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Committed: Kick-Ass and Why Violence is a Feminist Issue

031010_kickassposterDo you worry about your daughter growing up feeling weak, ineffectual, powerless, and generally having less options in life than her male counterparts? Men are still more successful in many industries, and the changes in the status quo have created a number of social areas in which men (often unconsciously) will strive to use language and aggressive behavior to make women feel excluded, seeking to maintain their position as the top dogs. Little girls can grow up feeling intimidated by this kind of masculine posturing, or you can teach your daughters to recognize that swear words are simply words and that when men watch gratuitous violence, it’s simply entertainment and not real. There is every reason in the world that these previously “intimidating” aspects of the male world will feel as comfortable and normal to her as they do to your sons. The only thing that might make her feel uncomfortable and threatened in these situations is programming, not biology, and as a parent, you have choices about that. By all means acknowledge the differences between the sexes (and between all human beings), but let women become comfortable with traditionally masculine behavior, so that there won’t be areas of the world which they feel excluded from.

031010_ripleyLike lots of girls, I grew up wanting to dress up as a pretty pink princess, but I also wanted to be Leia or Ripley, to have weapons and action adventures too. Some of the greatest films ever made are filled with swearing and violence and my dad brought me up to love them. Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, etc, all traditionally “boys” movies. These are powerful, emotionally turbulent, culturally seminal movies. I implore you, bring your daughters up with choices and options. Do not use the yoke of society’s inhibitions to restrict what you expose them to. If you see something you would let a little boy see, then let your daughters see it too, please let them grow into the strong women that they could be.

031010_kurtzThe reason all of this is top of my mind right now, is because last night I saw the movie adaptation of the comic book Kick Ass, and all I could think was that I would have loved it if this movie had existed when I as a little girl.

(Warning: I do not really enjoy film reviews because I hate spoilers, so I’m apologizing in advance for any inadvertent spoilers.)

I went to see Kick-Ass filled with trepidation. We’ve all seen lackluster movie-versions of comic books and I was worried that this simply wouldn’t measure up. I enjoyed the book and there were elements that I dearly wanted to see translated onto the screen. It’s a comic book worth reading, a nice bit of fun, but you need to be comfortable with the fact that any so-called superhero who existed in the real world would be inflicting horrible pain on people, would have to be somewhat violent and/or angry, or it just wouldn’t work. The film manages to embrace these facts.

031010_hitgirlSeeing Romita’s dynamic action sequences brought to life was a blast, the film perfectly echoes his energy and electricity. Obviously the boldest example of this is in Hit Girl, who is the most disturbing character in a story filled with disturbing characters. Thankfully the filmmakers didn’t wimp out and water down the role she plays in rescuing big strong men and violently murdering psychopaths. Hit-Girl is an angel, (one of those vengeful, scary ones from the bible.) Remember Natalie Portman in Leon (or The Professional)? Well Chloe Moretz playing Mindy Macready (AKA Hit-Girl) is twice as good. This is a cartooney film, very over-the-top, but she still brings a vitality, joy and vulnerability to her performance that is incredibly appealing. There are moments that are difficult to watch, when she’s hurting or being hurt in such realistic ways that I grimaced. That’s a bloody good thing too, because it’s important to remember that turning into a violent, psychopathic killer is not a viable career option and getting hurt is not a good life plan.

The casting throughout is incredibly strong, and the actors embrace their characters with gusto. For my money, Kick-Ass is the least interesting, likable, or reasonable character in the book, and the film is only slightly different. At least they picked a rather pretty young man to play him (Aaron Johnson, who looks like a young, confused, weedy version of Michelangelo’s David). However, as the twisted, broken, pathetic lynch pin/everyman who brings the films disparate elements together, he performs his role admirably.

