The Badass and Child Duo

Read Michael Fiegel's exclusive guest post about the “Badass and Child Duo” trope, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of his debut thriller, Blackbird!

“Is she your child?” asked someone.

“I guess she is now,” the other cried, defiantly; “she’s mine ’cause I saved her. No man will take her from me…”

Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

Luc Besson's 1994 crime thriller Leon—better known to many as The Professional—is my favorite movie. Telling the story of a professional hitman (Jean Reno) who rescues a 12-year-old girl (Natalie Portman) from corrupt DEA agents, it was a major influence on my writing. This is most vividly reflected in my novel Blackbird, a thriller that tells a similar story with a twist: rather than the “good guy” rescuing the girl, it explores the consequences of the “bad guy” getting her instead.

Both of these situations are takes on the trope known as the “Badass and Child Duo.” You can read all about it on TVTropes.com, but the way it works is fairly self-evident: a badass (usually but not always a man) and a child (often a girl) team up in some way throughout the story, with the badass predominantly acting as the child's protector. There are at least two variants of the trope, and they're both interesting to take a look at, seeing as they appear across multiple genres.

In the first variant, the badass carries most of the weight in the “Duo,” often literally carrying the child around like a parent but more figuratively handling the bulk (if not all) of the protecting. Sherlock Holmes's first appearance in A Study in Scarlet provides an early example of the trope, with John Ferrier as the badass and Lucy as the child; other literary examples include Jean Valjean and Cosette in Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserables and the father and son duo from Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic The Road.

This version also shows up in film. Jason Statham has played the badass at least twice in two thrillers that fit this trope: 2012's Safe and 2013's Homefront. Shane Black brushes up against the trope in two of his action thrillers as well: 1991's The Last Boy Scout and 1996's The Long Kiss Goodnight. Both feature a parent protecting their child from gun-toting bad guys; the latter notably features a woman in the role of the badass, as does 1980's Gloria, the well-known crime thriller by John Cassavetes.

The second variant of the “Badass and Child Duo” is less common but is the sort I wanted to explore in more depth in Blackbird. In this version, the child is not merely a passive observer or an object to be protected. They are a badass in their own right, in many ways the equal of their partner in crime—if not physically then certainly in terms of their “shades of gray” morally.

With Blackbird, I was primarily inspired by what I saw in Leon (especially the International version, which restores over 22 minutes of critical Act 2 footage), wherein Leon himself is not simply a protector but also a mentor. The young Mathilda is not content to simply be looked after; she takes an active role in the partnership, not only learning to shoot a gun but even participating during several of Leon's hits.

Those unfamiliar with Leon are almost certainly aware of a more recent retelling of the trope from George R.R. Martin's dark fantasy A Song of Ice and Fire series and HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation. Therein, the young Arya Stark is rescued by the Hound, a badass among badasses; rather than simply ride beside him, Arya proves quite the capable killer herself and surprises even the Hound with her capacity for murder.

Other examples of badasses paired with quite-capable children include: Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross in True Grit (both the 1969 and 2010 film adaptations, as well as Charles Portis's original 1968 novel); Hanna and her father in 2011's action thriller Hanna; Logan and Laura in 2017's superhero thriller Logan; and vigilantes Hit Girl and Big Daddy from the Kick-Ass comic and film universe.

In all these cases, the named duo operates in a world where law and order are flexible concepts, and both are equally active participants in exploring that flexibility. Taking this to an even greater extreme is 2011's black comedy film God Bless America, where middle-aged Frank Murdoch and teenaged Roxy Harmon disregard any sense of being “good guys” and simply team up to gun down everyone they find offensive.

As opposed to the first sort of “Duo,” these latter cases are less about revisiting the familiar parent-child dynamic and more about the jarring concept of a child (often a little girl) who's not only capable of holding their own in a fight but often more of a badass than the badass “protector” they're paired with. They don't simply explore the relationship between a parental figure and their ward but what happens when that child grows up long before their time in the harshest and bloodiest way possible.

This is precisely the dynamic I explore in Blackbird, giving thriller fans the opportunity to look beyond the standard character archetypes of the helpless child and their morally-upright protector. The child in this darker version of the “Badass and Child Duo” is nothing close to a helpless plot device or a victim. On the contrary, it is their own ability and capacity for violence—rather than their weakness—which makes their tale truly thrilling.

Learn more about Blackbird at https://ibelieveincondiments.com/ or check out the book trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLwJFGNAdAs.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Blackbird by Michael Fiegel!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

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Blackbird Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/11/the-badass-and-child-duo-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) November 10, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 12:59 p.m. ET November 21, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

 

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Michael Fiegel is a writer and designer best known as the creator of Ninja Burger, an Internet cult classic that spawned a series of books and games. In addition to his work in the game industry, Fiegel has written and designed for a number of online outlets. Blackbird is Michael Fiegel's first novel. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two cats.

