Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Since Kick-Ass was released in theaters, there's been a lot of swirling hubbub about Hit-Girl- her place in cinema, her place in feminism, her place in the film. It's an interesting debate, since the space she's occupying is unique in Western cinema.
There is a wonderful article about the phenomenon of ass-kicking pre-pubescents over at a wonderful blog, The Mystery of Girl's Media, and I'm going to touch slightly on some of that here, but you should give it a read.
One of the comments about Hit-Girl's ease of disposing of other humans is that it seems indicative that she will become a serial killer. I don't think Hit-Girl is going to turn into a serial killer. Especially now that she's going to be acclimated to life as a normal kid and has a supposedly strong father figure, who was her father figure before, who she trusts and loves and who apparently believes in the value and the power of the law (or else he wouldn't have stayed a cop). In the first place, serial killers aren't trained to be serial killers. They are innately serial killers. They're not carefully taught to torture animals and derive sexual gratification from torture and dismemberment. It's readily apparent in most case studies that there is something about a serial killer that is exceptional and usually off from a very early age. At no point are we shown that Hit-Girl has a built-in disdain for human life or a hatred for older men. She has a massive daddy complex, sure, but guess what: So do lots of girls.
She does, however, enjoy violence. But enjoying a bit o'the ol' ultra violence does not a serial killer make, not by default.
What's interesting about Hit-Girl is that she has ZERO sexuality. NONE. Even the winks and nods to male fantasy tropes amount to zero in effectiveness because she doesn't have it, it's not there. The blown kiss, the school girl uniform. She's not cashing in on the lust of the men around her, she's using her own guilelessness to make them uncomfortable or lure them into underestimating her. The doorman doesn't let her in to screw her, he lets her in so she can use his phone to find her mommy and daddy. They don't want to do her, they want to pat her on the head and give her a cookie, or shoo her away. She doesn't count, until she's stabbing them.
Back to a prior talking point, she enjoys violence, something girls, especially little ones, aren't supposed to do. People are up in arms over a little girl using that language and liking weapons and being violent, but to be honest, I think that's better than the picture she herself painted (over sundaes with her dad at the bowling alley) of an alternate 11-yr old's reality. One where she wants to own and idolizes Bratz dolls, and is taught through Miley Cyrus videos that the best thing to be is sexy and available to boys. A girl is just as likely to become a hooker from playing with Bratz dolls as she is a serial killer from playing violent video games- in fact, the social imperative to bombard girls with images that tell her she is supposed to be hyper sexualized make the former a much more likely prospect than the latter.
I've been babysitting a girl from age 7 to age 9 and I have tremendous difficulty dealing with that aspect of her world. That said, while, yes, killing people is bad, in the grand scheme of morality, I sorta think it's cooler to be killing violent drug users in your teen years than getting pressured into having sex or doing sexual acts with boys. ...have I mentioned lately that I'm completely well balanced and normal? I am. I swear.
The biggest problem with the character is that the film is constructed in a way that has the audience too busy cheering her on for anyone to mourn how tragic she is. There just isn't time, and even if there were, it's all a bit candy colored and kinetic for it. A half a scene with her ex-legal guardian telling Big Daddy something we already know- this isn't a childhood, and Mindy deserves one- doesn't quite do the trick. We're watching a little girl who's been turned into murderer hack'nslash her way across the kind of ordinance Spike Spiegel would have had difficulty with. But I was reveling in the action of it, not heartsick over what she was going through. So it's an interesting push and pull.
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. It may be charged with all kinds of controversy, but the fact that Hit-Girl's character, power, and appeal doesn't revolve around her or anyone else's sexuality is in fact the biggest step a female action hero (or anti-hero, or participant, in the least) has taken in some time.
Stop back in three days, when we talk about why The Losers was fun but Aisha was a wasted opportunity.