One example of the Action Hero. With the emphasis on one.
You know this guy, because you have seen him a thousand times. He has the lead role in almost every action movie and video game and, like Bruce Willis or Will Smith, has a single role that he repeats over and over again.
Unlike the Featureless Protagonist, he does have fixed attributes, and they are usually the same:
- Almost always American (and almost always Caucasian at that. And if not, But Not Too Black and/or But Not Too Foreign will usually be invoked.)
- Born to blue-collar parents.
- Buzz-cut, fade, bald, or fauxhawk (if the story is set after 2000) black or dark brown hair. note
- And shaved, usually with Perma-Stubble. Growing the Beard means developing personality.
- Usually a former soldier or police officer, very rarely in active service.
- Can be an ex-convict instead of, or in addition to any of the above.
- When he was in the military he was overwhelmingly The Sarge, and is probably still called "Sarge" by his military pals.
- In 1980s media, he will probably be The Vietnam Vet. In 1990s media, this was updated to Gulf War veteran. Nowadays, it is, of course, The War on Terror (probably Iraq) he fought in.
- Uses handguns as his signature weapon. Rifles and submachine guns are always immediately discarded after using them.
- Almost always uses Good Old Fisticuffs as his fighting style, and if matched up against even an elite martial artist, will prevail.
- Will fight dirty.
- Chances are good his name is a monosyllabic simple name like Frank, Jim, Jack or John.
- Has a dead relative, a dead friend or is only in the action hero business because he has to save a loved one.
- Has no respect for authority, but his boss secretly admires him for this trait.
- A tendency to use One-Liners of varying quality.
- Usually smokes and drinks heavily.
- Typically drives a Cool Car or The Alleged Car.
- Usually voiced by Nolan North.
This character has become immensely popular as the protagonist in video games in recent years. The difference from a Featureless Protagonist is that those characters are left without real characterization to let the player project their own ideas onto the character, while the Action Genre Hero Guy follows a very specific set of traits as listed above.
If you can remember a character's name, he is probably not an example.
- In Victoria, former Marine protagonist John Rumford fits every item on the checklist, except that he isn't fighting to save a loved one, but his country. He is a somewhat unusual variation in one respect, however, in that he is also a (working-class, one-liner-touting, ex-military) self-taught well-read intellectual, which makes for some funny lines.
- G. Callen from NCIS: Los Angeles, where his mysterious past is actually a subplot. G. isn't his initial; that's his name.
- Subverted (of course) in Series/Firefly. There is a character with a buzzcut, love of one-liners and criminal background, who really likes guns. He turns out to be really nice, fiercely protective of the ship and crew, and a savvy negotiator.
- Silent Hill:
- Alex Shepherd from Silent Hill: Homecoming, who fits the trope to a T. Except for the military background, which turns out to be a delusion to shield himself from a traumatic event.
- Murphy Pendleton from Silent Hill: Downpour seems a close enough match, with a status as a convicted killer serving as his hard-ass background.
- The default Commander Shepard from Mass Effect has the looks (and the name; John), but can develop a personality depending on how you play him, and is also potentially gay or bisexual. He's also in active military service at the beginning of the first game.
- Jimmy Hopkins from Bully is a school-aged equivalent, having a tough, no-nonsense personality, an extreme dislike of authority, common "J" name and a shorn noggin. The hardass characterization stays pretty constant, but you can at least give him a different hairstyle later on.
- Metal Gear:
- Solid Snake series started as one, but did develop a very detailed and unique personality starting from the Retool he had starting from his appearance in Metal Gear Solid.
- Same goes for his buddy Gray Fox, whose actual name is Frank Jaeger. Similarly to Snake above, Fox became markedly more interesting and complicated after ceasing being a cool Evil Counterpart with a bandanna, and returned as an undead Cyber Ninja with a lot of Gothic Horror elements.
- Snake also keeps his Eighties Action Mullet, being the Eighties hero, after all.
- Nathan Drake from Uncharted fits almost every characteristic, except that he hasn't lost a loved one (he does what he does because he's a naturally curious adrenaline-junkie) and has sufficient charm to overcome his (deliberately) generic design. Played with, though, in that he looks kinda like Nathan Fillion. Drake's Deception reveals that Nathan Drake isn't actually his real name. He's just some orphan who was a fan of Francis Drake.
- Captain Martin Walker from Spec Ops: The Line is a rather savage Deconstruction of this idea. He definitely looks◊ and acts like one (albeit slightly more buttoned-down than average), and he seems to start off thinking that he's a straight example. In fact, it's Walker's belief that he's the hero of an action scenario that kickstarts his slide into violent and unhinged behavior as he tries to justify and rationalize his increasingly monstrous actions.
- Despite his inclusion in the above article, and his name being as nondescript as John or Jack in his native Serbian, Grand Theft Auto IV's Niko Bellic has a beard as thick as his layered personality, the latter of which is fleshed out (with the player's help, of course) as the game progresses.
- Subverted in Far Cry 3. While Grant Brody might fit much of the bill, both in background (ex-US Army reserve), personality (motivated by a want to protect his family), and appearance (short brown hair and slightly grizzled), he is not the Player Character, and he is killed off already in the tutorial level.
- John "Soap" MacTavish in the Modern Warfare series (though you don't actually get to see his face until Modern Warfare 2, you'll just have to take our word for it in Call of Duty 4).
- Dead or Alive 5 newcomer Rig has the appearance of one but his genre is cut from a different cloth, ultimately. Series regular Bayman was also redesigned in 5 to have a more "action genre guy" appearance (up until then he had unusually "soft" facial features for someone in his line of work).
- Max Payne is a deconstrutive version of this trope combined with a bit of Film Noir protagonist mixed in. Max's facial features were originally based on the squinty-eyed visage of Remedy lead developer Sam Lake but in The Fall of Max Payne he got a more unique look. By 3 he basically turns into a washed-up, fat version of this (especially when he goes bald).
- The majority of the classes in Team Fortress 2 share the traits, including the buzzcut or short hair, the Perma-Stubble, and the tendency to give the One-Liner. Probably the straightest example is the Soldier, though he still seems to be a parody of this. He's got the buzzcut and One Liners down, but never served in the militarynote , favors rocket launchers over handguns and rifles, and his first name is (supposedly) Jane.
- While most of Halo's protagonists are too soldierly for this trope, Sergeant John Forge from Halo Wars fits the bill almost perfectly, right down to the shaved head and Nolan North voice.
- The character Rod Hollywood Stone from Agents Of MAYHEM parodies this trope. True, hes a muscular white guy with short brown hair and Perma-Stubble, hes always cracking one-liners, and he carries a huge gun with him at all times, but he deviates from the typical mold quite a bit. Instead of being a police or military officer (like many other characters in the game), Hollywood is a movie and TV personality, Bounty Hunter, and former porno star (not to mention that, despite claiming to be from LA, hes actually Canadian.) In addition to all that, hes also a dimwitted Narcissist whose antics frequently end up pissing off his allies. His main reason for being on the team at all is because his marketable appearance makes him a good PR spokesman for the group as a whole.
- XCOM2: John Bradford has become one of these, in stark and not unwelcome contrast to his characterisation (or lack thereof) in the previous installment.