"Now, open my Hello Kitty bag, I think I’m coming up."
April 16, 2010 12:31 PM   Subscribe

 
It's interesting to read how uneasy reviewers have been with this. Kenneth Turan seemed legitimately disturbed on Morning Edition.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:35 PM on April 16, 2010


These men, and many others in the film, are really stone-cold dead.

Oh, Ebert. Oh, Ebert, Ebert, Ebert.

It's a movie. Everything in it is PRETEND.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:38 PM on April 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Then the movie moved into dark, dark territory, and I grew sad."

This reminded me of his review of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.

"There were times when I intensely wanted to walk out of the theater and into the fresh air and look at the sky and buy an apple and sigh for our civilization, but I stuck it out."
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:38 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Many children that age would be, I dunno, affected somehow, don't you think, after killing eight or 12 men who were trying to kill her?

You clearly haven't read enough comics.
posted by scrutiny at 12:38 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just wait until the video game comes out. He'll love that.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:41 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would have expected more from Ebert than "won't someone think of the children" nonsense.
posted by brundlefly at 12:43 PM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like Ebert's writing in general, but I've always tended to disagree with his reviews. I'll be seeing this this afternoon, as soon as I am done with work, and make up my own mind then. Note the he loved Inglorious Basterds, about which multiple objections can be raised in its use of violence and history.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:44 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clever girl.
posted by fijiwriter at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I really respect Ebert but, I mean, come on. Gruesome violence has been a part of media since god-knows-when. What about Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus? How about Grand Guignol? That and comics are a medium and have not been purely childrens' territory for a good thirty years now. There's no goddamn reason for a six-year-old to see this movie at all. Not in the theater. Not on home video. Period.

When kids in the age range of this movie's home video audience are shooting one another every day in America, that kind of stops being funny.

Really? Bullshit. Utter bullshit. Sure, they're shooting one another. They have been shooting one another. They will continue to shoot one another. But if it's a movie that sets them over the edge, there's a good fuck barrel of incredibly regrettable issues w/r/t socialization and parenting that precedes some kid picking up a gun and blowing away his peers.

We human beings in civil society need an outlet for violence. You can't ban it from society and expect it to disappear into the ether. It didn't work in Brave New World and it's not going to work here. Come on, Mr. Ebert. We expect a whole hell of a lot more out of you than Jack Thompson-brand alarmist logic.
posted by griphus at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm fascinated by the reactions people are having to Hit-Girl, because she's fucked up in the way a lot of characters are fucked up, she just happens to also be 11.
posted by NoraReed at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The one clip i saw with nick cage shooting her in the chest squicked me out.

This movie just looks icky to me and I don't think I'll watch it.
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Clever girl.
posted by fijiwriter at 3:47 PM on April 16


lol
posted by Damn That Television at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2010


Being disturbed is the appropriate reaction to disturbing movies. If you act blasé about movies like Texas Chainsaw (the original, I haven't seen the remake, I don't have much stomach for torture porn, just not what I want to do with my time), I think you're missing the point.

I understand the ethical dilemma reviewers like Ebert face: grisly and gruesome and amoral characters which exist in movies that solicit identification (not in movies like, say, Von Trier's or Fassbinder's, which are all about distanciation and intellectual disgust) and GET that identification are worrisome. I'm not making the "violent video games make you violent" argument, but rather, that the incidence of glorified, grisly violence in our cultural texts reflects something unwell about our culture, that the need for that kind of catharsis or rebellion is a leeeetle pathological. It's not a crisis in entertainment; it's a symptom of the culture. Facing that is disturbing.

I guess this impression is somewhat based on the convincing documentary I recently watched which linked the horror films for the late 60's and 70's with the televised violence and cultural trauma of Vietnam.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:50 PM on April 16, 2010 [22 favorites]


Kenneth Turan seemed legitimately disturbed on Morning Edition.

His review is generally positive though
. Most reviewers seem to be conflicted. That actually makes me want to see this more.
posted by HumanComplex at 12:51 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


WARNING: Ebert's review spoils the movie. Just a heads-up.

I was thinking of posting this, but ran out of steam after reading through various rebuttals. One thing I remember reading was someone noting that he had the same feelings in his review of The Professional, back in 1994. "But always at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action."