031010_redmistNicholas Cage as Damon Macready (AKA Big Daddy) and Mark Strong as Frank D’Amico made me stupidly happy. These are the most prominent adults of the story, and they have been perfectly cast, in looks and talent, they just fit. Unlike the comic book, which glosses over these two men’s backgrounds and connections, these actors bring their characters to life with great enthusiasm. Cage is at his absolute best when he toys with his roles and allows his humor and depth of knowledge of the medium to inform his acting. In this regard he is perfect as Big Daddy, just exactly the right mixture of fun, affection, gravitas, delight, insanity, and kindness. He has empathy for anyone who ever put on a Batman suit, (listen out for the Adam West Bat-dialogue. It is a thing of beauty). I love him for taking on this role and playing it the way he does. Mark Strong has been a powerful, versatile actor for quite a while, but as he ages, I’ve noticed him making great headway in playing some excellent villains in big budget movies (like many great British actors before him). He proves the old adage that the villains of the piece are often the most important actors. His ability to create a truly believable evil, while also conveying his own personal belief in himself is an incredibly tricky combination. In Kick-Ass Mark Strong carries it off, admirably, all the while being just exactly that right amount of comedic to remind as that this is not a movie about the real world.

031010_bloodheadOne last word on the actors and their talent: McLovin! Okay, I know, Christopher Mintz-Plasse has an actual name, and like all the other actors, he brings his character Chris D’Amico (AKA Red Mist) to life and then some. Like all of the characters, I liked him a hell of a lot more on film than I did in print, so that worked out nicely.

Now I’ve waxed lyrical about the acting and the action, but the unexpected bonus of the film was the art, the wonderful, amazing, funny, appropriate art. I haven’t seen art that added this much to a film since Rushmore. While Andy Warhol’s lovely gun screenprints added much, it was Marc Quinn’s Bloodhead, in the background of a final fight scene which really drove the nail home for me. I’m sure there will be much art-spotting to engage in when I rewatch this (and I will), but on first watching, the art choices were just marvelous.

Let’s not dwell on the plot. If you read the comic books, you know the story. The changes that the film makers choose are minimal and necessary. I’m not going to ruin the surprises for you by going over them here, just go see it (and take the kids). It’s a good film.

52 Comments

The comics are great and I have little reason to worry about the film adaptation. All early word-of-mouth has consisted of nothing but glowing praise.
Very jealous that you’re one of the many lucky individuals who has been to an early screening.

Just wondering, but what do you think of the Alice character in Alice in Wonderland?
As a male, I found the story of a female lead who eschews the typical female need for a man refreshing. Knight in shining armor? Pfooey! She looks far better in the armor and is just as capable of swinging a sword as a man.

Just wondering about your opinion.

There was an ad that popped onto the screen on Youtube recently. Until now that ad was all I knew of this movie in any way. I didn’t even know it was based on a comic book (although it certainly looked like a comic-book-type movie). I can’t tell if it’s something I want to see yet just from what you say here. The first part of your review makes it sound a little too violent, but then you say ‘take the kids’, so maybe it isn’t. (I can’t handle film violence as easily as comic-book violence. I think the movement and sound make it too lifelike for me.)

A friend of mine saw it and loved it, and he hated the comic. He was pleasantly surprised.

Take the kids! Really?

Take the kids? Unless they watered it down considerably from the trailers and footage I’ve seen, you must be talking about 18+ kids, as I’m not sure most people want their kids watching copious amounts of Sin City-level violence and listening to an 11 year old drop the “c-word” at least once, among other things.

But I am interested in seeing it with an adult friend, all the same.

Looking forward to seeing this… I applaud stories that involve females having a sense of purpose that doesn’t involve getting the boy or finding Mr. Right.

jesus I hate comic book movies.
even more so when they are from crap comics.

Vile comic from a vile writer. Somehow, I suspect the movie is vile as well.

I havn’t read the comic yet but I’ve kept up with it. The movie looks like a lot of fun.
Hit-Girl is the Magnum opus of the action movie killer. Anyone can be made out to look like the baddest motherfucker on the planet and now Jason Statham and the like don’t really seem that impressive.

My favorite stories/kick -ass women are Elektra:Assassian, Elektra Lives, Ronin(Casey McKenna), Give Me Liberty/Martha Washington Saves the World, Robin(Carrie Kelly) and Mohawk Storm

No, thank you.

“…Mark Strong as Frank D’Amico made me stupidly happy” GREATEST line of the day!

