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Is Kick Ass’s Hit Girl empowering or immoral?

April 29, 2010

I loved Kick Ass and I dare say it is the best film I’ve seen all year, and I can say for certain I have never seen anything like this film before. I went into the theater expecting a cross between Spiderman and Napoleon Dynamite, but I left with my head spinning about what I had just seen.

Here’s a preview to refresh your memory because I know the film wasn’t well advertised:

A short synopsis if you didn’t get the trailer: Kick-Ass is a comic-book based film about a teen from a corrupt, down-trodden New York wanting to fight crime because no one else will. After effectively getting his ass kicked, his bones get reinforced so that he is able to take more of a beating than usual. He realizes he has become a spectacle and a commodity and he doesn’t really fight crime so much as stand for a symbol of what he feels his generation should be: a general failure, but with good intentions. The real heroes in the film however, were Big Daddy and Hit Girl, a crime-fighting father and daughter betrayed by their society and going beyond good intentions to Tarantino-style murder every criminal in town. The film is gory, graphic, violent, and, most of all, refreshing.

My overall impression of Kick Ass is that I was delighted that a movie not necessarily glorified violence in our culture, but elaborated that my generation isn’t as crappy as everyone says it is. I felt it accurately represented the attitudes and capabilities of teens today. Kick Ass/Dave (Aaron Johnson) as a character better exemplified the postmodern idea that intention can create awareness and inspire action even though he couldn’t really do much physically.  My critique of the film isn’t the topic, though.

When I came home and looked up reviews, I found that Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), the real star of the film, was to my surprise, not well received. So I’ll present the sides of the argument to me based on my initial opinions of her character versus what I learned critics thought.

I would also like to add that this is the first good film Nicholas Cage has done since Adaptation.

Empowering:

Hit Girl is the most badass eleven year old girl ever portrayed in a film. She murders the scum of the city in cold blood with the accuracy and efficiency of a trained assassin. I found her character to be empowering and unique: finally a voice that was not a damsel in distress, a pretty little princess looking for love and affection. She wasn’t even a so-called ‘tom-boy,’ because even little boys wouldn’t do what she could do.  I was happy to see such a figure portrayed on screen because it validated the nerdy 14 year-old girl I used to be, hungry for anything involving violence or Lord of the Rings. I then realized, however, that 14 year-old me wouldn’t have been able to see this film because it is rated R, and my mother strictly prohibited seeing such things. So I started to think… Who does Hit Girl empower? What’s her target audience? She may be an alternative to Snow White, but she is an alternative the demographic of which won’t be able to see for another half decade. Then I considered that maybe she does exist to vindicate those of us who wished we  had stronger peers in our media when we were younger, so that we feel better about the capabilities and expectations of the next generation. What it comes down to is the fact that I was glad such a unique character was in this film and that she was so… awesome, but then I consider that she’s a little kid perpetrating the violence we like to keep the children away from, which brings me the other side of the argument.

Immoral:

Was it really responsible or moral of the creators of this film to show a child stripped of her innocence fighting a battle she should have no involvement with? The thought of child abuse makes us uncomfortable, but the concept of a child fighting back is just unheard of. Putting the concepts of innocence and violence into one very small character is threatening to what we conceive as a culture of the boundaries of media. A character Marcus (Omari Hardwick) even states when speaking to Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) that he is stealing her innocence and her childhood and that is not his right as a father.  In addition to this, although it is subtle, Big Daddy manipulates his daughter into this life by convincing her it is a necessity to kill. Mindy/Hit Girl responds to it the way any child would: she wants to make her father proud of her. Her father puts her life in danger for a personal vendetta he has with the corrupt forces of the city, personified in the character Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

The debate in a nutshell is the idea that Hit Girl and her corresponding societal counterparts are either a unique, capable voice often unheard in our society which Kick-Ass manages to proclaim, or that adulterizing a little girl so that she becomes excessively violent is simply the most immoral thing a film can do.

I’m still undecided. What do you think? Even if you haven’t seen the film or read the comic book, what are your impressions? I have yet to read the comic books (because I can’t find a version of the TPB that doesn’t say “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE,” which I hate), but maybe when I do, I’ll understand the intentions of the creators a bit more and have a more satisfying conclusion about this.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Parker permalink
    April 29, 2010 11:48 pm

    Personally I feel that since the film is not intended for children that children are not the characters’ target audience; from that I’m lead to believe that the character has no target audience and is, for all intents and purposes, just an entertaining character that American audiences aren’t used to seeing.

  2. bjulman permalink
    June 15, 2010 3:56 am

    Another good one, though Parker (hello, John) said it best.

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