Rebuttal: Why my friend, Roger Ebert is dead wrong about KICK ASS by Harry Knowles. Not the same eloquence in writing, and it feels like Knowles is calling Ebert out as being out of touch with kids of today. Vadim Rizov (IFC) balances the two, seeing truth in both sides.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:52 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


...the incidence of glorified, grisly violence in our cultural texts reflects something unwell about our culture...

Has there been an era in a culture devoid of texts featuring glorified and grisly violence?
posted by griphus at 12:53 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]




The movie doesn't look disturbing to me. It just looks stupid. And I'm a comic book reader (although I've never read any of Mark Millar's stuff and from what I've heard, he comes off as kind of a second rate Garth Ennis).
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


And, while I haven't seen the movie yet, I suspect Ebert didn't just miss the point of the film, but did so even after looking straight at it and griping about it at length despite agreeing in full. Ebert makes Kick Ass sound like a Tarantino/Haneke cage match. I'm intrigued.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2010


"But always at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action."

I think the problem is more to do with putting an 11 year old actress in the middle of it.
posted by empath at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Mbantu tribe of the Peregrine Islands know nothing of violence, and solve problems through tickle fights. They also have an indigenous theatrical form called Mbwana, which is sort of like opera, but with more tickling. I remember a few years back there was quite a lot of outrage, because a production had an amount of tickling that was considered excessive, and children were forbidden from seeing it. Now they have a ratings system based on the amount of ticklings, their frequency, and duration.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Ebert isn't against violence, he's against violence by children, as a role-model for other children. He didn't like the fact she was remorseless. He wants children to be child-like an innocent, or at least feel something when they've just killed a room full of dudes. In other words, he wants some element of reality and morality in movies with kids.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:59 PM on April 16, 2010 [24 favorites]


Has there been an era in a culture devoid of texts featuring glorified and grisly violence?

But never has it been so accessible to so many who may be, because of age or IQ, be very impressionable. I watched my kids kick the crap out of each other after watching the power ranger shows and movies. You can't tell me that TV and movies don't have a huge impact on our children and society.
posted by brneyedgrl at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am intrigued by these tickle-persons you speak of...
posted by Mister_A at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2010


There's no goddamn reason for a six-year-old to see this movie at all. Not in the theater. Not on home video. Period.

I went to a 10pm showing of I Am Legend at my local Brooklyn multiplex/firetrap. About a minute before the film began, a woman walked in with three kids, none of whom looked over the age of four. They didn't seem to enjoy it much. The lowlight was when one of the boys shouted/cried "I wanna go home. I don't wanna watch him kill the dog." I really wish there was an NC-13 rating instead of the pointless R.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:00 PM on April 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think the problem is more to do with putting an 11 year old actress in the middle of it.

Eh, she'll see the "dead guys" get up between takes, or maybe even laugh when someone flubs their line or stub their toe. When you're making a movie, I don't think any of it seems real. The "movie magic" is missing, because you're one of the magicians.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]




I think the problem is more to do with putting an 11 year old actress in the middle of it.

empath, as far as I am aware, studios are legally required to have social workers on set when child actors are put into roles that may traumatize them.
posted by griphus at 1:02 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beah's harrowing journey transforms him overnight from a child enthralled by American hip-hop music and dance to an internal refugee bereft of family, wandering from village to village in a country grown deeply divided by the indiscriminate atrocities of unruly, sociopathic rebel and army forces. Beah then finds himself in the army—in a drug-filled life of casual mass slaughter that lasts until he is 15, when he's brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering NGOs.
---Starred Review, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
posted by bonehead at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


In other words, he wants some element of reality and morality in movies with kids.

In a movie about them being vigilantes ala batman? There are lots of places for a discussion on that but a popcorn action flick isn't on that list.
posted by anti social order at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2010


I mean, keep in mind that articulating that kind of complex cultural studies in media stuff is absolutely not Ebert's gig — he's limited to an extent by his duty to speak to the laity and make comprehensible pronouncements. Here, he's said "this is violent in a hinky way," without really establishing that sense adequately. You can disagree with him and with me that this is disturbing stuff, but the point is for it to be disturbing, so I don't see why you would. Likewise, I don't see why we'd hold Ebert to a higher standard. He's not a film academic. As a (greenhorn) film academic, it's outright apparent to me, and a motivator for what I do, that people take Ebert (or other critics) as having greater responsibility than they do, which I take as a symptom as well, that media consumers really hunger for a richer understanding of how and why these expressions happen, and how and why they work upon us each the way they do. *adjusts monocle*

Has there been an era in a culture devoid of texts featuring glorified and grisly violence?

