Deriving from a really funny story—when Sudden Impact came out in Kenya, all the kids thought Clint was awesome but kinda funny, which is a solid take on Sudden Impact by the way, and they ran around making finger guns and going “make my day” except in a Kenyan accent it sounded like “makmende” and so they started goofing on the word “makmende” and whenever someone got to flexing his nuts excessively everybody'd smirk and and go “Hey, check out Makmende over here”—Makmende achieved international recognition through this awesome video by the group Just a Band:
It's important to note that although clearly everyone involved knows that it's funny, it doesn't make Makmende any less badass, and in fact that's actually an essential part of what makes him such a force to be reckoned with. Makmende is the perfect champion for this competition, because if you honestly think I take the idea of a Badass World Cup seriously I have a nice bridge to sell you . . . and yet I'm not entirely not serious either. Thus is the genius of Makmende. The whole idea is funny, but at the end of the day, his foot is right in your ass, and he gets the girl and saves the day. And also that song is awesome.
Bonus Makmende here (embedding disabled by request), as we see him leading the Allies to victory in WWII. When you can bend time and space to kick ass, that's when you know you're a worthy continental champion. Next up is . . . shit, South America? Australia? Who knows. It's a big world out there, with many badasses to be choose from.