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American heroes, Riga-style

By Mike Riga

Section: Arts

October 5, 2007

For a long time now, I have reserved a particularly special title for those public figures that I feel have achieved a certain excellence in their exploits and their personality.

They have achieved said level of awesomeness in spheres ranging from movies, history and politics.

To be an American Hero, you do not need to be an American, although most tend to be. Those who arent from this side of the globe are fully capable of exhibiting the valor and grit that a true American Hero would have.

There are quite a few American Heroes, and I would like to use this article to highlight a few of my favorites.

However, before I start naming names (there are a lot of names on the list- so stay tuned for later issues), I want to clarify just what qualifies someone as an American Hero. Heres the equation that determines who makes the cut:

(Awesomeness x Ridiculousness) / (Overall Popularity Respect Points)

All of these variables are based on a 100-point scale and determined by me (which is completely legal considering this is my insanely arbitrary list). The higher the final total (negative totals count positively), the greater the American hero.

Nevertheless, lets drop the theoretical part of this article and move on to a couple shining examples of American Heroes:

-KURT RUSSELL
The star of such wonderful '80s movie classics like Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China is one of the greatest American Heroes out there.

Kurt Russell's “ridiculousness” score is almost off the charts as he can really play only one character.

This character is a total “bad-ass”, but one that has a sense of self-awareness and the irony of the often overtly silly situations he gets himself into.

Escape from New York and Big Trouble in Little China are certified cult classics. But lets not forget some of the more overlooked performances in the Kurt Russell catalog as well: a crazy Elvis-impersonator/ bank robber in 3,000 Miles to Graceland, a super-hero dad in Sky High, Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, and Gabe Cash, an over-the-top cop whose mullet is almost as big as his ego, in Tango and Cash.

However, it is important to remember the pinnacle “bad-ass” role of Russells career: flamethrower- toting chopper pilot R.J. MacReady in The Thing. That character is one tough soldier and a hard-drinking one at that. His one-liner during the final showdown with the alien in that movie is the stuff legends are made of.

-THEODORE ROOSEVELT
As a child, Theodore Roosevelt nearly died several times due to severe asthma. But he overcame it through large amounts of exercise and physical training. He even became an amateur boxer to stop bullies. In college he was a well-regarded and published ornithologist.

After his first wifes death, he moved to North Dakota. Serving as a deputy sheriff and rancher there, he captured three notorious thieves and guarded them for 40 hours without sleep.

Upon returning to New York, he became a leading American Naval historian as well as reforming the New York City police department and drastically reducing crime in the city, often making arrests himself.

He then became Secretary of the Navy, helped start a war, and then formed a regiment of soldiers, leading the war-winning charge himself.

Having mastered the academic and law enforcement fields, Roosevelt
decided to venture into politics, becoming New York State governor, Vice-President and eventually President.

In this office, he become known as a trust-breaker and a noted conservationist, creating the first national park. Then, he took over Panama and built the Panama Canal, followed by his decision to go on a giant safari because he wanted to.

However, not quite satisfied to live a life away from the public spotlight, he started his own political party (the Bull-Moose Party what a name!) and was almost elected to a second term as a President.

Overall, Teddy is just the coolest man ever.

-RUTGER HAUER
He died for our sins in Blade Runner as Roy Batty. A Dutch butt-kicking machine, Mr. Hauer is less consistent than his peers, but his shining moments of awesomeness
make up for any failures. His Blade Runner role is considered a fine acting performance. However, the Rutger Hauer I look admire is his portrayal of crazed, invincible serial killer John Ryder in the 1986 version of The Hitcher. The man cannot be stopped, and is as scary as any movie villain Ive ever seen.

-PETER STORMARE
You might know him as that Russian guy or that German guy. In reality, hes Swedish. Peter Stormare is the weird creepy European guy in just about every movie ever. A close friend of the Coen brothers, he played the mute psychopath Gaear Grimsrud in Fargo and nihilist/porn star in The Big Lebowski.

He certainly is no stranger to playing ridiculous and amazing side characters. Hes also just about the only good thing in Armageddon, as a loony, overacting cosmonaut. Dont forget his random cameo in Nacho Libre and his wonderfully silly portrayal of Satan in Constantine.

This guy is just awesome (and vaguely European he manages to play an Italian dude in Prison Break – crazy).

So those are this articles American Heroes. Dont worry. There are more. Much much more.

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