"I've always wanted to uppercut a punkass. And send him flying onto a table, preferably with a cake or a bowl of punch on it."
A Bit Character
whose only purpose is to deserve a beating
, and get it from the hero.
People love to be Badass
, and people love badasses. But if you try to be a badass when there's no bad around, you're just an ass
. You see?
But don't worry, someone will come along any minute now
to pick a fight with you, mug you, threaten you, or something like that. It doesn't matter how long you stay manfully stoic in the face of their crap, they'll keep at it until whatever you want to do to them looks completely justified.
Hey, someone's getting beaten up! Why? Because! Clearly, that poor guy isn't as badass as the hero. Have at them!
This is very common in the superhero narrative, where heroes do tend to witness terrible crimes even when they're just wandering around. It can also be used in a casual, less idealistic way, when a guy in a bar is obnoxious, and your badass can wipe them out (see the quote above). If you need people to bond over a rescue
, a bad guy can provide a handy bit of danger.
A common variation is to have a woman get sexually harassed, and kick the guy in the crotch
, to show that she's tough and empowered.
It can even be used with a villain, if you think they're a bit too calm and collected to Kick the Dog
for no reason.
See also Mugging the Monster
, Batman Cold Open
and Bit Part Bad Guys
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- Many years ago, The Vision was walking through Central Park one night, lost in thought. He was wearing a trench coat and hat over his costume, so as to not attract attention. A pair of muggers tried to mug him. As the narration put it, "They made the mistake of getting his attention".
- In the graphic novel Watchmen, Rorschach deals with these kinds of characters by breaking their fingers, or in at least one case, throwing them down an elevator shaft. Though he'll just resort to breaking random criminal's fingers if no one punchable is around.
- In Star Wars Episode 4, a guy in Mos Eisley threatens Luke and gets his arm cut off by Obi-Wan.
- Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio Playing Against Type as a misogynistic wife-beater) appears very briefly at the beginning of Men In Black just to become an alien bug's new outerwear.
- In Star Trek, Kirk gets a random bar fight with some Starfleet recruits before he joins. They turn up later as part of the Enterprise's crew and get revenge.
- In the Swedish film of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth gets mugged by some Very Kickable, Punchable, and Bite-able Men. Her laptop doesn't survive, but she does.
- The trucker who picks on a powerless Clark Kent in Superman II. When Superman regains his powers, he pays a return visit to the same guy for revenge.
- Twilight has Edward swoop in to save Bella from an attempted rape, among other things.
- In the Red Dwarf book Backwards, Ace became one just long enough to give a failing pilot some self-confidence (by letting himself get beat up).
- Jack Woodley in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Solitary Cyclist," who has the bad judgement to pick a bar fight with a Badass Bookworm.
"He ended a string of abuse by a vicious back-hander which I failed to entirely avoid. The next few minutes were delicious. It was a straight left against a slogging ruffian. I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went home in a cart. So ended my country trip, and it must be confessed that, however enjoyable, my day on the Surrey border has not been much more profitable than your own."
Live Action TV
- Khalisah bint Sinan al-Jilani in Mass Effect makes a lot of false accusations against you that you can respond to by punching her in the face in all three games. The Shadow Broker videos showcases Shepard isn't the only one to have this reaction to her. In Mass Effect 3, it backfires, in two separate ways. First of all, she dodges the punch, and if you don't take another Renegade interrupt to headbutt her, she knocks you out instead. Second of all, you can actually recruit Khalisah as a War Asset worth 10 points...unless you punched her in either Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2 or both, in which case she's only worth 5 points. Thus, the Very Punchable Man trope is subverted in this case.
- Mass Effect 2 has another, even more blatant case - during Samara's loyalty mission you're in a bar and need to interact with a few characters to advance. One of your possible options is a turian who's drunkenly harassing an asari dancer. If you approach, the interaction prompt says "punch."
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there is Nazeem, a self-absorbed, condescending, wealthy Redguard who wanders around Whiterun, insulting everyone he comes across and acting like he's the most important person in Skyrim. Not only is he one of the people who the Companions can hire you to teach a lesson to, but nobody will miss him if you kill him, though you may have to pay a bounty. Similarly, in Riften there is Grelod the Kind, an incredibly evil old woman who runs an orphanage and who apparently gets off on tormenting the children there. There are zero repercussions for you walking in there and killing her where she stands in any number of hilarious ways aside from being visited by Astrid if you did it on behalf of Aventus Aretino.
- In The Venture Bros., Doctor Orpheus meets two annoying rednecks in a diner, and imprisons their souls in a pair of Homies figurines.
- And you know someone's a Very Punchable Man when someone as nice as Dr. Orpheus has to punch them.
- Brainy in Hey Arnold!.
- Parodied in the Futurama episode "Less Than Hero":
Mugger: Excuse me, hi! Do you have a minute? I live in Jersey City and my car broke down and I need to get back because my Aunt's real sick and she needs this medicine, but I need money for the bus. So I'm mugging you. Hand over your wallets.
Leela: I don't believe that story for a second.
Mugger: It doesn't matter; I'm mugging you.
Fry: There's no bus to Jersey City.
- In one episode Fry and Leela encounter a "professional beach bully", who plays the part of the bad guy in the Charles Atlas scenario, then gets paid to let the skinny guy beat him up to impress his girlfriend, making him a professional Very Punchable Man.
- Rick And Morty has Rick and Summer beating the shit out of the Devil, a possible animal abuser, a bully, a neo-nazi, and a Westboro protester. The last four beatdowns took place during The Stinger. Considering what these people are that Rick and Summer beaten up, its hard to feel sorry for them.