As we develop as human beings and become adults (I am still stuck in the process BTW) there are influences and idols that make the road easier for us: They're the role models we look at and think "yes, I want to be like that!", they light the way with their actions and attitudes, and encroach in our own super-ego mental image. They become the benchmark we want to measure ourselves up to, and by striving to reach their greatness we better ourselves step by step.
These heroes can be our parents, teachers, older siblings. They can also be historical figures like Washington or Cato the younger... or they can be imaginary figures such as movie or videogame characters.
Ash Williams, badass normal extraordinaire
For those of you familiar with the Evil Dead series, you're groovy. For those of you who aren't, I envy you. You have the opportunity of meeting Ash Williams for the first time. He ventures with his girlfriend and three other friends to an isolated cabin, only to find the Necronomicon ex mortis, the book of the dead. As all youngsters in horror movies, they're too dumb to live, and they play a tape containing the narration by the former inhabitant of the cabin: an archaeologist working in the translation of this unholy book. Evil spirits are awakened in the forest, and they possess and kill poor Ash's friends as he tries to defend himself. In this first instalment Ash is no more than a normal guy trapped in extraordinary circumstances. He is witty and resourceful enough, but he is just as scared and clueless as we are in how to deal with the deadites. The film consists in him being pummelled and physically abused by his former friends, and his main merit is that of resilience and a will to live. The ambiguous ending with Ash being attacked at dawn by an evil spirit did little to clarify what had happened to our poor protagonist.
The movie became a proper B-list blockbuster (or at least it made enough money to break even... after 4 years). It's magnificent direction and it's over the top violence and cheap gore sprouted a cult following that has been faithful ever since. 6 years later, the main crew that had given birth to the first evil dead got together again. This time they had proper financial backing and the will to tell the story as they had envisioned it initially: Evil Dead 2, dead by dawn was born.
Becoming genre savvy enough to survive
Evil Dead 2 was a weird combination between continuation and reboot of the first film. Sam Raimi didn't own the rights to the first movie, so they had to slightly retell it. In this case, it's just Ash and his girlfriend the ones going to a cabin. His girlfriend is possessed by demons and Ash is forced to kill her, burying her outside. The next scene is basically a remake of the last scene of the first movie, and serves as a continuity node. An evil spirit lurking in the woods attacks Ash and possesses him. Luckily daytime is nearing, and he regains control over his body as the sun comes out. He can't catch a break though, as the bridge to get away from the cabin has collapsed... he is trapped there, and night is approaching again.
On the bright side of things, the daughter of the archaeologist that was working on the Necronomicon (Annie) is on her way to the cabin with two friends. She is concerned about not having news from her parents. After an initial skirmish not knowing if they're friend or foe, Ash and Annie work together to get the evil that lurks in the forest banished once and for all. Ash takes a level in badass, and with Anne's help he attaches a chainsaw to his right arm (lost his hand before, long story) and makes liberal use of a shotgun.
With his new weapons and resolve he confronts the undead wife of the archaeologist in the basement to recoup some missing pages of the Necronomicon, particularly the ones that will help Anne conjure up a dimensional vortex to suck away the evil spirits. Anne sacrifices herself to conjure the vortex, however not only the spirits are absorbed, so is poor Ash, who ends up in a medieval field with knights fighting deadites.
This second movie showed that a normal guy, Ash, could become, through sheer willpower, an undead fighting machine. He begins just as scared as he was in the first one, but becomes braver and wackier as the movie advances. He utters some of the best one-liners ever uttered, and manages to gain our sympathy and for us to be invested in him.
The final level of badassery
At this point in his career, Ash Williams has become experienced enough to be a proper veteran in the deadite disposal. In the third and final flick of the series, Army of Darkness, he is as badass as he is cynical. He will still retain his fear and cowardice, but he has enough battles under his belt to, after the initial fear, get his stuff together and fight back.
He is conscious of his own limitations, and tries to be smart if just to avoid getting hurt. He even has to come to peace with his own cowardice at the end of the movie, and overcome it to lead the few knights left in the defence of the castle against a huge undead army. Ash Williams is an average Joe, but through experience and neccesity he becomes a true badass.
Not fitting completely the "hero" trope
It's true, Ash Williams isn't the smartest, the most heroic, or the bravest of men. But he has his wits, he has style, and he has the capacity to improvise. It's not beneath him to gloat at an enemy's misfortune and his big mouth gets him into trouble more than once but he acknowledges his own humanity and struggle and still pushes on. Ash Williams isn't a hero because he was born like that, he had to earn it the same way any other real human would have to, and that is his greatness.
To witness, some of his best moments. Enjoy :)