Bodyguarding a Badass

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Kushan underofficer Kanishka: How are we supposed to be an imperial bodyguard if the damned Empress herself...

Kushan comander Kungas: You could always go back to work for Venandakatra. He never took any personal risks.

If you're important, then it's best to stay safe; all sorts of people might bear a grudge toward you for your decisions, because of who you are, because they want your job, or simply because you're important. This goes double in fiction, where there wouldn't be a plot if someone wasn't after your head. Thus anyone who's anyone needs a bodyguard to watch their back. The problem is, anyone who's anyone in fiction is also able to back it up.

This trope concerns bodyguards who are a lot weaker than their charges. Naturally, while there's often no explanation, it can be justified:

  • They also perform other functions such as being a Cloudcuckoolander's Minder or a general assistant who happens to be useful in a fight, or indeed they're there for everyone else's protection.
  • They came with the position, so the authority figure needs to keep them around as a sign of their office, if only for formal ceremonies. This especially applies to younger badasses, whose parents might insist they have protection.
  • Either the bodyguard or their charge likes having the other around.
  • Even a Badass finds it useful to have someone else watching their back or keeping an eye out for threats.
  • So that the Hidden Badass can look as though they aren't actually as tough as they are.
  • A celebrity badass might have bodyguards that help him get mobs of fans out of the way without hurting them, so he doesn't get sued.

Keep in mind that they must be specifically guarding or protecting their employer or have it designated as their main role; simply being a Mook in their employ doesn't count (and indeed them being weaker than their boss is to be expected).

Compare and contrast: Hypercompetent Sidekick (a reversal), The Dragon (who is usually more powerful than the Big Bad) and Bash Brothers (for when both bodyguard and client are equal in power). This can quite easily happen with a Hero Secret Service if The Hero being guarded is powerful. Often the result of Authority Equals Asskicking.


Examples of Bodyguarding a Badass include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Kibito to Supreme Kai in the Buu Saga of Dragon Ball.
  • In Detective Conan, an old man protects his late friend's nephew by pretending to be his late friend and having the nephew pose as the bodyguard. In reality, his goal was to be the decoy when one of the family members tries to kill the old man to get a larger inheritance.
  • Pluto has Epsilon, one of (if not the) most powerful robot in the world being guarded by a somewhat generic security robot. Said robot even remarks the irony of it.
  • In Naruto, during the Kage Summit Arc, all five Kages (who are the best shinobi in their villages) pick a couple of guards to go with them. Despite the bodyguards being inferior to the Kages themselves, they are still very badass ninjas in their own right and often possess unique techniques that nobody else has.
  • Akira's bodyguards in Ai Ore Love Me follow him around because their sheer size discourages creeps from trying to assaulting their charge. Once a creep evades them, Akira has no choice but to make it clear who needs protection. In fact, all boys at Akira's all-boys school who know how much of a badass he is (and that includes his own bodyguards) are afraid of hitting any Berserk Button of his.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Colonel Badass Roy Mustang is the Flame Alchemist. He can blow up buildings and set fire to just about anything with (literally) a snap of his fingers. He's far and away the most dangerous of the State Alchemists. He has virtually no fears for his own personal safety - not because of this, but because he's entrusted his back to Riza Hawkeye, one of the military's top snipers, who takes her job very seriously.

Comics[edit | hide]

