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They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they wanted to.A slang term for the hordes of standard-issue, disposable bad guys whom The Hero mows down with impunity. Deadly, competent, loyal, abundant... pick any two. Also called "baddies", "goons," "scrubs," "drones," "small fry," "flunkies," "pawns," "toadies," "grunts," "minions," "lackeys," "underlings," "henchpersons," and "cannon fodder". In Japanese videogame jargon, they're known as "zako" or "small fry". The actual term "mook" presumably comes from Hong Kong Cinema, and takes its name from the mook jong, the wooden training dummy used in Wing Chun, whose only function is to get hit (and hit hard). In Hong Kong movie circles, they're often called "three-hit men," in reference to how many hits it takes to put them down, though the actual number of hits varies. It's a thankless job, to be sure, especially in Real Life, but somebody's gotta do it. Enter the humble mook. Mooks play an important role, as without someone to fight on a constant basis, your action movie/show/game would have a lot less action. If every bad guy your hero runs into is a Badass or has a personality, then Quirky Miniboss Squad, The Dragon, and the Big Bad would not feel as unique in comparison. Thus, mooks serve as Filler and a backdrop to the truly climactic moments of an action franchise while also ensuring that in-between things are kept lively. In Video Games, they may also double as a ready source of Experience Points, gold, and recovery items for the player. In addition to accentuating the real villains, mooks also help establish the heroes, especially their combat skills, as their lack of Nominal Importance allows them to be beaten, mauled, shot or otherwise disposed of in creative ways without guilt. The Hero might find it in his heart to Save the Villain, forgive him, even accept him into his inner circle, but the guys whose only crime is not finding a better employer will be shown no mercy (although exceptions apply). Next to Punch Clock Villain, but usually more faceless, this is one of the tropes most liable to Just Following Orders, a fact that may be pointed up in order to reduce Moral Dissonance about their disposability. It's rarely explained just why they're willing to fight and die for villains who want to destroy the world, or what they get in return. Their life expectancy is on a level with that of the average mayfly, and you have to wonder why they took the job in the first place, especially considering their master is frequently abusing them as much if not more than the heroes. Depending on just who/what they are fighting for, the plausibility of this can vary. Being Acceptable Targets by definition, sometimes mooks serve as (or devolve into) outright comic relief rather than an actual menace by being dimwitted, ineffective, a genuine danger to themselves or just plain unlucky. Despite all this, sometimes they may get their own moments in the spotlight and become genuine villains in their own right. Except where noted in some of the subcategories, it is generally considered "bad form" for mooks to be given any sort of detailed backstory or personality (beyond broad strokes). Put another way, for the purposes of heroes continuing to be seen as heroes, and to avoid a major mood swing, mooks generally have no girl/boyfriends, children, parents, grandparents; they don't belong to church groups or non-profits that might miss them; they don't spend part of their day looking forward to what's on TV tonight (never to see the show because they're about to die), and they generally die quick, semi-painless deaths (blood and gore optional). Mooks are rarely female, and if they are, they generally don't fall into the "gorgeous" category because you don't want the viewer/reader to become attached to a character the hero is about to kill (The Spy Who Loved Me is a noted example where this rule is broken, and 35 years later James Bond fans still criticize the decision to have Bond murder Caroline Munro's helicopter-flying babe). There are, of course, exceptions, either to make a point about violence, or if the hero is more of an anti-hero. Not to be mistaken with a certain racial slur, or the tentacled aliens from the MOTHER series (although they themselves qualify), or the purple bird-like creature from Princess Comet (although he is also a mook in this sense).
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Specific variations include:This trope is the Evil Counterpart of the Redshirt Army, which are Mooks on the good side. Similar to but not to be confused with their non-combat brother Evil Minions (likewise the Redshirt Army with the Red Shirt). Occasionally, it turns out they were Not Always Evil. If a "character" who would otherwise qualify as a Mook is disqualified because he's apparently acting on his own, you have a Bit Part Bad Guy. Also Compare Meat Puppets when biological mooks are directly controlled via Demonic Possession, Mind Control, or similar. In Video Games, mooks tend to be slightly more powerful, and able to at least hurt the hero, if not kill him a few times. However, 9 times out of 10, the hero has a Healing Factor (more often objects used to heal than spontaneous healing) while the mooks stay hurt forever. Also, while the hero can restart if he/she dies, the mooks (usually) only die once per level, and when the level is restarted, they usually do the exact same thing they did before. If they're lucky, mooks may very occasionally get promoted to the status of a more major villain. The heroes may also be able to persuade them over to the good side, in which case they have performed a Mook-Face Turn. Humanizing mooks is a basic technique of Deconstruction. In some Video Games, certain kinds of mooks will have a special introduction when they appear for the first time. Armies of mooks are not always but usually overwhelmingly male. Typically, killing or harming even one nameless female tends to twist an audience's sympathies differently than the effect of the same to a male. As your protagonist escapes the fortress of doom, you don't want the audience worrying about the mooks being taken out or hurt. If the mooks also provide romantic services, this may overlap with Paid Harem. When supposedly elite fighters in large number are less competent together than a man alone, it's Conservation of Ninjutsu. Note #1: With respect to media (particularly anime), a "mook" can also refer to a Japanese publication which is a hybrid of a magazine and a book. Note #2: It's also a mostly obsolete racial slur against Italians, so use with caution. Note #3 (to Tropers): Mooks refer specifically to easily-killed bad guys. If you're looking for easily-killed good guys, you want Red Shirt Army.
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