Heroine Content Links #21: Kick-Ass

There is so much good writing on the web critiquing pop culture, I am constantly trying to balance reading and writing – and failing. My Google reader, Firefox bookmarks, and delicious account are always overstuffed, and that’s just with blogs I already know about. I did a big cleanout lately and thought I would post up a bunch of links to good stuff about some of the films we’ve reviewed recently. I thought it would all fit in one post, but somehow a lot of peeps wrote about Kick-Ass, so I’m going to have to break it up over the next couple of weeks I think.

First, though, I want to give an extremely belated shout to long-time reader and commenter Marina, whose email convinced me to go see Kick-Ass in the first place (here’s my review if you missed it). Failing to note her key role in my review was the product of my extreme disorganization and I do apologize. Honestly, without her email and her three star rating, I might have passed it up. The more I have read about it and thought about it, the more pleased I am to have seen it, even though I still have extremely mixed feelings about it. So Marina, thank you, and I am so sorry for being a flake!

Here are some pieces I particularly enjoyed from around the internets (quite a few found via When Fangirls Attack).

Kick-Ass: This is the horrifically violent movie everyone is raving about? at Kills Me Dead:

All I’ve been hearing is about how terribly violent and funny this movie is, how envelope-pushing and boundary-expanding it is. Turns out, not so much. A lot of the truly horrific violence is either implied or showed from a distance, so I’m confused where the comments (concerns? accusations?) that this is a terribly violent movie are coming from. Of course it’s violent, but none of the actual violence is above and beyond what you’ve seen in any other Rated R action movie.

That post cracked me up because when I finally went to see it, I was all “Gory violence? What gory violence? Haven’t this people seen Ninja Assassin?” And then I saw Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and I was even more like “Um, Kick-Ass is just an action movie people.”

This post helped me decide that at the hypothetical cocktail party where I am in a room with Mark Millar and confused about what to do, I should just leave. “Morally Reprehensible”: Mark Millar, Kick-Ass and the Failure of Criticism at comiks debris:

Listen: There’s no point in bringing morality into the discussion of a Mark Millar work. It’s a dead end. It’s what he wants you to do. He’s expecting you. He’s rigged the door knob so you’ll get an electric jolt when you touch it. He’s put grease and marbles on the floor. And he’s booby-trapped the hallway with trip wires and suction arrows. He’s prepared, and he is, in fact, counting on you to step right into that trap and get your ass kicked by the two universal cheap excuses for works that test the limits of good taste: It’s satire!, and, It’s just a dumb, over-the-top comic book!

And yet I still love me some Wolverine: Enemy of the State. Must re-read with more critical eyes.

I love The Kick-Ass Movie is Not Feminist, and Neither is Hit-Girl at Chicks Who Kill Things (hey look another blog started up that reviews women in action movies from a feminist perspective, awesome!) – she does a really good job at reviewing the movie Kick-Ass for its treatment of women rather than just focusing on Hit Girl:

So, really, that’s how the Kick-Ass movie treats its adult women: as blank objects of desire to be filled by geek males with their own interests, or freaks.

And now (finally) Hit-Girl. As I mentioned earlier, she’s capable and strong. I liked her. She and her father are the best parts of the movie, and Chloe Grace Moretz and Nicholas Cage put in really funny performances. If the tone of the movie didn’t wildly vacillate between a humorous dark parody of superheroes and a “serious” exploration of what superheroes would be like in the real world, I might have liked them better. But the movie wants you to see Hit-Girl’s story as one of a child who isn’t allowed to be a child by her revenge-driven father who makes killing a game to her, but also be gleeful about a child brutally murdering mobsters.

In Defense of Hit Girl at All Things Fangirl resonated with me because I am pretty tired of the old “she’s only violent because X” reasoning for women who kick ass in films:

Ultimately, Hit-Girl has created a template for future girl fighters- ones that aren’t being grabbed, groped, oggled. Ones that don’t kill men after they’ve attempted rape, but just because it’s their job, or their opponent is a bad guy.

I liked reading The Politics of Hit Girl at Women & Hollywood and the next link together:

We would never be having this whole conversation about Hit Girl if the character would have been Hit Boy. No one would care in the same if a 11-year-old boy said the c-word. I’d probably just dismiss it as another sexist movie and character and move on.

