[15 April 2010]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Get ready all you haters of prostylitizing PC thugs—Kick-Ass is about to open nationwide, and with it, comes the complementary firestorm of controversy. No, not because it is yet another graphic novel adaptation that caters to the comic geek demographic, nor will there be a great deal of kvetching over the mischievous message which suggests everyday citizens should take up the cowl and go vigilante-ing into that great dark night. No, what critics like Roger Ebert and several of his old school ilk are angry over is the character of Hit-Girl, a barely middle school aged assassin who uses incredibly foul language and a decidedly lethal way with a weapon, to administer the kind of citizen’s arrest justice that—in her case—winds up with more corpses than convictions.
Such a panties-in-a-bunch position is nothing new for the mighty Rog. Two decades ago, he and fellow thumb buddy Gene Siskel eviscerated the more than worthy target, Robocop 2, for featuring a pint-sized protégé to lead villain Cain. With his Gordo Gekko lite hairdo and productive potty mouth, Hob (played by a 14-year-old Gabriel Damon) was seen as a blight on the innocence of biology, a perversion of the passion society has for all things offspring. While no one argued the context (similar to Hit-Girl, Hob is purposefully raised to be so redolent), they all screamed about the conveyance. The basic argument went a little something like this—“Robocop 2 glamorizes violence and a child’s place within it. Time to break out the pitchforks and the blood hounds”.
Oddly enough, the world survived the subpar sequel to Paul Verhoeven’s dystopian classic, embracing such youth-friendly foibles as texting (and its even nastier cousin ‘sexting’), Lady Gaga, and Lifewater. In 24 short hours, however, the debate will be reignited, all because a young girl with a peachy keen grin drops the F and C bomb with frequency while carving up the criminal element with the precision of a surgeon. Would anyone watching Kick-Ass and seeing Hit-Girl do her damage believe that the events depicted are real? Hell no! Could someone see the film and be inspired by her actions? Well, only if you have an unlimited pass to your local dojo, an incredibly patient instructor, a tabula rasa brain (and accompanying ethos), and the reckless abandon of pre-pubescent pixie stick juvenilia.
You see, what all the handwringers are missing here is the notion of fantasy and imagination. Hit-Girl may seem like an anomaly, but she’s not. She’s just an outgrowth of a philosophy started back when gals were given limited educational and employment options while boys could grow up to be everything. Feminism may have little to do with what actually transpires in Kick-Ass, but to complain that a child (or in this case, a burgeoning ‘young adult’) can’t use the methods of movie to bring about a sense of fatal fair play is preposterous. That’s like suggesting that there is a creative cut-off, a point in which situations become restricted by those actually participating in them.
Granted, anything sexualized is completely out of the question. We do not want nor need to see children experimenting with the very adult aspects of physical love and its sometimes pornographic consequences (right, Towelhead???). While some may argue that violence is no different, the end game is decidedly singular. Unless we are witnessing the world’s first Hannah Montana inspired serial killer, aggression in the defense of self or social order doesn’t seem so scandalous. Would it be different if Hit-Girl was five? Would it matter more if the character was more thoughtful and less of a robotic reaction, reared by her raging, revenge-oriented father to slice first and never ask questions? It seems like the 800-pound pile of ape crap in the room is the notion of gender and personal politics.
Hit-Girl is at that tenuous age where life becomes a strictly male/female oriented issue. Once again, it’s all tied in to hormones, peer groups, and the instinctual need for procreation. Since women are pigeonholed as the givers of life, having someone so young, still incapable of supposedly making such birth and death decisions, actually determining the fate of another human being seems sacrilegious. Of course, when something similar happened in the horror film Orphan, critics praised its twisted inventiveness (Esther turned out to be a middle-aged monster, so all was forgiven). Hit-Girl is really nothing more than an extension of the past three decades in role-reversal engineering. She will eventually make babies. For now, she’ll make mayhem.
In fact, it’s shocking no one thought of it before. Pundits often argue that females are forever viewed a powerless victims, from the slasher genre’s ever-present ‘last girl’ to the clueless sluts skirting around any number of action thrillers or domestic dramas. One imagines that if Hit-Girl used her wits instead of her weapons and cut down on the salty language, aging journalists would join in a celebratory chorus. But just like the parents who pine away for days so long gone that archeologists would have a hard time locating them, Hit-Girl represents the post-millennial Miss—fired up, technologically in sync, supremely skilled, and a tad too precocious. While not necessarily naïve, she stands unapologetic in her lethal efficiency.
Truth be told, she is the progeny the 21st century sought to raise. She’s so in-step with the current misguided mandates (all tied to the unfettered worship and sanctification of children) that she’s exacting in her equality. She has to save her older, more inept male counterpart, never once flinches when faced with men more mature (and presumably, deadly) than she, and is guided by a father figure who, while robbing her of her Dr. Spock ordered childhood, gives her more cogent contemporary coping skills than a thousand couch sessions. Hit-Girl may not be the honey you take home to mom, but if you suddenly find yourself surrounded by insane meth head looking for money to satisfy their craving, she’s the perfect prom date.
So stop all your whining you wannabe makers of taste. Ebert especially needs to apologize for suggesting that Kick-Ass is corrupt while embracing the fecal-centric stupidity of Neil LaBute’s regressive remake of Death at a Funeral. Hey, Uncle Roger—if you can laugh in guilty pleasure delight at Tracy Morgan covered in Danny Glover’s diarrhea, you can see how others could embrace a child whose main defining characteristic is the ease with which she kills. In both cases it’s called suspension of disbelief. Some also refer to it as fiction. In either case, it’s still a movie, nothing more than a form of entertainment. Hit-Girl is not a pariah. She’s a shockingly strident breath of fresh air.