I was NOT thrilled with the idea of this movie in the beginning. HOWEVER, I’m beginning to see the light and looking forward to being perfectly entertained.

Based entirely on the trailer and your review, I don’t understand why a movie about a little girl beating the little crap out of people is somehow a feminist statement, but I am betting by your urge to bring kids to see this movie that you are not a parent.

If I’m understanding you correctly, I agree that the princess role that I see sold to little girls is absurd and limiting, but selling them on Hit Girl and taking them to see Apocalypse Now is not really the way to go either. For my two cents, placing a woman in a masculine role is fine with me if done well (Ripley is a great example), but placing a child of either gender in that hyper-violent position is just in bad taste in my opinion. I’m not for extreme censorship, but the consequences of violence should be explained to kids. For adults, it’s far too late. Films targeting ‘adults’ depict bad guys being attacked by animals, violated by gorillas, ripped to pieces, blown up and thrown from planes… but it’s okay because they’re bad guys and we cheer. Children may have a chance to understand that this is not the case if they are given the chance to learn.

I have nothing against violence in film so long as it serves a purpose. If it has consequences as well that is even better. But surely there are better things to do than praise violence and teach young boys and girls that it is something to be embraced. We don’t need to be happy little robots who want to be little princesses or soldiers but we also don’t need to be under-developed emotional head cases hungry for Pekinpah-style bloodbaths. Surely we can do better and including young girls is not an improvement.

Sorry for the rant, I guess I have strong opinions on this. Hopefully there are some things of note that I have mentioned.

Again, sorry for the rant.

It never fails to amaze me how much of an opinion people are able to form on things they haven’t seen.

@Daily P.O.P. – your concerns are understandable, but the “take the kids” line is easier to understand if you’ve actually seen the film. Because, yes, while it does contain a fair amount of violence (although, and this surprised me, it was generally far less bloody and graphic than I’d been expecting), and swearing (although whether it’ll bring about The Downfall Of Society for kids hear a particular word that refers to a bodily part that 50% of the planet’s population possess is a matter of opinion, and I’m not sure it would), it also has at its heart a surprisingly strong moral message. A lot of it is about not turning your back when you see your fellow man in trouble – but instead actually standing up for other people and helping them out when you can. Were it not for the violence and swearing, it’d be an *exemplary* lesson for the kids.

@Dan Bailey – I wish I had your ability to know the quality of something. It would save me so much money on actually experiencing things for myself.

Actually, maybe I don’t wish I had your perceptive judging ability, since it’s somewhat off the mark on this one. Even if you’ve read the comic and find it “vile”, it’s simply not a word that could be used to describe the – actually very different from the source material – movie.

I think most of you vastly underestimate children. At what magical age is violence suddenly “okay?” Thirteen? Fifteen? Eighteen? And if it’s eighteen what’s the difference between an eighteen year old and a seventeen and half year old? What’s the difference between a thirteen and a twelve and half year old? A twelve and half and twelve year old?
And kids are smarter than we give them credit for. I’d rant a bit longer about it, but I have plans.

Daily POP, I think the gist of what Sonia is saying is that if you allow your young son to watch something, then you should allow your young daugther the same, assuming they’re the same age. If you think some things aren’t suitable for young kids, fine. Just don’t discriminate by gender.

In any case, I was never of the belief that what people grow up watching on TV or cinema is a great influence on their character, for better or for worse. It’s all bull. What really influences kids is their family and their home environment.

My favorite movies as a kid were Batman and Robocop, and hey, nobody’s found any of my victi– I mean, I turned out okay.

The reason I’m skeptical about the film is because, well, Nic Cage has an incredibly depressing track record.

@Seb Patrick: This is a review from one of the few people who have seen an advance screening of Kick Ass. I think that you can assume that most of the responses here ware going to be from people who have not seen it yet. _Sheesh_ I was actually clear on what I was basing my statement on. You have inside info that I’m off the mark I’m more than happy to concede, but the trailer and this review aren’t helping me get geared up. That’s why I chose to talk about broader subject more closely related to the subject line and the reviewer’s statement on violence and gender roles. I’m not trying to hijack a thread, just give mt two cents on Sonia’s statement

@Joe H: Yes, but parents need to be smarter. For instance, what was up with the family bringing their child to watch mutated puppies get ripped to pieces in the Ang lee Hulk film? Why was a toddler placed in a seat to watch this movie Clockwork Orange style???