Doubtful, but immaterial. Teleological arguments about the moral downfall of these kids today or feints toward contemporary exceptionalism are useless. The particular sort of violence in this example is the disturbing element (According to Ebert). "Why are we sensationalized and disturbed by violent, profane girls today?" is a more appropriate question, which can help us understand contemporary cultural conventions as they develop.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I saw it.

Thought it was great.

People just need to remember that IT'S JUST A MOVIE, AND THEY ARE ACTING.
posted by lemonfridge at 1:06 PM on April 16, 2010


just looking at the stuff here about the film, it seems Ebert's reaction to it is reasonable, and he expresses it reasonably. he makes clear what he doesn't like about it, but it's not like he says it should be banned or anything. i think i would be conflicted about it myself, but i don't pretend to define a solid line between what is acceptable and what is not; i love the kill bill movies, but i find reservoir dogs and some of the reaction to it kind of disturbing; i can't clearly articulate or justify the difference.

i think the interview is interesting in that there is a definite condemnation of sexualizing someone of this age, yet being disturbed about making her violent seems to be dismissed as a right-wing reaction, which i don't think is really fair. they seem to be trying to push it more toward potential reaction to a female in this kind of role as a kind of cover for the real reaction of a child in the role, but i imagine people would be as upset were it a boy. in any case, the authors knew they were waking a line with this, and surely they were hoping they would, so i don't think the criticisms should be viewed as unreasonable or prudish. i don't think it should be banned or censored, but i'm still happy that there are people around who are concerned about it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know about this movie, but the whole, knocking superheroes down a peg or two genre that was pioneered by the likes of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (who's still at it. Anyone ever read an issue of The Boys?), is getting kind of old. Pointing out that the whole idea of people dressing up in costumes to fight crime is absurd has gone from edgy to prosaic.
posted by dortmunder at 1:07 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note that Hit-Girls's drug use has been cut from the movie:
Kick-Ass: What are you doing?

Hit Girl: Activating “Condition Red.” Dad gave me this for emergencies and said it would give me the strength of 10 men.

Kick-Ass: Is that cocaine?

Hit Girl: No lame brain. It’s a super-secret chemical compound designed by scientists. Now, open my Hello Kitty bag, I think I’m coming up.
posted by bonehead at 1:08 PM on April 16, 2010


I saw the movie last night. I didn't have any particular expectations going into it (I haven't read the comic), but the movie still managed to be other than what I expected.

It's a weird mix of comic-book violence and very real violence that makes you squirm a little, which I guess is appropriate given the subject matter. And it follows the same arc you'd expect a comic-book movie to follow, but with human characters who you know can really die. I suspect this may be at the root of some of the discomfort people have with the movie—not just that the characters are regular people, but one of them is a (decidedly not) defenseless 11yo girl—who is a real scene-stealer. If so, it's a testament to the movie being able to strike an emotional chord in a way that Watchmen did not, since those were (mostly) regular people too.

I have to admit that the vulgarity that seems to offend some people flew completely under my radar—I guess I'm inured to it.

There are a lot of flaws one can find in the movie, but I still found it entertaining.
posted by adamrice at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


...knocking superheroes down a peg or two genre that was pioneered by the likes of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison ... is getting kind of old.

Have you read Morrison's Flex Mentallo? You pretty much just recited Issue #3.
posted by griphus at 1:10 PM on April 16, 2010


Eh, she'll see the "dead guys" get up between takes, or maybe even laugh when someone flubs their line or stub their toe. When you're making a movie, I don't think any of it seems real. The "movie magic" is missing, because you're one of the magicians.

I'm not saying its a problem for her, only that i can see why watching an actual 11-year-old girl say 'cunt' a half dozen times, covered in blood and being shot in the chest and playing it all for laughs could make someone uncomfortable.