  • Both the comic and film version of Iron Man has a bodyguard named Happy Hogan. Justified somewhat in that Happy is usually guarding Tony Stark while out of the armor (Tony usually has a spare suit of armor in his briefcase anyway).
  • As a diplomat, Wonder Woman has at least once had a division of Secret Service agents (unpowered people with pistols and radios, mind you, not other Amazons) assigned to protect her. It is hard to imagine a threat they could defeat which would even give her as much as a scratch.
    • They are, however, at least useful for crowd control and keeping away annoying stalkers.
  • In an Alternate Universe Captain America (comics) became President of the United States. The secret service agents felt a bit unnecessary, and one commented that he felt safer with the president around.
    • Averted when a DC Alternate Universe had Superman being elected President. The first thing he did was reassign his Secret Service detail to go back up Lois' Secret Service detail[1], because not only did President Kent not need them but any assassin showing up to potentially take a shot at him would be using something guaranteed to vaporize any normal human standing within thirty feet of him.
  • Wong, faithful servant to Doctor Strange, has double duty as a bodyguard when Strange is distracted (e.g. while in Astral Projection) and a housekeeper/butler the rest of the time. He is also Strange's sparring partner.
  • As the king of the fictional nation of Wakanda, Black Panther has a group of female bodyguards despite the fact that he is a Superhero who has been a member of both the Fantastic Four and The Avengers.
    • Being fair, that's the traditional royal bodyguard unit. And while T'Challa doesn't exactly need them, other kings of Wakanda in the past have. For that matter T'Challa's father died at least partly from going around without bodyguards, even after growing old, which would obviously stick in his son's mind as an object lesson.
    • There's also a political element. Wakanda was formed by an alliance of many individual tribes, the Dora Milaje are each a champion of their own individual tribe, and it is considered a great honor for them to be there. One of the reasons they were formed in the first place was as a gesture of trust from the King to all of his people -- he is symbolically placing his life in the hands of all the tribes. T'Challa cannot either disband the unit or refuse its services without gravely insulting pretty much every tribe in Wakanda all simultaneously, which he is obviously not foolish enough to do.
  • Sasha Bordeaux, though badass in her own right, definitely qualifies, seeing as the guy she was hired to protect is Bruce "The Goddamn Batman" Wayne. This eventually led to her deciding to take additional levels of badass to try to keep up with him once she knew who she was really protecting. It had gotten pretty bad when she was constantly getting ducked by her charge.
  • In House of M, Rhino probably qualifies as the most useless bodyguard in the world (while serving as Spider-Man's bodyguard when Spidey was on good terms with Magnus).

Film[edit | hide]