@Rene: I definitely agree, it’s a holistic experience. If you want to take your teenage son to see the new Bond film one week and Kiss of the Spiderwoman the next week… be prepared for a long talk afterwards (as my own dad learned). I don’t place blame on the subject matter, moreso on the creators aiming it at kids. The full responsibility lies in the family to address it.

@Bill Reed: who played Batman in Batman and Robocop? Was that Nic Cage?? He’s the on;y part of the trailer that I find entertaining.

@Seb Patrick –

You’ll note that I said I *suspect* the movie will turn out to be vile, considering its origins (a comic that certainly earned that adjective in the 2 or 3 issues that I made the mistake of reading, written by someone whose genuinely masturbatory love for himself & for his every word I happen to find loathsome). I could certainly be wrong, but of course I haven’t the slightest bit of interest in seeing the movie, especially if even a sliver of the ticket price goes to Marvel or Millar.

a little girl cutting off heads is feminism?

didnt the word itself implode back in the 90ies?

So now we’ve devolved to the point where a little girl murderer, with vary the hint of an actual human personality behind her stupid get-up, is supposedly a nascent “feminist” icon. Huh. I really hope anyone who thinks that’s a reasonable scenario does not have children.

And to compare that with a character like Ripley–who is actually thoughtful and inspiring–is absurd.

It’s really an insult to Feminism to label a horrid little mass murderer of a girl “feminist”. The character is an idiot murderer who caters to readers/viewers who get kicks from seeing human life devalued.

Disclaimer: Of course fictional violence is fine when it actually has more of a point (Kick-Ass has a “surprisingly strong moral message”? I guess it would seem that way if all the other movies you watch are COMPLETELY devoid of ANY morals whatsoever). Otherwise we’re just the Romans watching people getting slaughtered in the Coliseum, and…yep…looks like our empire’s just about over with.

I didn’t even read Kick-Ass. It’s kinda strange, I used to like Mark Millar, I liked Ultimates and Wanted. But I started to like him less and less. What Dan Baley said of Millar’s smug self-satisfaction explains a little of what started to turn me off on Millar’s writing. It’s like he is always saying “Ain’t I cool?” with a sneer and that affected my enjoyment of his (sometimes groundbreaking) ideas.

The violence in fiction doesn’t really bother me, by itself. And if we have serious violence in a story, I prefer if it’s graphic. More honest this way. You know what disturbs me? Those slick action movies full of bullets and explosions and car crashes, but with all those “clean” wounds that don’t even muss your hair. One of the many reasons I used to hate James Bond.

Graphic violence disturbs me far less than that.

I’m looking forward to seeing this movie, but given a choice of having my child watch a hard core porno or a hard core graphic action movie the choice is easy, the porno each and every time. Sex is natural violence is not. I know Americans think violence is acceptable while sex is not, but that isn’t remotely the case.

I very much want to see this Batman and Robocop starring Nic Cage movie that you guys are talking about.

Ok, I wholeheartedly agree with the “if you’d take your boy, take your girl too” idea, I’m just not sure that I’d take any kid to this movie, having seen the comic.

@ficacci It seems pretty clear you haven’t read the entire “Kick Ass” comic or you wouldn’t label Hit Girl as “a little girl murderer, with nary the hint of an actual human personality behind her stupid get-up” as you would have seen that the her early appearance was about a daughter channeling what her father wanted her to be. Without giving away the ending, Hit Girl ends up displaying a much more rounded personality – not discarding what her father taught her but also incorporating the wants and desires of a more typical little girl. She’s probably the most human character in the story.

@capt usa(jim) Your definition of a hard core porno seems very limited in my mind. To me they display violence tendencies and degradation towards women much more than most action movies. And I don’t know what psychology books you have been reading but violence comes as naturally to humans as sex. It’s our ability to control such tendencies that sets us apart from base animals.

I believe 12 and up is fine for most kids.

