john hex carter

Into the Badlands and Large Representation

AMC's Into the Badlands has its series finale next week. For those not familiar with the show, it's a highly stylized post-apocalyptic martial arts show with a very diverse cast led by Daniel Wu. The world was unique as it always had a Honk Kong kung fu / Western vibe to it and between the stellar fight choreography and jaw-dropping costuming, it will continue to stand out in the postapoc genre as a visual peacock amongst normally drab colored wrens.

However, today I'd like to write about one character in particular: the chubby comic relief, Bajie, played perfectly by none other than Nick Frost. It may seem tone deaf for a white dude to laud a show for its diversity and then throw the spotlight on (wait for it) another white dude, but stay with me on this one. The show was never short on its casting being racial diverse or having women in prominent roles. The first two seasons showcase a disabled character keeping up with the combat and the second season introduces a queer romance without the need of killing off either character.

With all this, I'm still putting that spotlight on Nick Frost's character. I'm 6'5" and well over 300 pounds - I definitely fall in the "plus sized individual" category. When watching any given show, when a dude of my girth comes on screen, he's usually the funny but clumsy comic relief or a dumb brickhouse. In a martial arts piece of media, that expectation is to be amplified. But Into the Badlands had different plans for ole' Bajie. Yeah, he's wisecracking (how could you not when writing for Nick Frost?) and a much needed comic breath of fresh air in a show that threatened to take itself too seriously. However, despite his size, he was powerful and even nimble in fight scenes.

In some instances (especially when we first meet him), Nick Frost acted as a clumsy foil to Daniel Wu's phenomenal performance in fight scenes. We later learn that was an act. Leaning into the funny but clumsy stereotype, Bajie loved being underestimated. In the more crucial fight scenes, he holds his own, defending against multiple attackers and using the environment to his advantage, still acting as the comic relief, like he was in a Jackie Chan film.

As a large man, seeing someone that looks like me in a martial arts show or movie in a prominent and positive role was downright inconceivable before Into the Badlands. There are a lot of moments like that in this wonderful show, and it's definitely a show I look forward to rewatching again and again to steep myself in its gorgeous world and inclusive writing.

If you're interested in checking out Into the Badlands, the entirety of the first two seasons and the first half of the final season are already on Netflix.

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