What Might Have Been
Kick-Ass, the new R-rated movie based on the R-rated comic book, follows a few masked-and-caped citizens whose paths cross over mob dealings and misunderstandings. The Watchmen it's not, but the introduction of a pint-sized heroine who plays with butterfly knives instead of Barbies sets it apart from other superhero flicks. Watching the movie, I found that when I wasn't wincing at the violence, I was cringing at the gaping disparity of both skill and storyline between the title character--the green-wet-suit wearing Dave, aka Kick-Ass--and the foul-mouthed, truly ass-kicking, Mindy MacCready, aka Hit Girl.
Dave is your recognizable nerdball who can't get the girl and fantasizes about boobs—a lot. And it's not exactly clear why someone so admittedly apathetic would want to fight crime. Even more ridiculous is the relationship he has with his dream girl, Katie. To finally get close to her, he goes along with her assumption that he's gay. (Being a girl's gay BFF, btw, means you get to rub self-tanner on her while she's topless and in her undies. You knew that right? My gay male friends love doing that to me.)
When Dave eventually breaks the news to Katie that a) he's Kick-Ass and b) he's been lying about his sexuality because he's in love with her, he does by climbing through her bedroom window unannounced. Apparently in the comic, she rightfully tells him to fuck off. In the Hollywood version, she's mad for about three seconds, and then invites him to bed, and the viewer has to watch as Dave ever so ickily reaches his dish-gloved hands towards her breasts. (I was absolutely unable to stop myself from groaning "Ewwww" really quite loudly when this occurred).
Oh, did I forget to mention why she (and others) thinks he's gay? Dave's beaten rather severely by two criminals (A note: criminals in Kick-Ass = black, white with tattoos, oily mafia types, people wearing skull caps). He removes his wet-suit Kick-Ass costume out of embarrassment. You do the math. Mugged by dudes + found naked = GAY. Yes! That is the math of Kick-Ass! I don't think I need to go into how problematic it is that if you are a guy and-- hypothetically or not--sexually assaulted by men, that you are a total gaywad.
All of this probably could have been avoided had the movie been about Hit Girl.
Because besides the offensive nature of Dave's plot lines, they're also offensively boring. He's a terrible superhero, never really succeeding at fighting bad guys. And as I've touched on earlier, his plot scenes don't really make that much sense. When we start learning Hit Girl and her father's background, the movie gets a lot more interesting. Their backstory is told through interactive-comic style, and we're given characters with motivations and drive, not just constant boners and MySpace replies (Note to future action movie makers: nothing is more riveting than watching a character check their MySpace account. Are you listening Tarantino? I expect some Facebook Connect in your next film.) Hit Girl is empowered, non-sexualized, and capable of defending herself--she's the one that comes to the rescue, and only needs assistant from others in the most dire of situations.
This goes beyond "Why can't there be more actions movies with strong female leads?" The movie actually would have been better had it been about Hit Girl, and studio demands of a "relatable" Peter Parker-meets-American-Pie protagonist was a real detriment to a more engaging plot. (Apparently Hit Girl and her father Big Daddy feature more prominently in the comic books.) Find one review that doesn't say that Hit Girl steals the show. She gets the best scenes, and actually complicates the plot. We would have been treated early on to a story involving a corrupt police unit and the impressive, albeit prematurely violent, handiwork of Hit Girl and her dad. The boob ogling/grabbing and "I'm a nerd (but actually an underdog!)" plot would have been relegated to the margins, where it belongs.
But reviews that aren't singing the praises of Chloë Grace Moretz are outraged that a petite girl-child is firing automatic weaponry as deftly as she drops expletives. The best response I've read concerning the gender dynamics of the movie and the subsequent media speculations comes from Cinematical's Geek Beat, who notes that had the character been "Hit Boy" there would be far less outrage.
If Hit Girl was the nerdy sidekick -- the one who stayed behind, made gadgets, and sharpened swords, no one would care. They might worry, they might even fret about her language, but she'd be out of harm's way. Then the discussion would be focused on Kick-Ass and his boyish ilk. I can almost guarantee it.
But I also think Hit Girl is as cool as hell. I like what she represents. I prefer her, her bad language, and her bloody weaponry to trends of toddler high heels, spa visits, and preteen sexualization. I find it more alarming that I hear a 7-year-old asking the Starbucks clerk about the calorie content of a Cafe Mocha because what the hell are you doing drinking coffee, little girl? And why do you know what calories are? Why aren't you playing outside, anyway? It's a silly thing to use as a symbol, of course, but I think there are dangerous, upsetting things happening in youth culture that we could address instead of worrying about one fictional upstart.
So, I guess you don't have to pass on Kick-Ass. But you should know it combines the creatively gruesome deaths of Guy Ritchie with the graphic violence of Tarantino, so if you don't like say, people getting set on fire, beat with blunt objects, shot at close range, and our two young protagonists getting the shit kicked out of them, it's not for you. For those of you who are interested in watching a nerdy white guy fight of evil villains, save your money for Scott Pilgrim.
Anyone else see Kick-Ass? Anyone read the comics?
Hit Girl Hysteria [Cinematical]
How Kick-Ass' killer Hit Girl is like Alien's Ripley [Sci Fi Wire]