I just saw an advanced screening of this last night!
I completely loved this movie! One of the best Comic Book adaptations i have seen yet!
This was such a fun, carzy movie that i think is going to suprise many people.

Got a chance to see the movie last night and it was alot of fun. I haven’t read the comics its based on so i don’t know whats been changed or watered down, But to me it was great, the actors really got into the movie and overall it was just a good time. A 11 year old girl killed more people then bruce willis in die hard pretty good stuff. No point on hating something if you haven’t seen it.

Reminds me how lame Wonder Woman is. All the borrowed and watered down ancient greek ties….it’s probably the most unoriginal comic figure ever.

oops wrong thread.

The points on feminism are points on sexism more than anything else. I’d like to see a movie where a little boy kills grown women in a similar manner to Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass and see that get hailed as something I’d like my son to see.

Other commentors made good points about Ripley. She was a heroine who girls could look up to and she and Hicks were portrayed as equals in so many ways and, in the end, it was Ripley who saved the day. Is Hit-Girl any of those things or is she just a mass-murdering psychopath who kills the bad guys, all of whom are male, incidentally?

And finally, this line: “let women become comfortable with traditionally masculine behavior, so that there won’t be areas of the world which they feel excluded from”. Start arguing the same thing for men becoming more comfortable with traditionally feminine behaviour and we might finally be getting somewhere. Because honestly, arguing that women should become more comfortable with traditionally masculine behaviour is like telling Australians they should become comfortable with living in a hot country. It’s not exactly something you need to tell them.

“The points on feminism are points on sexism more than anything else. I’d like to see a movie where a little boy kills grown women in a similar manner to Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass and see that get hailed as something I’d like my son to see.”

Quoted for truth.

Ok… I’m speaking as a parent here. My daughter is 3. She’s just as comfortable with Disney Princess crap as she is with awesome Zombie movies. My daughter is awesome.

Anyone here who is complaining about how this film is so inappropriate for children should probably rethink their stance.

Firstly, you seem to be assuming that the reviewer must obviously not have children. By the same token, can I assume you have children by that statement? Or are you guys just pretending to be experienced in that arena to sound more like you have your fingers on the pulse of what makes people tick?

Secondly, you say violence is not natural. Look at the world around you. Nearly every single creature on this planet displays violent tendencies. I’m not condoning violence. I’m probably the least violent person you’d ever meet. But seriously, people are naturally violent. It’s the natural instinct for dominance. My parents did their job and taught me that entertainment is only fantasy, and not something to go out and recreate in the real world. My daughter got in quite a lot of trouble recently for beating up on her mom. Guess what? She learned this specific act of harm from Pokemon. *OMG! Hide the Pokemon DVDs!!!1!! Our child is learning violence!!!* Should we take away her cartoons? No. That’s absurd. Sure, there’s action taken to teach her that it’s not something she should be doing. Taking them away won’t do any good. It’s our job to prepare her for the world. Not shelter her. Sheltering a child is more detrimental than exposing them to these *gasp* evils.

@capt usa(jim)
Are you serious? Here’s a scenario for you to consider: let’s say you have a daughter (I guess a son could be as equally appropriate if you adjust a few points here). Would you prefer she get sent home early from school because she beat up another kid, or would you rather get a phone call about her being added to the list of teen mothers? At least in movies, the violence is fake. In porn, the sex is real. You’d better be prepared to teach your children and all their friends about the importance of protection.

Excellent. I’ll bring my 10 year old nephew.

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Yeah, Capt USA’s point about violence being “unnatural” is naive at *best*. There’s a reason why when two people are fighting someone might suggest “those two are acting like animals” instead of “those two are acting like humans.”

I was the first one to mention the ‘take the kids’ line, wasn’t I? Sorry about that. I’m really not one of those people who insists that kids have to be kept away from any specific form of entertainment. And I’ve known plenty of kids who watched extremely gory movies at very young ages and were never bothered by them. (Although I know I wouldn’t have been able to handle them. But all kids are different.) I was only pointing it out because I was surprised you would say that about a movie that sounded like it could be really violent. Few people ever recommend taking kids to a movie like that, even when they take their own. It was simply an expression of my surprise over the recommendation, not an appeal on my part to keep kids away from violent entertainment.

