Historical Badass Upgrade
"So, all in all, just a normal day in the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Turn lead into gold, paint the most famous portrait of all time, and invent the first hang glider. And I bet itís not even 9 AM."Sometimes a Historical-Domain Character is portrayed by adding a copious amount of Badassery and Stuff Blowing Up, that was either far lesser or non-existent with the Real Life person. The reasons could range from sloppy research to Rule of Cool. Maybe a king, who was known for very little else but diplomacy, gets to be a war hero instead. Maybe Mohandas Gandhi gets to fight grizzlies. Maybe a pope hunted vampires in his spare time. Kung-Fu Jesus is a subtrope. Compare Beethoven Was an Alien Spy for a possible justification of this trope. Adaptational Badass is when this happens to a character from a previous work. Memetic Badass is when the Badassery is upgraded through Memetic Mutation. See also Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Villain Upgrade, both of which this trope may very well overlap with if the character's more heroic or more villainous actions come off as Badass.
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Examples using real people
Media in General / Common Persons
- Nikola Tesla was undoubtedly a major influence on the Mad Scientist trope, but what a lot of people either forget or choose to ignore is that after he got bored of sane science, his career totally bombed. Media depicting Tesla often give Thomas Edison (who, in all fairness, was by no means a particularly nice guy in Real Life) a Historical Villain Upgrade and posit some kind of grand conspiracy to suppress Tesla's discoveries, when in reality his attempts at creating a Death Ray or Weather Control Machine or whatever else he was hoping to build that week just plain didn't work. He did some important early work on the physics of radar and may have been the first person to file a patent on a VTOL aircraft, but neither would actually be built until decades later with the actual nut-and-bolts engineering being done by someone else.
- Guy Fawkes gets this coupled with heavy doses of Historical Hero Upgrade and a somewhat lesser one of Historical Villain Upgrade. People know him because he was the designated triggerman in a conspiracy to blow up most of Britain's government from the Monarchs down at Parliament, only to be caught and executed in an admittedly gruesome fashion. This has made him the sort of hip anti-prop symbol for anyone fighting against "the man". What most people tend to forget or willingly overlook is just how unsympathetic and even unremarkable Fawkes was. He was basically The Brute (bordering on Dumb Muscle ) recruited by the actual leaders of a conspiracy trying to replace a bigoted Protestant Constitutional Monarchy with an Absolutist Catholic one by mass murder and terrorism that horrified most of their fellow English Catholics. And when he was found, he was overpowered and taken into custody without a struggle. While it is true that the real Guy/Guido Fawkes did serve several years serving in the Tercios of Spain and remained Defiant To The Last in a way that impressed even his supposed victim King James, he was still a traitor to his country turned religious terrorist flunky who was only prevented from being a figure akin to Osama bin Laden by luck and incompetence. But apparently "Robert Catesby Mask" doesn't have the same ring to it.
Anime and Manga
- The Manhattan Projects feature robot Wernher Von Braun, irradiated skull Harry Daghlian, cannibal Evil Twin of Oppenheimer, evil parallel universe Einstein, and FDR AI meeting aliens, discovering wormholes and fighting robots zen powered by death monks.
- UHF parodied this with "Gandhi II".
- William Wallace in Braveheart (possibly).
- Leonardo da Vinci (post mortem), Buckingham and Cardinal Richelieu in the 2011 film adaptation of The Three Musketeers.
- Qin Shi-Huangdi in Hero, as befitting a character in the wuxia genre.
- Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
- Jurassic Park III: The real Spinosaurus, despite being huge and powerful, was built for hunting in water and would be quite slow on land. Here, it's depicted as the ultimate superpredator who eats T.Rexes for breakfast, which would only be possible if the tyrannosaur was standing on a bank.
- Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. That is all.
- Belisarius Series. You would think the Real Life Belisarius was badass enough, but this Belisarius defeats an evil cyborg Conqueror From The Future.
- Almost everyone in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel who's a historical figure has taken a level or two in badass. This includes the ones who were badass already, like Joan of Arc, as well as the ones who weren't, like the Flamels and John Dee.
- Marcus Crassus in Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
- This is the entire premise of Warehouse 13. The emotion-based Magical Realism of the setting makes every last Historical-Domain Character ever mentioned into a terrifying Badass and makes their belongings into Artifacts of Doom.
- America's Founding Fathers are given this treatment in Sons Of Liberty. In reality, they were mostly middle-aged and spent their time debating and writing pamphlets, contrary to the series' portrayal of them as a band of scruffy thirty-somethings who can jump between rooftops and excel in combat.
- Inversion. Venice may have had a historical badass downgrade. The stereotype is a gorgeous city where lovers go to, well, make love. It was that in it's heyday as well. But only historians know it as a ferocious city with a Badass Galley Fleet and ambitious and avaricious Merchant Princes, and adventurers travelling throughout the known and unknown world in search of gold.
- Most of the cast of Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors and Sengoku Basara. Granted, some of those ancient warriors were actually pretty badass on their own...
- In real life, Dante Alighieri was a scholar and historian, who only had some military service. In Dantes Inferno, not only is he a high-ranking Crusader, he winds up killing many of Hell's demons and trapped souls with the help of the large Sinister Scythe he stole from The Grim Reaper.
- Almost any historical figure who appears in the Assassin's Creed franchise gets this, as well as either a hero or villain upgrade. "Almost" any because some, like Cesare Borgia and Caterina Sforza, actually were that badass and didn't need the upgrade, but some others did. Among other things, Leonardo da Vinci actually succeeded in building a flying machine.
- Cracked.com and Theodore Roosevelt. Who was a legitimate badass in real life, but Cracked takes it to new levels.
- Irregular Webcomic!: Sir Isaac Newton is portrayed as a Time Lord, and gathers various scientists from history to fix the time stream.
- The clone of Ben Franklin from Dr McNinja.
- Cox and Combes' Washington presents the titular Washington in increasingly glowing terms, until he's Washington, Washington, twelve stories high / made of radiation.
- Robot Chicken does this frequently:
- A quick sketch has Benjamin Franklin practicing his bojutsu in a forest before triumphantly proclaiming, "For America!"
- A Dream Sequence of George W. Bush involved him in a lightsaber duel against Abraham Lincoln.
- Tacos rule!
- One sketch consisted of a Tag Team match (in the vein of WWE, no less) with Ben Franklin and (in Big Damn Heroes fashion) Gandhi vs. the Wright Brothers.
- Another was a parody of 300 called 1776. It was a very loose retelling of the story of the Declaration of Independence.
- Futurama has done this occasionally.
- Benjamin Franklin invented a weapon he dubbed "The Franklin-ator": a live badger tied to the end of a club.
- Harry Truman in Roswell that Ends Well.
- Inverted and then played straight with Leonardo da Vinci, who is revealed to be an alien who is one of the least intelligent of his species, but designs and builds a giant killing machine to extract revenge for his ill-treatment.
- The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Living Witness". The story focuses on the historical depiction of an encounter with the Voyager crew by an ancient civilization hundreds of years before. The biased depiction portrays them as a ruthlessly violent gang of thugs, and the Voyager as an inpenetrable warship armed to the teeth with weapons, and containing a complement of Borg drones at the captain's disposal.
- In Gravity Falls, we have Nathaniel Northwest, a supposed badass pioneer and the touted founder of Gravity Falls. In reality he was a waste-shoveling village idiot who was used to hide the existence of the real founder of Gravity Falls and America's most embarrassing secret, the 8th and 1/2 President of the United States, Quentin Trembley.