I wouldn't think my nephews saying 'cunt' at the age of 11 would be funny or 'boundary breaking', i'd just think it was obnoxious and ask them to stop.
posted by empath at 1:10 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


That documentary you mentioned sounds interesting, Ambrosia Voyeur. What is it called?
posted by clockzero at 1:10 PM on April 16, 2010


He wants children to be child-like an innocent, or at least feel something when they've just killed a room full of dudes.

Kids still have those idyllic summer days by the fishing pond, skipping rocks and dozing in the afternoon sun. It's just that now the fishing pond is a good place for the kids to get rid of all the bodies of their victims, then doze in the warm summer sun and maybe catch some fish.
posted by chambers at 1:11 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


fuck i am getting old
posted by empath at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the second link: No one would care in the same if a 11-year-old boy said the c-word.

Really? I'd be pretty disturbed by that.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to think Ebert's worrying needlessly about kids as young as 6 seeing this movie (wouldn't most parents and theater owners are careful about young kids seeing films so rated?), and I haven't seen this film, so I'm speculating, but I can share his concerns about how violence is handled. The scene in the building lobby in The Matrix has always bugged me even where other violent scenes in the movie didn't. I think it's partly because the tone changes for that scene: violence isn't merely a fact of life in the narrative struggle, it's now... I don't know, cool. Some might say "glorified." It's about how awesome our protagonists are, how efficient they are while killing what are at best other human dupes/pawns -- and stylish while doing it. If the whole movie had been that way, I think my experience with it would have been dark and sad.

Or maybe just sort of numb, like with Besson's From Paris with Love, which I found fun enough, but it's only been a month or two and reflecting on the experience feels more like a a video game or amusement park ride, there's very little narrative I can hold onto in my head.

I've been hoping that Kick-Ass has some subtlety, the premise holds a lot of promise, but seeing the discomfort of even reviewers who professionally watch much of what Hollywood puts out doesn't strike me as promising.
posted by weston at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's difficult to review films objectively, no matter how long you have been doing it. If the film repels you on a gut level, that will influence how much of it you can bear to actively attend and color what you take away from it. Sometimes a movie is just Not For You. That's all I'll say about it. I know I am just not capable of being neutral about the deficiencies of technique or clever dialogue for some films. Some movies I like so much, I'll let anything slide, in which case I have to say "I love this film in an unreasonable manner." Ebert has been honest about that, which is as much as you can hope for, given how subjective people are.

I don't know if this movie is For Me Either. I'll go see it anyway. It might be fun or savage or depressing or all of the above. I like shocking films. It isn't about being made uncomfortable so much as making sure that I do not get complacent.

I'll bet you five bucks that I'll go see this before noon and see about fifty kids under the age of ten in the theater, though.
posted by adipocere at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2010


Ahem.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been hoping that Kick-Ass has some subtlety...

Not to be rude or anything but really?
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


Anyone who is expecting this to be any better than violence porn/gore porn/torture porn in a speedo clearly thinks too much of the source material and is a bit out of touch themselves.
posted by davros42 at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2010


If Ebert thought Kick-Ass making a young girl into a killer was disturbing, he'd better never, ever see Battle Royale.
posted by 7-7 at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Sorry, clockzero: The American Nightmare. It's on YouTube in parts, too. I watched this in a historiography class, to pick it apart — false canon, no regard for production considerations, but as non-fanatic for the genre, I think it's pretty good at doing what it sets out to.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ahem.

You're not seriously comparing one of the best movies of the past 25 years with a comic-book movie that no one is going to remember in 2 years are you?
posted by empath at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a great movie. Certainly the most poignant and touching drama I've seen since Zombieland.
posted by mullingitover at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2010


I'm watching Heidi right now. Any minute, Shirley Temple's gonna bite someone's larynx out, isn't she? And put a wooden shoe through their belly, filling its wooden cavity with blood, guzzling it warm, and letting it pool in her dimples and swirl down her curls? Any minute?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I first heard about this movie, I thought it was going to be all dark and gritty and fucked up. But the ads I've been seeing, they make it look like some PG13 romp, with kids dressed in bright colored uniforms, etc. The ads don't make it seem like it will be anything other then a fun kids movie, and kids will probably want to see it.

But I doubt it will cause much damage, I saw R rated movies when I was a kid and I turned out fine.

I'm surprised to see Ebert "Think of the Children". Maybe he's gone soft?
posted by delmoi at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2010


You're not seriously comparing one of the best movies of the past 25 years with a comic-book movie that no one is going to remember in 2 years are you?