  • In the final fight in Equilibrium, Brandt guards Dupont even though it is clear after Preston cuts off Brandt's face that Dupont is a master at Gun Kata.
  • Star Wars
    • The impressive-looking Imperial guard, who protect the Emperor, a Sith Lord. They're never seen doing anything in the original trilogy and are dispatched within a second during Palpatine's fight with Yoda in the prequels.
      • However, their purpose is not so much to provide for Palpatine's personal security as to stand around looking impressive and thus keep people from noticing that Palpatine doesn't actually need personal security. Remember, its not publicly known that he's a Sith Lord, and it would be very curious for either a Supreme Chancellor or an Emperor to not have visible bodyguards.
    • General Grievous's custom droid bodyguards. Though not quite as strong as Grievous himself, they're still very tough, and often help turn the tide in closely matched fights. Their number justifies the role.
  • In Hero, two assassins assault the imperial palace, cutting through a small army to do so. When they reach the emperor, the weaker of the two stays behind to hold off the whole army alone, while the other goes in to duel the emperor in single combat. "The Imperial Guard are not worthy of mention," indeed.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In The Wheel of Time there's the The Maidens Of The Spear, an Amazon Brigade who act as a bodyguard for Rand Al'Thor. As he is The Chosen One and arguably the most power channeler (magician) in the world, they can be rather redundant. They guard him in the first place more as a point of honor than anything (Rand's mother was a Maiden).
  • In David Drake's Redliners, early on the major has a bodyguard whose sole purpose is to keep the major from doing anything stupid like trying to lead an assault from the front; his job is to lead, not be a badass, though badass he is.
  • Valentinian of the Belisarius Series fits, as even though Belisarius wasn't as skillful he was perfectly able to take care of himself.
    • Rao was this to Shakuntala; later her Kushan jailors were this after they defected. It is to be noted that Shakuntala was a beautiful young woman who could kill men with her bare hands.
    • Averted in both cases, however, as the series is quite good at showing that even a badass needs a little help occasionally, and that anybody can be blindsided if they don't have someone to watch their back.
    • Valentinian and Anastasius in particular lampshade their job as giving their general the luxury of being able to concentrate on the entire battlefield, as opposed to needing all his concentration to keep the few enemies nearest him from stabbing him to death.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, all royalty have a personal guard who they entrust with their lives. In most cases this is just a typical guard, but considering that the Dothraki follow the strongest member of the khalasar the khal is, by definition, more badass than his bloodriders.
  • The Steel Inquisitors from Mistborn are incredibly badass, but their boss the Lord Ruler, who they guard as part of their duties, is far more powerful. Mostly, they're there so he doesn't have to soil his hands with grunt work if he doesn't want to (and as a group they're also in charge of policing his empire, though he's almost always accompanied by a handful). And having Inquisitors is incredibly useful for the times when, to satisfy the Equivalent Exchange aspect of his magic, the Lord Ruler has to regress for a few hours into a withered old man rather an a nigh-invincible Physical God.
  • In The Eugenics Wars, Gary Seven and Khan are at the South Pole trying to deal with a scientist who's developing technology that allows for control of the atmosphere. They take care of the bodyguard rather easily, but are both overcome by the scientist. It's later revealed that the scientist is immortal and after being everyone from Alexander the Great to Cesar, he's learned to take care of himself.
  • In Heralds of Valdemar, Monarch's Own Herald is the King or Queen's bodyguard during state functions, even though the current Queen and the Heir can both handle themselves in a fight. Justified because 1) crowned heads leave the fighting to others, and 2) it gives them the advantage if any would-be assassins assume it will be an easy job.
  • Armsmen tend to be this in Vorkosigan Saga. Some justify this by doubling as a Battle Butler (doing more mundane tasks as well as serving as guards). Also the Armsman might be assigned to protect a dependant, a guest or whatever.
    • Actually, the typical Count of Barrayar is not an expert combatant, and even the ones that do have substantial military experience tend to be pretty old and grey and so could ues a little help from time to time. So the bodyguards do have a use. In addition, most Armsmen detachments are indeed ordered to concentrate more manpower on guarding the Count's children than himself.
  • The Harry Potter series has several examples:
    • Harry is occasionally given an escort by the Ministry of Magic or the Order of the Phoenix, despite having faced Having beaten Voldemort in five out of five encounters,

Live Action Television[edit | hide]

