How to be a badass

My sister and her boyfriend are avid movie buffs and possess what I can only describe as amateur expertise in the genre of cheesy action films. I only say amateur because I don’t know if you can go pro at knowing every Nic Cage movie by heart. If you can, my money is on them.

So, last night, sort of by accident and after a lot of queso and a lot more beer, we figured out that my apartment is ideally equipped for use as a home gym, or more specifically, a getting-fit movie montage. This is due to a hefty wood beam that can be used for pull-ups, and as a steadier for handstands, plus many, many other uses, I’m sure.

So, take that, Bowflex. Just give me a couple of bungee cords. I can work my abs, my delts, my bis, my tris, my gluts. All with a simple adjustment of a strap!

Naturally, this chain of events led me to bring up the classic exercise montage in the 1986 crime romp Ruthless People, wherein Bette Midler, having been taken hostage by good-folks-turned-criminals-by-circumstances Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater, has an awakening and begins getting in shape and caring about herself for the first time in her life. Using only the meager supplies in the room where she is being held, she transforms herself from a flabby, spoiled housewife into a buff, empowered diva. This leads her to join forces with her captors to get back at her slimy husband played by Danny Devito.

I offered that this was one of the best such montages in recent movie history. But then my sister got this sort of half-crazed, intense look in her eyes, like she was about to school me on something very important. “Oh, yeah, that’s great,” she said.

“But imagine doing all of that BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN …


Then she grew very quiet and exchanged a knowing look with her boyfriend, and I could see an understanding pass between them. They had been through something together. Something difficult. Something that took more stamina, more strength, more endurance than most people ever muster.

They had watched ALL THE ROCKY MOVIES.

See, my sister has been taking boxing lessons. She and her boyfriend saw this Rocky marathon as a sort of rite of passage. An indoctrination into an elite class of badasses.

“We’re not going to lie to you,” he said. “It wasn’t easy. At times we didn’t think we were going to make it.”

My sister nodded and turned to me with the pure emotion of someone who has lived through something that challenged everything she thought she knew about life, about love, about what it means to be a human being.

“Do you want to know what I learned from all of it?” she said. “I learned that Rocky is the only fighter with HEART.”

And then, out of nowhere, there seemed to appear behind her the image of an eagle with the American flag majestically blowing from the grips of its talons and the driving beat of a 1980s beard rock-era Kenny Loggins opus reaching a heart-racing crescendo.

“We are going to do Rambo too,” my sister’s boyfriend said. “But we’re going to wait until she goes into the army.”

National Treasure—Deconstructing the hero archetype in the collected works of Nicolas Cage


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