Sugar And Spice And Everything Knives

Unseen 4th Panel: The little girl does a backward kick flip off a food court trashcan, pulls a butterfly knife from her boot and uses it to draw a unicorn in Josh’s small intestine without removing the organ from his body. During the autopsy, the coroner was shocked at her skill with a blade. With respects to both murder and magical horsey drawing.

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I mentioned this on Twitter, but at no point during Kick Ass does the titular character actually kick anyone’s ass. He wails on a few guys with his Ass-Batons (I assume he uses that naming convention, as in “Bat-A-Rang” and “Spider-Roomba”), but they are all able to flee the scene asses quit intact. It could be argued that the mutual KO between Mr. Ass and a particular villain during the climactic battle of the film is an “ass kicking,” though I would suggest the double lights-out was more of a mistake on each participants part that any sort of intentional ass-kickery.

OK, technical discussion of what is and is not a kicked ass aside, I really enjoyed the film. It gets to the good stuff almost immediately and takes a few unexpected (though not ill conceived) twists. Those that have seen Kick Ass may have picked up right away on an obvious plot device for a particular character (the road of rebellion against and evil father and subsequent redemption), that despite plenty of clues leading up to it is completely abandoned in a rather shocking way. [I know that sounds vague but I’m trying to to be TOO spoilery.]


Battlestar Galactica/UN "So Say We All" T-ShirtI sat one table down from James O’Barr, creator of The Crow, at a Sci-Fi Con in Dallas this weekend. He seems to be a fan of waxing old-manish about how stupid kids are and how terrible everything is. I share many of his sentiments but he seems more grizzled than would ever hope to be. ANY WAY, he made a particular statement about Kick Ass that struck a chord with me. He suggested that the violence in the film, particularly that enacted by the 10 year old character Hit Girl was “pornographic.” Interesting choice of words since pornography as well as violence can be shocking, entertaining, harmless in the right context and extremely harmful to the young, immature or unstable.

In the same way an intelligent adult has (and should always have) the right to decide if they want to view pornography (as long as no one is harmed against their will and no children are involved), we have that same right to decide if we want to see simulated violence. It isn’t right for everyone, and it isn’t right for every scene in every movie, but in Kick Ass it makes sense.

The weird thing about Kick Ass is how it walks the line between SuperBad and The Dark Knight. It’s a teen comedy and a gritty super hero drama all at once. Sure the story is lighter fair but the themes of helping the helpless just because it’s the right thing to do, taking control of your life and finding purpose and whether or not a child who has been trained to kill is being loved and protected or brainwashed and abused (Leon anyone?) are weighty subjects. If it was just graphic depictions of violence used only for shock value that would be one thing, but the violence in Kick Ass (especially that done by Hit Girl) is used to more dramatic effect to paint a picture of the terrifying world this little girl seems all too comfortable in.

What? You didn’t see it that way? Well what about the part where she stabbed the guy with the thing, then jumped off the other thing and made the dude shoot himself in the face? That was kick ass!

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  1. Sugar… spice and… oh, goddamnit.

    Pornography is in the eye of the beholder. I found most of Hit Girl's scenes to be fairly lulzy, especially where swordplay is involved. She cut him -in HALF-!

    Personally, I thought the movie was a little over the top, but it was supposed to be, and I really enjoyed it for that. Now, if you want pornography, watch anything that Keanu Reeves has been in…

      • Dumbest definition ever…I'm sure some people see a banana and think that's pornographic. Doesn't make it so… Not like the supreme court ever made a stupid ruling.
        Letting companies spend unlimited funds on election commercials comes to mind.

      • That'd be Justice Potter Stewart, who wrote "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

  2. The violence in Kick-Ass could hardly be considered pornographic. I've seen much worse in mainstream releases. The uproar is over majority of the violence in the film being carried out by an 11 year old. Even at this point the uproar is more of a dull murmur. The film came out and wasn't a major earner so many of the people "offended" by the violence have already moved onto other things.

    • I will add had Kick-Ass made a 3rd of the box office of something like Iron Man or the Dark Knight we would have an around the clock Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck marathon on Fox News decrying the violence of the film.

    • The thing that got to me about the whole hype approaching the movie is how the level of violence in the film was portrayed. I mean, I was expecting Punisher: War Zone level blood and gore and I got something that may not have been as violent as Watchmen.

      There's a good article about this over on The Escapist from their movie critic.

      I agree that the issue is with the fact that it's an 11-year old, but I think it's worse because (as the above article states) it's a *female* child.

  3. I don't think you can buy knives in bulk that have "Hanna Montana", "Hello Kitty", or "Justin Beerbeerbeer" (whatever his name is) on them. Just sayin'.
    Even though, knowing my nieces like I do, I think the blade retrieval rate would be around 50% or so, if it was branded with the demographic consumer logo of their choice, and was pink/purple, or had glitter/sparkles and junk on it.

