Posted On February 3, 2010 by Print This Post

Getting the Goods on Badasses

I love a good badass.  Ask anyone who knows me.  I think it comes from having grown up surrounded by them.  For me, there’s something fascinating about a person who stands up when everyone else sits down. 

Lucky for me, while doing research for a book, I stumbled across, a website with a collection of the world’s nastiest badasses.  And they’re not all men either.  Author Ben Thompson runs the site, and we asked him to stop by RU to enlighten us on badassery.

Here’s Ben…

Adrienne: What makes someone a badass?

Ben: It’s a wide assortment of folks I’ve chosen to include on the website and in the book, stretching basically from every age of history to every end of the moral spectrum.  On the one hand, you’ve got folks like Leonidas who went out there and busted heads to save their people, while on the other hand you’ve got cruel, brutal tyrants like Vlad the Impaler who went out and carved their kingdoms in the blood of their enemies.  The one thing that truly unites all of these people as badasses is an unshakeable determination.  Whatever it is that they wanted to achieve – be it freedom, conquest, criminal insanity, or whatever – they went all-out for it, didn’t let anything stand in their way, and didn’t stop until they’d smashed down everything that was blocking them from achieving their goal.

Adrienne: You have female badasses in your book.  How were these women treated by men? 

Ben: I hit on one or two female badasses from every time period I cover in the book.  In a lot of ways the women badasses from history are actually more impressive than the men, because not only were they performing these tremendous feats of face-smashing badassitude, but they were also overcoming all of these bullcrap social conventions their societies were trying to force on them.  When you’re looking at history – and particularly early history – many women were being bought and sold like property to whichever nobleman was willing to offer the best dowry, and they weren’t expected to do a whole lot other than look pretty and produce lots of male children.  For women like Anne Bonny and Joan of Arc, who broke out of that patriarchal cycle, overcame all of these stereotypes about women being the “fairer sex”, and then went out and cracked skulls together with the same ferocity of history’s most hardcore male warriors, it just makes them all the more badass.

Adrienne: How did you decide which badasses to use in your book?

Ben: It was a brutal, arduous process trying to narrow down who was going to go into the book.  I basically put together a list of about 100 people I wanted to use, and then began the exceedingly agonizing process of narrowing it down to just 40.  I’d liken it to a doctor coming in and telling you that you had to lose five of your fingers, and then you have to go in and figure out which ones you’re going to get amputated.  With so many great historical badasses out there, there’s enough content to write a hundred books like this!

Adrienne: Who is your favorite badass?

Ben: It was a difficult enough process narrowing it down to 40 – it would be impossible to get it down to just one!  In sticking with the theme of badass women, I’d say that someone like Tomoe Gozen pretty much sums up everything I’m trying to do with this project.  Basically, Tomoe was a woman who served as a badass face-slashing samurai asskicker during the Genpei War in Feudal Japan – we don’t know much about her life, and she doesn’t really bear any significant impact on the course of history, but she did behead at least two renowned samurai warriors on the battlefield and was respected and feared as a “warrior worth a thousand, fit to engage either man or devil.”  Those unsung, hardcore heroes from history are the ones I find the most compelling, and they’re the stories I want to try and tell.

Adrienne: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Ben: I generally like to note that it’s not a prerequisite of badassitude to get out there and kill ten thousand people with a toothpick and then conquer half the continent by riding over corpses with a heavily-modified steamroller tank (these are just the stories I tend to find the most interesting).  Being a badass is really just about getting out there, figuring out what you want, and simply going for it.  So that would be my advice to anyone who wants to be a modern badass – whatever you may want to accomplish, you’ve just got to let go of your fear, put yourself out there, and don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dream.  Also, please don’t kill someone with an axe and then try to sue me for putting a crazy idea in your head that you had to be homicidally violent to be awesome.


RU Crew:  Do you have a favorite badass? 

Thank you to Ben for being here.  RU Crew, two lucky readers will receive Badass: The Book.  Just leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.

Join us on Friday when Kris Kennedy discusses medievals in the current marketplace.

Ben’s Bio:

Ben Thompson graduated from Florida State University in 2002 with degrees in History and Political Science.  He has run the website since 2004, and has written humorous history-related columns for outlets such as Cracked, Fangoria, and  His first book, BADASS: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live was published worldwide by HarperCollins in October 2009.  For more information about Ben go to www. or

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14 Responses to “Getting the Goods on Badasses”

  1. Being a badass is really just about getting out there, figuring out what you want, and simply going for it.

    Love that definition. It makes me a badass, and most of my writer friends. 😈

    What a fun post, and the Badass book sounds fun too, with a lot of great characters and story ideas. I’m going to check it out.

    Posted by Edie | February 3, 2010, 9:06 am
  2. morning all..

    Ben, sounds like a wonderful project, and I bet you had a blast doing all the research for it! Everyone needs a little bit of badass in them!


    Posted by carrie | February 3, 2010, 9:45 am
  3. Ben,
    Thanks for the honest advise! I am so happy someone finally agrees, even a few historical women have badass traits! As an aspiring author, I hear all the time,’ well your heroine, is to strong for the time period’. You give me hope!

    Posted by Jane L | February 3, 2010, 10:06 am
  4. Hi Ben. Thank you for a great post. I enjoyed your book and now have Post-it notes on most of the pages.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 3, 2010, 11:14 am
  5. Ben –

    Thanks for taking the time to talk with us about badasses! I think my favorite female badass is Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator. Being from Texas, I have a healthy respect for any woman who can cock a gun with one hand, a skill I often wish I had when I’m driving in Doha traffic 😈 . As for male badasses, I may get booed, but I like Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard movie.

    I’ll have to think more about my fav real life badasses!

    Thanks again,

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 3, 2010, 11:53 am
  6. I love the idea that we can all be a badass in our own way. Great interview!

    Posted by Gwen Hernandez | February 3, 2010, 3:05 pm
  7. Thanks, Ben. Nice to hear that determination and not backing down creates Badass. Good cross-section of history, too. So, is it badass or just lack of control that makes me want to mount a stainless steel, razor edge, cow-catcher on the front of my truck when driving through down town traffic??! 😈 And thank you Adrienne for being another “sticky note” person.

    Posted by Jacqueline | February 3, 2010, 4:29 pm
    • OMG, Jacqueline! You’re a woman after my own heart. I’ve long wanted to weld metal boxing gloves to the front of my SUV and rig a one-finger salute pop-up to the roof. I’ve resisted, knowing where I live, I would be deported for using that sign 😯 .


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 3, 2010, 11:33 pm
  8. I think there’s a little badass in all of us, some–like me–more than others. 😳 Maybe that’s why I still love a mushy romance on occasion. Even though I secretly wish I could kick butt like Sarah Connor, at the end of a long day, there’s nothing like a badass man to make it all better. 😉

    Posted by Jessi Bacon | February 3, 2010, 7:18 pm
  9. What a fun topic, Ben. Your book sounds great.

    Adrienne, love your new word “badassery.” LOL

    Kelsey, I’m a Bruce Willis fan too. And Arnold.

    Love Ripley (not only is she nurturing, but she can kill w/ vengence), Sarah Connor (what a character arc!), and Doug Quaid (Arnold in Total Recall). There’s a lot of badassery going on in that movie.

    Posted by Laurie London | February 4, 2010, 10:33 am

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