Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Listmania 2012: Biggest Badasses of the Year

As pop culture aficionados, your friends at Culture Blues are not immune to the end-of-year lists currently overwhelming the internet. We just like to wait until the entire year is over before we post anything, in case something cool happens around the holidays (also, we're lazy). Welcome to Listmania, where Culture Blues ranks our favorite shit in a handful categories.

 Sometimes, being a badass means more than shooting someone in the face. Other times, not so much. Today, we're ranking (not really) the biggest badasses (subjective) of 2012.

(10) Django

It’s almost cheating to pick a Quentin Tarantino character as one of our badasses. Tarantino’s stylized, sharp-tongued, blood-geysering films are uniquely suited to lists like these, which means we should maybe be grading on a curve. That said, it’s impossible not to get behind Django – that dude kills a whole lot of slave owners. With every quip punctuated pistol blast, Django does his part to heal our country’s deep racial wounds… or, uh, at least make up for that pandering snooze-fest Lincoln. He also kills the ancestors of Justified’s Crowder family, so that’s gotta count for something. It’s the most badass (and tolerable!) that Jamie Foxx has been in, well, his entire career.  (Jeff Hart)

(9) Mars Curiosity Rover

On August 6th, 2012, a car-sized automated vehicle crafted by the hands (and robots) of mankind landed on Aeolis Palus, in Gale Crater, on the fucking surface of Mars. MARS!!! Dubbed “Curiosity” (what a great name), the music-loving, 2,000lb little dude is armed with an immense payload of state of the art technology, and is learning more about Mars than you currently know about <insert your expertise here>. It’s impossible for us to conceive of what Curiosity has to deal with on Mars - the harsh terrain, the loneliness, the space monsters- but nevertheless, Curiosity is doing work like a boss. (Giovanny Caquias)

(8) Kevin Steen

Explaining the Kevin Steen mystique to someone not versed in the skuzzy world of independent wrestling isn’t an easy task. The French Canadian slob is like punk rock, a reaction to a dull trend on the indies; undersized MMA-wannabes that kick each other a lot. Steen’s character is best described as ironic psychopath. He hates on the fans, frequently and eloquently, yet they enthusiastically chant “Kill Steen Kill” while he laps up his opponent’s blood (wrestling!). His best t-shirt depicts him frolicking with balloons under the headline zoo enthusiast. Oh, and just a few weeks ago, I saw him piledrive an opponent through a ladder and onto another ladder. What is more badass than that? (Jeff Hart)

(7) Felix Baumgartner

I have a fear of flying, and furthermore I’m generally not fond of heights. Bearing that in mind it’s easy to see why I’m awed by what Felix Baumgartner accomplished (and survived!) in 2012. On October 14th, Baumgartner boarded the Red Bull Stratos, a balloon-powered vessel which brought him 24 miles into the air. From there, as it sat in low Earth orbit, Baumgartner jumped out, setting the world record for the highest skydive in the process. To put it in context, he fell farther than the average American drives to work, without either burning up or crashing into the planet. (Giovanny Caquias)

(6) Michael Phelps

What certified Phelps as a badass this summer – as if smashing all kinds of Olympic records four years ago wasn’t enough – is that he showed up in London like he’d just rolled out of bed. As if he’d spent the night before doing bong rips while watching Super Troopers, and then one of his boys is like “hey Mike aren’t the Olympics tomorrow?” and he’s like “oh, lol, that.” Meanwhile, his frat boy nemesis Ryan Lochte is flipping tires down a street, talking shit about how strong he’s gotten, how hard he’s worked, how rad his new line of shoes are going to be. Then Phelps yawns, does that freakish arm dangle thing, dives in, and owns. (Jeff Hart)

(5) Killer Mike and El-P

An incongruous pairing that might have shocked hip-hop fans just a few years ago, this formidable tag team is responsible for two of the year’s most critically acclaimed rap albums. Not to mention two of the most visceral and incendiary. On May 15th 2012, Killer Mike released R.A.P. Music, produced entirely by El-P. The next week, El-P released his own record, Cancer 4 Cure. Killer Mike exposes the demonic US government on Reagan while El-P crafts underdog outcast anthems like Oh Hail No. Mike lays out trigger-happy police officers while El links “going HAM” with I Am Sam and a Tropic Thunder reference. Confrontational, intelligent and loud, Killer Mike and El-P are a musical force to be reckoned with. (Jeremiah White)

(4) Dan Harmon

Getting fired from your own creation by a corporate juggernaut is more depressing than badass, I guess. But Dan Harmon’s run on Community – probably the best comedy since Arrested Development (it’s a close call with Louie) – makes him worthy of a viking funeral. With its lovable cast, rapid fire jokes, and gleefully brazen meta-ness, Community was just too bizarre to live for long on a major network. Not that Community is dead; the show staggers onward without its mad genius creator at the controls, but it can’t possibly be the same (or they probably wouldn’t have bothered firing him). Harmon should be celebrated for just how long he managed to hold out against the powers that be, and for seriously pissing off Chevy Chase. (Jeff Hart)

(3) Pussy Riot

If you don’t know why Pussy Riot is badass, then you haven’t been following the year’s music news. Part Riot Grrrl group, part revolutionaries, part human interest story, Pussy Riot have been badasses since their formation in 2011. Known for spitting in the face of their government (particularly Vladimir Putin) and their country’s views of femininity, the band became famous for staging guerilla protests/performances of blistering punk rock all over their homeland. Pussy Riot became a nuisance to the current oppressive Russian regime; such a nuisance that their most publicized performance landed three of their members in prison. (Giovanny Caquias)

(2) Channing Tatum

I didn’t lobby for Channing Tatum to be on this list because 2012 was his breakout year, I championed him because of the way he broke out – with an eclectic slate of projects that embrace and combat the public’s perception of him. In 21 Jump Street he played the dumb jock for laughs. Haywire reduced Tatum’s bulky scrapper to little more than a henchman who jobs to Gina Carano. And in Magic Mike, Tatum harnessed his beefcake status and colorful past as a male stripper to portray an intelligent, funny, self-sufficient and just plain likable dude. I’m sure The Vow helped grow the legend of Tatum in some way too, but I haven’t seen it and don’t know what it is. Forget the Sexiest Man Alive trophy (there is a trophy, right?), Tatum’s willingness to subvert expectations and branch out from romantic leads and bland soldiers is what made him in a badass in 2012. Feel free to put your clothes back on, sir. (Jeremiah White) 

(1) Carl

In what was simply an amazing year for America’s favorite post-apocalyptic pre-teen, both incarnations of Carl saw huge upticks in their badass quotient. On AMC’s shaky The Walking Dead, Carl switched gears from whiny brat to hard-nosed pragmatist. He delighted a legion of fans by gunning down his own mother, and thus became one of the few characters on the show worth rooting for. Meanwhile, in Robert Kirkman’s reinvigorated comic, a one-eyed crazier Carl pulled his father’s old cowboy hat sinisterly low, picked up an AK-47, and gunned down a bunch of bad guys in his botched attempt to assassinate the book’s main heavy. Move over Rick, there’s a new sheriff in town. (Jeff Hart)

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