Don’t Fear The Reaper- HitGirl and Schoolgirl Complexes at The Mystery of Girls’ Media:

When I was a teenager, I loved Anime and Manga and those genres are full of violent, ass-kicking preteen girls. From the fairly girly Sailor Moon to the more complex characters in NausicaƤ or Magic Knight Rayearth, adolescent girls have been brutally violent in these genres for decades. One can also look to live action movies like Battle Royale show literal preteen characters killing one another in really stomach churning ways.

So it’s not that other 11 year old girl assassins don’t exist…

In Defense of Hit Girl by Kate Harding on Shapely Prose presents the counter to an argument I’ve heard that Hit Girl ultimately fails as a strong female character because she “needs to be saved”:

For starters, there is not one damsel in distress in this movie. Kick-Ass gets a girlfriend*, but unbelievably, she’s never in peril; she waits for him and frets for his safety without also being kidnapped by the bad guys and roughed up and threatened with sexual violence, as that character in these movies almost inevitably is. Hit Girl has to be bailed out by a man with a gun twice, but both times, only after she’s killed so many fucking people so efficiently she has more than earned an assist – just like male heroes almost always get saved by a sidekick once or twice, without anyone questioning whether they remain extraordinarily, even absurdly, capable fighters.

Also, she was the mastermind who set up the whole plan that put the guy in the right place at the right time in case she needed that assist – and I can’t believe for a second that the filmmakers wanted us to think less of her because of that. (And thank you Kate for labeling the rape scene in Crank as exactly what it is.)

Location, Violence, and Hot Chocolate by Anika at Fantastic Fangirls made me think very hard, which I appreciate:

At the very end, right before he is going to kill her in cold blood, the main antagonist, Frank D’Amico, says to Hit-Girl, “I wish I had a daughter like you.” And it was that moment that really made the movie for me. With eight words, D’Amico says it all.

That part of the film gave me chills, actually. Good chills.

Why on earth wasn’t Kick-Ass called Hit Girl? by Kjerstin Johnson at the Bitch blogs:

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.

I hear ya, Kjerstin.

Hit-Girl Hysteria by Elisabeth Rappe at Cinematical:

No matter how old or young we are, women are not supposed to be action heroes. Last month, Comics Alliance sat down with Kelly Sue Donnick on her Thor spinoff, Sif. The one-off takes Thor’s girlfriend and re-imagines her into what she is supposed to have been – a warrior of Asgard, who is more than capable of taking care of her own problems with Loki. Comics Alliance readers had a bit of a problem with this. Violent women are not strong women. If a heroine really wants to be strong, she ought to be like Gandhi, and set an example of nonviolent resistance to the menfolk.

Which does beg the question of why those readers like to see the menfolk going around doing the violence, yes?

I don’t end up agreeing with Kick-Ass by Cynthia Fuchs at Pop Matters, but her reviews are always worth a read:

Marcus serves one purpose here, to deliver the film’s not-so-earnest injunction against Big Daddy’s monomaniacal exploitation of his daughter: “You owe that kid a childhood!” With that done, the movie can proceed apace, exploiting her in every way it can think of.

You absolutely must read A Response to Roger Ebert’s Review of “Kick-Ass” on Tiny Heroes even if you had no idea that there had been a controversy about Ebert’s comments:

My question – why does violence have to be examined in these kinds of films? Why do people choose to draw the line of morality with a 11-year-old girl killing “bad guys” when sexual and domestic violence are a healthy part of most films – so much so that they’ve lost much of their shock value.

Why Hit-Girl is a Role Model: A Review of Kick-Ass by Teresa Jusino at Pink Raygun:

When people see stories about girls and women who do battle, it is expected that it will be seen in the context of a girl taking on male traits, or a girl being forced to live in a way that’s not natural. They never assume that, sometimes, these stories aren’t cases of girls taking on male traits, but simply stories about how some girls are. Believe it or not, there are girls who enjoy fighting, who aren’t afraid of taking a blow to their pretty faces if it means successfully defending themselves or someone they care about, and I think that for a lot of people, this is a hugely frightening thought.

Nice closing thought, yes?

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

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