The classification of “Bad Ass” could be considered subjective. I suspect we all have our own notion of what a Bad Ass is. Being a dominant type of woman, you might be surprised at my ideal Bad Ass. I have to be honest and just go ahead and embrace it. I’m a dichotomy. I am a dominant woman who loves strong, even dominant men who are willing to give a little to get a lot. I’m generally put off by the uber-alpha, chest pounding, he-man types. But don’t be fooled, that doesn’t only leave wet noodle men, there are so many more options.
So who is my favorite fictional Bad Ass Male? Jean-Claude, from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. That’s right, the tight-leather-pants, frilly-open-shirt, custom-thigh-boot, long-luscious-curls-wearing, three-musketeer-stereotype-looking, Master of the City of St. Louis vampire. Wait! Before you say “cliché” stop and take another look.
What makes a man a bad ass? For me it’s someone who is unapologetic about who and what he is, but is also tempered with a deep seated survival instinct. I love a man who can embrace the depth and breadth of his feelings and still be able to look at a situation and assess its needs. Yes, extreme pragmatism is a turn on if it’s not just another form of emotional denial. I mean really, how many of the chest-bangers either let their emotions rule the day or use anger or aloofness as a way to deny their feelings? It’s a common trope.
But not Jean-Claude. This is a man who is in it for the long game. He hid his strength and his age for centuries while he built up his personal power. He never unleashes large amounts of power unless it’s absolutely needed, instead preferring to let his limits remain a mystery. That’s not only tenacious, it’s just smart. Pragmatism at its finest. However, when it’s time to deal with a problem or a threat Jean-Claude is ruthless. He doesn’t flinch and he doesn’t guilt himself about it for ages afterwards. He’s equally likely to use magic or just use his vampire speed and strength and slit a throat. But he’ll do what it takes without batting an eyelash and just as quickly be back to his day to day affairs.
I tell you, it makes me shiver.
But beyond overt fighting, beyond power struggles, beyond politics, there is the man. I can only sigh over a man who has all that power and strength and still knows that the best relations, the ones that are real and lasting, are the ones that are given freely. He knows that you can’t force or take things like that. He knows that you have to patiently wait for them to come to you, you have to be there for them, you have to listen and learn, and try to give people what they need. Jean-Claude excels at this like no other. I’m sure most women out there can relate to someone, somewhere, trying to force, manipulate or intimidate them into doing what they wanted. You know Jean-Claude cares about you when he doesn’t do that although he easily could. That’s respect, and it’s not a common character trait with vampires in this genre. In truth, Jean-Claude originally did try most of those tactics with Anita, but it didn’t take him long to realize that the only way he was going to win the lady was to win the lady. He is centuries old and still able to learn. To me, this is foundational bad ass. This is the quiet bad ass, the one who can fight himself to get what he wants. It all sets my heart a-flutter.
I don’t think it’s possible to discuss how bad ass an incubus is without mentioning sex. This is a man who not only feeds on blood but also on lust and sex. For hundreds of years he’s been playing people’s bodies like fine instruments to get the best feed out of them. It’s in his best interest to know how to quickly find all your special places! Something that is never mentioned in the books but is alluded to is that Jean-Claude used his sexual powers sparingly. There is only one instance that we know of that he “enslaved” someone sexually, and he did it for survival; upon his arrival in America (known as the New World at the time) complete broke and without any friends or a place to stay in the day. Two hundred years later and he’s still trying his best to take care of and do right by this terribly bothersome and troublesome female (Gretchen). Binding people to him with his sexual powers is not something he does quickly. Again, he knows the value of free will.
He’s been around so long that nothing shocks him sexually, but making that connection and keeping the intimacy special is important to him. Crazy, hot, monkey-sex without the hang-ups with a man who knows what he’s doing and wants to bond. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but this is the stuff of dreams!
Finally, I have to admit that even though his fashion sense seems a bit cliché, there is a part of me that still loves it. It’s like a guilty pleasure.