  • Discussed on Babylon 5: Ta'Lon, a Narn soldier that Captain Sheridan had previously saved, declares his intention to return the favor by protecting Sheridan, whether Sheridan wanted it or not. That said, his own duties prevented him from acting on this intention.
  • On Arrow after Oliver Queen's secret career as a vigilante starts bleeding into his day life, his mom hires special forces veteran John Diggle as a bodyguard. After initial frustration with Ditch the Bodyguards, Diggle gets in on Oliver's secret and assists him in his crusade against crime.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Honor Guards are deployed to protect the Chapter Master, who did not get to his position by being a pushover.
    • Prior to that, the primarchs and the Emperor had guards of Space Marines and the Adeptus Custodes respectively. Though the Custodes also had the task of handling security, verifying visitors' identities and guarding the castle.
  • In White Wolf's Street Fighter RPG you could get bodyguards as a perk—it was explained that they were capable of getting people out of the way without hurting them, so a fighter didn't end up getting sued.
  • In Traveller High Imperial Nobles have Huscarls even though they themselves might well be a badass.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, Glass Cannon characters like wizards can deliver extremely powerful attacks, but get a lot of use out of fighters who can run interception on enemies.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Skyrim, early in the main quest you're given the title of "Thane" when it becomes clear that you're a Dragonborn. As a result you're assigned a personal Housecarl named Lydia. Since this is a sandbox RPG this trope is inevitable no matter how powerful she is (although you can give her better equipment to keep her useful). Other companions (including housecarls you can get from other settlements) who're supposed to serve as bodyguards also fall into this.
    • On the other hand, this can be completely averted if the games' leveling mechanic is properly manipulated. Housecarls' levels are not set until you encounter them for the first time, and some of them do not exist until after they are assigned to you(via completing the necessary quest). There have been tales of players completing quests 30 levels after they were meant to be completed, only to be assigned Housecarls who, among other things, kill entire cities solo after their master stole a single sweetroll(thus angering all the guards), or slaying Ancient Dragons in single combat(while their masters chase butterflies across the countryside).
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles when the character Melia is introduced she has a contingent of Mook bodyguards to help her track down a monster she's hunting, they all die in the fight but she manages to beat it off and injure it with one big ether attack.
    • Likewise, much of Reyn's character development deals with him trying to keep his promise to protect Shulk, even as Shulk grows far more powerful than him.
  • Vega Strike tend to give Escort Missions for superiority fighters. Meaning that, unless your ship is at least equal, the "escorted" gunship lagging behind, if assaulted by a group of typical foes like Space Pirate or Evil Luddite, may wipe out half of them before you can turn back and approach close enough to hit one. Some of these also carry an anti-capship torpedo and may use it, in which case it's wise not to get in close quarters with potential targets until one of them pulverized. Larger pirate groups are more of a challenge, but still weak on the defence. With better equipment than an average escortee, any pirates are complete fodder, but Aera remain so deadly it's not easy to save your own tail—an escortee have a little chance to get away if targetted, and won't use it until he loses it. In both cases the challenge comes from such fighters also leaning toward Glass Cannon sort—they survive by shredding the opponent very quickly and zipping by, and are worse off in crossfire of a strong group.
  • The guards of race leaders in World of Warcraft are much, much weaker than the actual leaders themselves.
  • In Yggdra Union, the two dragon knights in Gulcasa's unit serve this role. Despite the fact that he's definitely much more powerful than they are, it turns out that he does actually need them around. As Gulcasa is notoriously bad at minding his physical limits, in the case that he actually winds up collapsing from sickness or exhaustion, the bodyguards can hold off enemies while other allies get him to safety. This actually happens at the end of Chapter 5.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • U.S. President Andrew Jackson was attacked by a man wielding two flintlock pistols. When both bullets turned out to be duds it was not his retinue, but the President himself, who jumped the attacker. Some contemporary accounts describe the President, who had been a somewhat violent military man in his youth, needing to be pulled off of his attacker. This Wikipedia article tries to play the event straight while confirming the general facts.
  • It is not uncommon for boxers, actors specializing in martial arts, MMA fighters, etc. to have bodyguards. Mainly it's the standard "protect the celebrity from crazy fans" sort of thing, but there's a few caveats. A bodyguard trained in crowd control might be better at handling an overzealous fan than a MMA fighter who might end up hurting someone really badly. Similarly, a lot of martial arts actors don't necessarily have combat applicable skill in an art—there are many arts whose sole purpose is to look nice and not necessarily be practical in combat, and while they may give the impression they can fight they are really not all that different from, say, dancers.
  • Military leaders, even today where Generals can safely conduct wars in a secured bunker, tend to have guards. Even historic badasses like Guan Yu of China, Alexander of Macedonia, Napoleon of France, etc. tend to be surrounded by guards. This is because in the past, leaders would be on the battlefield directing the fight or even leading the charge, and death of an army's general could lead to the whole force disintegrating. Today, with the chain of command, its not such a big problem but having to bring a new guy up to speed might be a costly inconvinience.
  • Tanks need infantry support when not performing fast deep maneuvers without stopping to engage anything. So the main strength are tanks, but when they can be mired in a fight they are guarded or it ends up with lots of burned-out metal boxes. This arrangement started back with chariots and war elephants: they are either charging or need protection from being mobbed from all sides. In India footmen protecting chariots were called Chakra Rakshaka ("demons of the wheels").
  1. She was First Lady, natch.