The Idiot Hero and Other Rick Perry Tropes


I am doing my best to understand Rick Perry’s appeal, even to the point of asking facebook friends whether it’s his rugged good looks that’s causing hearts to beat a little faster than they’re beating for Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann .

The answer seems to be yes: to a point.

A 2006 article in The Economist discusses how the evolutionary advantage of looking a little (how shall we say) novo erectus seems to communicate to females the survival benefit of choosing men with conspicuously high testosterone levels.  It’s what groups like when they feel a threat to their survival, and in these troublous times, when Washington teeters and the Rapture looms, Rick may just be the man with a plan:

“…Research has suggested that, regardless of their average preferences, women are most attracted to hyper-masculine features when they are most likely to conceive, and that the effect is particularly exaggerated in women who are in stable relationships. Evolution has thus arranged things so that if a woman does cuckold her man, she is likely to gain the maximum advantage in terms of children with good immune systems, and sons who will have similarly rakish good looks and behaviour.”


The downside is that men of this variety are also the most likely to love you and leave you.  A good reason to wonder whether you want the relationship to begin with. Are you listening, America?

There are other tropes we can use.  A handy website on the topic of Anti-Intellectualism as depicted in pop culture offers several, so I decided to compare the Rick Perry we know and are destined to know a whole lot better with the typology that TV, movies, anime/ manga, you name it–throws up.  Here’s what I came up with:

1.  The Idiot Hero.  Basically an action figure (a common character in shounen action series) the idiot hero has a short attention span and is too stupid to be afraid of imminent peril.  The trope also includes elements of This Loser Is You:  His appeal comes from encouraging the audience to believe that “If this idiot can do this, so can I”– a huge incentive in American politics where the statement “Anyone can grow up to be president of the United States” is convertible with “Anyone is dumb enough to be president of the United States.”

Even in a nation of dummies, the idiot hero is so dumb that the dumbest onlooker feels superior. Think Homer Simpson, Family Guy, American Dad.  Now, put them in the White House, boots on desk, and watch things explode.









2.  The Fool.  Not to be confused with the British trope (as for example Archibald in the P.G. Wodehouse story), the American Fool is distinguished by admirable imbecility that is not only forgivable but likable, and to be emulated by “real men.”

The trope is often associated with an unusual physical characteristics like craggy facial features or Christian hair.

Christian Hair

Idiot Heroes and Fools enjoy fighting, seek out conflict (e.g., the bar room brawl, a quintessentially American fracas) and almost always end up hurting other people. They are usually shown smiling amiably as bombs explode around them and walk away from the devastation they have caused with hair intact [cf. George W. Bush, 2000-2008]

3.  The Texas (aka I Ain’t No Pussy) Messiah.  The Messiah trope in comic book terms is a naive figure who “loves everyone. Loves them with a deep, spiritual love that means they will shake heaven and earth, destroy gods and planets, bring nations to their knees, etc., for the person they just met yesterday. They will believe the best of everyone, and constantly give someone a second chance.”

The Texas Messiah thinks people should take care of themselves, and people who don’t ought to have the crap beaten out of them. If people are unemployed, it’s their fault because they’re lazy bystanders along the track of life.  If people are ill, they are probably being punished by God for some sin they thought they got away with in Mexico.  If people are old, they should consider the alternative and make sure their taxes are paid, unless they are billionaires–in which case they can live as long as they want tax free because God has proved that he loves them.

4.  Texas Badass.  The Badass, subspecies Texas Badass, is a man beyond the age of twenty five who still thinks he’s the meanest motherfucker in the universe. A Badass is successful if he can convince his followers that he has balls of steel, or in the case of women badass heroes, that she has boobs of steel like Action Girl. This means no mercy for those who disagree with you.  No compromise with people who have insulted you or your grandma’s pie. No pat on the back for someone who called you a pinhead (See Fool) in public or said that you really didn’t know how to fly a fighter jet or use a grenade launcher in a cow pasture.

You look okay in a suit, though you’re tough to fit in the collar department and your throat sags, but you’re really only at home in jeans and look just fine in fatigues and  lace-up army boots. When some Butterballs says  “You’re not as big as you think you are” you’ve dropped your pants to around your knees in seconds, snarling “Grab your ankles, Little Joe.”  Someday, you will morph into Badass Abnormal. That’s when an ordinary person can shoot lightning bolts out of their hands and punch deities in the balls.  But for now you’ve got those pussy Democrats for practice.

5. Determinator: A determinator is a type of crouching moron (q.v.) who is also skilled at obfuscating stupidity.  Tact and diplomacy are marks of weakness: there is no problem so small that F-16s and boots on the ground cannot solve it.  Drones are a pussy’s way to settle scores because only real men can be idiot heroes and go on the quest…

“The Determinator does not Know When to Fold ‘Em, and it’s a waste of time to tell them the odds. No one can reason with them. They’ll do whatever they have to without question.”

The question of right and wrong is irrelevant to the Determinator because his real stupidity rather than his obfuscating stupidity determines the course of action.  Facts cloud judgment.  Science is useless, school is for losers, and plans are what gays make.

The Determinator is on a quest, which may be delusional, and driven by the conviction that he is the one chosen to fulfill the mission and that everyone who challenges him is a man-eating Demon like Vallejo, though possibly smokin’ hot.  Demons only understand one thing: the Bible.

The Determinator is operating under the will of a higher power and unlike his followers he knows this higher power on a first-name, personal, suds-and-sausage basis.