  4. Sounds like James O’Barr and Roger Ebert should have coffee together at the "Hey, Get Off My Lawn!" support group.

    Is James O'Barr really one to pass judgement on violence in any context considering the degree he romanticizes death in The Crow?

  5. I very much enjoyed the movie, but what little disturb I felt was for a completely different reason. Yeah, I can watch Tarantino movies without batting an eye at the violence and gore, and big deal if it was inflicted by a little girl. What made me uneasy was that first it creates this feeling of people being completely mundane and realistic, looking for justice and what not. And then you have a room that could have been decorated by Martha Stewart, if she had a huge affinity for weaponry, and people being killed every which way.

    Where does Kick Ass's morals flip the switch? When does he start valuing someone's life less than the next, just because someone's a "bad person"? It went from being normal morals, to comic book morals, back to normal, everyday life. I felt inside of an ethics paint mixer.

    • Surely the point is that the moral appoach taken by Kick Ass is completely at odds to that taken by Hit Girl and Big Daddy. He is doing it because he thinks super heroes should be out there helping people while they are doing it out of pure revenge and spite. That's shown pretty categorically right from their first meeting where KA is basically appauled at the willingness of HG to just kill everyone in the room, no matter their level of involvement.

      If anything the problem should be with the ending where KA basically gives up his moral outlook after allowing himself to be emotionally blackmailed by HG.

  6. The definition of pornography is so vague that it makes it near impossible to use in a legal ruling, and in my opinion, rightfully so in a country built on free speech.
    From Webster's: "the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction <the pornography of violence>" Emotions are subjective to begin with. It seems like an uphill battle.

  7. Maybe an even better question, why are people so undone by violence without even mentioning the fact that there is graphic enough representation of masturbation (for a theater movie) and a guy effectively molesting a girl while pretending to be gay? Is James O'Barr a closet rapist?

  8. This made me think of a bit in the terribly awful awesome movie "Surf Ninjas", where they talk about knives that even money can't buy. Rob Schneider's character goes on a hilarious rant about it. In case you're wondering, I am completely ashamed at this admission.

  9. I have been expose to worse and more just by watching Japanese Anime over the last several years. I think there is a genre based on unassuming tweens perpetrating murder upon those around them. At the best you get Gunslinger Girls and the worst (For Perv Factor 9, Mr. Sulu) you get Kite.

    So, no. Wasn't all that shocked by the violence or the crass manipulation of a guy pretending to be gay to get with a girl. Seriously, once you see a little cyborg girl with a P-90 blow an apartment full of terrorists away…

  10. "…pornography as well as violence can be shocking, entertaining, harmless in the right context and extremely harmful to the young, immature or unstable."

    Perhaps pornography actually is harmless, and the reason that the young, immature unstable people seem damaged by it is because they're…oh, I dunno…young, immature and unstable? 🙂

    Correlation is not causation. Just because a guy like Ted Bundy reads porn doesn't mean the porn caused his mental problems.

  11. I dont think we are disagreeing here. I think the "young, immature or unstable" can be harmed by pornography due to their age, immaturity or mental problems. I never said it caused any of those things, but it could be a contributing factor for additional problems in the wrong hands.

  12. It's a weird thing – I saw the movie on Monday and didn't feel moved by it or offended by it in any way. Desensitisation? I don't think so – I suspect that it had more to do with the way that Matthew Vaughn chose to stage and edit the on-screen carnage.

    The stuff with Hit Girl in this movie was nowhere near as effective and horrible as, say, the violence in a movie like "City of God" – it's the way that Vaughn seems to be sniggering behind the camera and congratulating himself on how transgressive he's being by having a pre-pubescent girl act as on-screen Angel of Death, and by having her casually deliver the "C" bomb. There's no weight to anything happening in the film – it's all surface, all glib dialogue, all very Mark Millar, I guess I want to say.

    Compared to Matilda in "Leon", Hit Girl ain't all that…

  13. As a kid I wished I could be as badass as Hit Girl! Not to actually kill people, but to have the ability would have been awesome! I have loved violent movies for as long as I can remember and love watching a well done fight scene.

    Joel, you mentioned Leon as another film where a girl committing violence is central. I think the main difference between the two is that Mathilde's violence was mostly mechanical rather than physical; she mostly shot people rather than physically fighting it out. You didn't get see much of her actually killing people. Whereas with Hit Girl it's very graphic.

    Considering that this film had the same age rating in the UK as The Final Destination, I think there was very little that was particularly shocking. When I think about Hit Girl cutting that guy's leg off and compare that with the guy getting chipped through the fence in TFD, I know which I find more disturbing! For me the most shocking bit was when D'Amico punched Hit Girl in the face and she went down. I had been so used to think of her as invincible that it actually shocked me.

  14. Ah the correlation-causation argument. I had a person tell me the other day that his brother ended up in jail because he played GTA. His evidence was that he and his two brothers grew up in the same household and only one played video games. The gamer was the one who went to jail; ergo it must have been the games.

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