To Comicfoil, who said that hard-core porno displays more violence than most action movies– What?!?! I admit that I haven’t seen very much hard-core porno (I’m not opposed to it, just not strongly interested), but what little I saw contained no hint of violence whatsoever. And from what I’ve heard, violence is very rare in pornography (at least outside of Japan). I’ve even heard it called the least violent of all genera. And I’ve certainly seen more degradation of women in some action movies than I have in the little pornography I’ve seen (and gory horror movies are the worst). Where do you get this information? Are you aware of stuff that I’m not? (I do admit this is a possibility. Like I said, I haven’t seen very much porno.)

Well, what comicfoil is talking about isn’t really violence as in punching-shooting-explosion type violence, he means more along the lines of degrading, verbal violence. It’s why I stick to mostly amateur porn these days: anything in the mainstream (as mainstream as porn gets anyways) nearly always contains “Yeah, you like that, bitch? You’re a filthy dirty whore aren’t you?” blah blah blah on and on. It takes what is hinted at in those sexist action and horror movies and makes it reality.

For better or for worse, lots of people are turned on by varying amounts of humiliation and degradation. Is that healthy? Dunno. in any case, I don’t think pornos create the situation, they only take advantage of it to turn a profit.

On one hand, this stuff is very sexist, the humiliation almost always directed at women. On the other hand, applying political correctness to sexual behaviour among consenting adults doesn’t sit well with me. And trying to forbid or educate people about what they shoud or should not be excited about is impossible.

Being sexist is sexy!

Great review, Sonia. Much apprecited. I, too, hope this film gives courage to all younglings. Another even Mr. Millar’s daughter is too young to see – but she’ll be so proud of her daddy when she does see it!

POP- you’re not for EXTREME censorship-which books should we burn and who makes that decision. Besides, go to your kids’ school and listen to some of their playground conversations. It’s a nasty world- we’re just living in it.

Someone needs to devise some sort of Godwin’s Law equivalent regarding how an online discussion is beyond rescuing as soon as someone drops the old “you’re obviously not a parent (and by implication your opinion is worthless here)” argument.

“The only thing that might make her feel uncomfortable and threatened in these situations is programming,”

Or the situations might actually //be// uncomfortable and threatening. Nice how there’s not even a mention of teaching boys not to use exclusionary language. Women may feel excluded because they are genuinely being excluded, not because they’re fragile flowers who can’t take hearing a swear word, or gossip about the latest action flick.

Also, watching movies or reading material with swearing and violence isn’t going to prepare you in any real way for people swearing or behaving aggressively specifically to you.

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This movie is filled with Sexist FEMINIST Misandrist hate politics. Children should not be watching this type of widespread misandry that is already at epidemic levels in all forms of media.

It is interesting why movies do NOT ever show the abusive things girls do that is not even recognized by the law.
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Guest_1001
“The points on feminism are points on sexism more than anything else. I’d like to see a movie where a little boy kills grown women in a similar manner to Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass and see that get hailed as something I’d like my son to see.”

Good point.

I know I’m very late to the game (even thought I did see the film when it was released), but Hit-Girl didn’t just kill men. She also killed women, most of whom either threatened violence or were whores (actual prostitutes).

As for this quote here

“The points on feminism are points on sexism more than anything else. I’d like to see a movie where a little boy kills grown women in a similar manner to Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass and see that get hailed as something I’d like my son to see.”

I think a more apt example would be if men or boys acted like women (which is actually a widely praised practice now).

paulnaylor2000

August 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

this film Kick Ass is not suitable for your Kids it is not appropriate for kids it wasn’t made for kids its for grown ups you might get into the cinema but your kids won’t take them to see Cats & Dogs The Revenge Of Kitty Galore this is more appropriate if your kids want to see a Chloe moretz film take them to see Diary Of A Wimpy Kid anyone under the legal age cannot see a grown up themed film

paulnaylor2000

August 7, 2010 at 9:35 am

i have two young children and they wont be seeing Kick Ass not for a very long time!

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