Comments

  1. John Smith

    Yes, “True Grit” definitely comes to mind!

  2. Todd Henson

    Leon is one of my favorite movies, as well, as are many of Luc Besson’s other films. I love this particular type of story. Thanks for all the examples of it, I’ll have to look up the ones I’m unfamiliar with.

  3. James Joyce

    Now I really want to read Blackbird.

  4. Jody Darden

    I also like “Leon”, and the overlooked “Last Boy Scout”. Blackbird sounds like a great read!

  5. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a fun one

  6. SUSAN GANNON

    thanks for chance

  7. Christine Smiga

    I love Mr. Fiegel’s writing style, and this book sounds really interesting. Thank you for the giveaway!

  8. Margot Core

    Michael! What a thrill that you are here. I love these films, and I love Charles Portis’ novel as well as both of the films made of it. I wonder if you are a Donna Tartt fan. I seem to be alone liking “The Little Friend” best of her books.

  9. Halil cakir

    I remember “God bless America” and that is a quite cool example 😀

  10. Susanne Troop

    Sounds great!

  11. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  12. lasvegasnv

    interesting

  13. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  14. Carl

    Very interesting observations, I had no idea the trope was so prevalent. Thanks for the chance to win this book, it sounds excellent.

  15. Patrick Murphy

    Make me a winner!

  16. Jackie Wisherd

    This book sounds intriguing to me. Not my usual read but would give it a try.

  17. Maurynne Maxwell

    Loved Leon. Love the trope! Want the book!

  18. Travis Donnelly

    This sounds like a terrific book. Please sign me up for a copy. Also I wish the author great luck on his debut….will be looking forward to much more in the future!

  19. lynette thompson

    Looks like a great read. Please put my name in the pot.

    Everyone have a great Thanksgiving

  20. Vernon Luckert

    Would love to win this one!

  21. Lori P

    Particularly enjoy these partnerships when the child demonstrates unexpected ingenuity. I bet that Blackbird has a few surprises in store!

  22. Gwen Ellington

    I’ll love seeing the involvement of a child as plot develops.

  23. Michael Carter

    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  24. Janet Gould

    very interesting

  25. Janet Gould

    very interesting

  26. Carole Knoles

    My favorite duo- Arya and the Hound. Cannot wait until next year.

  27. susan beamon

    That, in either of its forms, is a seriously mixed-up trope. It depends on how well the author handles it if I will finish the book.

  28. vicki wurgler

    this book does sound good

  29. Laurent Latulippe

    Looks like a fun read.

  30. Peter W. Horton Jr.

    Badass! Yes!

  31. Jane Schwarz

    Wow! Yes, sounds like an intense story. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of “Blackbird”.

  32. Carolyn

    Would love to read Blackbird! The Professional is one of my favorite movies too!

  33. Charlee Griffith

    Leon is one of my favorites as well. I look forward to reading your book!

  34. Abigail Gibson

    I would love to read this action packed book. Thank you.

  35. Sandy Klocinski

    Yes! I love these types of books. I like the movies as well

  36. Ed Nemmers

    I would liek to read the work of Michael Fiegel.

  37. JAMES LYNAM

    Sounds like my type of read. HOPE I WIN!!

  38. Andrew Gordon

    I really want to read this.

  39. Dolores Quigley

    Wow, sounds like a great read.

  40. Lisa Pecora

    Would love to win. Need a new book to read!

  41. veronica sandberg

    looks like a great read…..want to win

  42. veronica sandberg

    looks like a great read…..want to win

  43. Shannon Baas

    I would like this.

  44. HESTER MAYO

    Bring it on!

  45. Linda Peters

    would love this for the cold winter night reading, thanks

  46. Tammy Z Evans

    This sounds awesome, I am really excited about it.

  47. AEAlmquist

    It sounds very interesting.

  48. Richard Hicks

    Looks like interesting read

  49. Stephanie Galbraith

    Thank You

  50. Debbie Erickson

    This looks like my kind of book! Looking forward to reading it.

  51. Buddy Garrett

    It sounds like a greay read. I would love to read it.

  52. Sand Lopez

    Sounds like a great book!

  53. marlene a harris

    sounds like a good book ty

  54. Lily Kwan

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  55. Kim Keithline

    sounds great

  56. Daniel Vice

    This sounds interesting

  57. Carl White

    [b]…..a badass (usually but not always a man) and a child (often a girl) team up in some way throughout the story, with the badass predominantly acting as the child’s protector.[/b]

    [b]Too bad Roy Moore, a BAD ASS, not a BADASS, was not predominantly acting as the child’s protector…protect them please, not sleep with them.[/b]

    [b]But, yes, Leon is a great movie.[/b]

  58. Fredrick Pauly

    My son Adam would love it.

  59. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

Comments are closed.