18 thoughts on “The Idiot Hero and Other Rick Perry Tropes

  1. It is appalling that this is a perfectly reasonable assessment in the run-up to an American Presidential election… If I was voting for someone on rugged good looks alone, whatever they are, I’d vote Obama. He’s gorgeous. Gorgeous smile, brilliant eyes, tall and slim with graceful glide – I bet he can dance. Damn he’s probably too young and married.

    Rick Perry, Boy Scout: as governor he has lowered property taxes, maintained a ban on same-sex marriage and supports the amendment to prevent it, supports prohibiting stem cell research and presided over the executions of more than 200 people. He doesn’t believe in global warming, and he supports the teaching of intelligent design in schools, and supports prayer in schools saying it isn’t establishing a religion. Always deeply religious – he just led a prayer rally for 30,000 people, “and as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that we cry out for your forgiveness…” He opposes restrictions on the “constitutional right” to bear arms… most of his far right policies are guided by faith. He is a fundamentalist nutjob. “The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we inhabit are not only critical elements in the quality of life we enjoy – they are a reflection of the majesty of our Creator.”

    Intellectual deficiency: “We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.” This, coming from the Bold Leader of a state with … no income tax.

    Let us all kneel and pray that Rick Perry never becomes president.

    Thank you for an excellent (and witty) post in these dark days…

    • Hells bells Dan, that’s harristical – imagine that! When his mouth slides up at the corners in a superficial ‘smile’, his eyes don’t move. His lips curl creepily and make him look like the devil. But when Sam dropped out of high school he was high on ecstasy and went all spiritual and mythtical and new agey. He got up and wandered off to India and Nepal, to meditate with Hindu and Buddhist gurus to meditate and reach some sort of ‘loving state’. But in any case he hasn’t got the ‘rugged good look’. He’s only got a set of convictions, poles apart from the Tea Partiers, but equally as dangerous. Mind you I bet he’s scared of squirrels, which is just as well because I like squirrels. But crikey, this is American politics, and anything goes…

      • He may not have rugged good looks now, but he has potential! All he needs is to grow some stubble and get his face messed up a bit. Why, he’d be a real Charles Bronson then.

  2. I hesitate to quibble over petty details but the Economist is not noted for the number of scientists it employs. The evidence, or at least the evidence that can be retrieved by a quick Google Scholar, suggests that male baldness is associated with high levels of testosterone, not the reverse.

    But your observations have otherwise fallen on fruitful ground; having looked at that awful picture of the hair I have made a mental note to never shag a Christian again…

  3. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that Rick Perry wouldn’t understand most of this. Just enough to take umbrage, would be my guess. And no, he would *not* have to look up “umbrage.” He has people for that.

  4. Honestly, Obama is sophisticated elegance but not ‘rugged good looks’. He’s the best man to lead America at the moment, in my opinion. Real rugged good looks wouldn’t get elected in America. Rugged good looks don’t wear suits and ties or have artificially white hollywood teeth, like that Perry creep, who looks alot like alot of other American Republicans. The hair on rugged good looks, is never combed like that, or short. It is never clean shaven. Maybe it is a cultural thing, but rugged good looks is a mountain man. It’s a forester, with wild and unruly hair, unshaven and wirey, with tough weathered skin. It wears a forlorn expression with big soft eyes that look like they want to hug trees and rabbits. It has dirt under its fingernails from the vegetable garden, which it has dug behind its little dark cottage, hidden in the forest under the mountain. It wears a big floppy woollen bush shirt with the sleeves rolled up, over grubby trows which it has patched itself, and if it ever goes to town, rugged good looks pulls on a clean pair of jeans which it has scrubbed in the creek, and boots which it spits on to shine. But when it breaks into a huge cheerful smile, its whole ruggedly good looking face cracks up and its eyes light up like a lantern and scrunch and sparkle with crows feet corners. Unelectable though – too much of a pacifist greeny and probably totally anti social. But ruggedly appealing.

    • @Stephanie Sounds like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Paul Bunyan. A lot of people will be living in the woods and washing clothes in the crick in this economy.

      • Pretty poser Paul Hogan and podgy Mr Bunyan? I’ve failed abysmally in my description – too grotesquely superficial. It’s a rich life in the forest I’m referring too but not everybody knows how to live it well, and there’s no more room in the forest I’m thinking of.

      • Paul – I should have asked my giantologist friend. I had assumed John. Paul Bunyan seems to be an American tradition and part of American culture even exploited by Disney which was never part of my childhood experience. Paul Bunyan is also probably electable unlike my ruggedly good looking imaginary friend.

  5. Steph, I think there might be a job as campaign adviser for the person that explain why Obama is the best choice to president in under 60 seconds.

    • Another thing Mike. I don’t think Obama is the best choice for president at all. Neither is Hilary. But whoever wins the Democrat primaries, I would rather see them than a loon. Obama has been an enormous disappointment so far as his global promises go and hasn’t delivered at all. And obviously his domestic policies haven’t been any better. He hasn’t delivered free public health care (which IS a basic human right as opposed to owning blinking guns), and he hasn’t improved education or implemented a fair tax system. He’s been weak. He’s not much of a socialist, he’s not very green, and some of his policies are squarely right wing. However the best people for the ‘job’ either aren’t standing or haven’t a show in hell of being elected, whereas a Republican swing looks a likely scenario. Obama still has a support base which would stand him a chance, if swinging liberals, disappointed with Obama, don’t slide away. If they slide away, I betcha the Repos win and that terrifies me. At best, a Republican win will be more likely to encourage anarchy and revolution. As far as campaign adviser goes – that’s a job for you. America is the last place on the planet I’d move to. 🙂

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