In terms of quality, not even remotely. I love City of God, and will probably not be bothered to see Kick Ass. In terms of moral objection based on the effect on childred, yeah, they're about the same. Both films have an R rating, so they're equally likely to be inaccessible to children if parents are putting in even the barest effort. The only other objection that I can think of, then, is the effect on the child actors. The kids in City of God, I'd say, were exposed to some much harsher stuff than I expect little Hit Girl had to see.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:24 PM on April 16, 2010


"There's no goddamn reason for a six-year-old to see this movie at all. Not in the theater. Not on home video. Period. "

The couple in front of my wife and I at Hot Tub Time Machine had their three pre-teen kids with them.

Awkward.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:26 PM on April 16, 2010


In other words, he wants some element of reality and morality in movies with kids.

In a movie about them being vigilantes ala batman? There are lots of places for a discussion on that but a popcorn action flick isn't on that list.


anti social order: I think his (and other's) problem with it might precisely that it is a popcorn funtime movie except its a little girl doing the bloody avenging instead of, say, Uma Thurman. Perhaps this is baseless but the lack of compunction that the filmmakers showed about making the fight scenes and backstory so gory is both remarkable and newfangled: in the past they would have modified it so she's just beating them up cartoonishly, rather than cartoonishly slaughtering them. I mean literally if Pixar made a big screen film in which say, talking animated Bears had rough sex and ripped a Ranger's spine out, it might garner the same impassioned response. and i would see the shit outta that, just like i will Kickass: i am messed up. i spent the afternoon watching Cannibal Holocaust (link extremely nsfw watch out!).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:26 PM on April 16, 2010




Parasite Unseen: "In terms of moral objection based on the effect on childred, yeah, they're about the same. Both films have an R rating, so they're equally likely to be inaccessible to children if parents are putting in even the barest effort. The only other objection that I can think of, then, is the effect on the child actors. The kids in City of God, I'd say, were exposed to some much harsher stuff than I expect little Hit Girl had to see."

Possibly. Probably part of Ebert's objection comes from how the film is marketed. All of the posters are bright, cheery, comic book posters. All of the previews have been goofy comic violence and laced with humor. And then the movie beats the shit out of its characters.

You knew what you were getting into with City of God.
posted by graventy at 1:30 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


No one would care in the same if a 11-year-old boy said the c-word.

Jessamyn would care if that 11-year old boy tried to say it here on MetaFilter.
posted by stringbean at 1:31 PM on April 16, 2010


You go into a theater to watch a movie called "Kick-Ass" and you make a really socially awkward review talking about the message???? Wtf did you think you were watching?

lol
posted by bam at 1:32 PM on April 16, 2010


All of the posters are bright, cheery, comic book posters.

I'm in NYC and all the posters feature the equivalent of the main characters' severed heads, scowling and mounted with big blood-like colored splashes behind them. Kick-Ass is bleeding from the mouth on his poster. The non-red-band previews show Kick-Ass getting the crap beaten out of him real-life style.

Sure, the bright colors and shit might be attractive to kids, but there's no way in hell a parent paying attention would be even slightly confused as to whats going on.
posted by griphus at 1:35 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish it didn't have to be framed as a battle of wills between the wild youth of today!!! (as originally imagined by men in their 40s) and square old fuddy-duddies who want kids off their lawn. Ebert likes a lot of pretty out-there movies, and worked for Russ Meyer. So come on, let's put that bullshit to bed. I'm thinking he might have been okay with this film's excesses if it were, like, a better film.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:37 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like Ebert. Considering his recent illness, I think Knowles is a little out of line calling him a 'fat ass' even though he includes himself. And I think Rizov makes some good points.

My problem is with this (from Ebert):
"Also, you don't need to be great at hand-to-hand combat if you can just shoot people dead."
Well, actually, yes, you do. At least if you want to be able to do more than just have to shoot all the time. People train in the Tueller drill precisely because guns aren't the end all be all of interpersonal violence. That's a big movie myth.
The real problem - given one has the skills to wreak all kinds of havoc on 'bad guys' - is finding crime. You have to figure out where crime is going on. And do it better than the police. And get there before them. Without interfering in what might be a sting or undercover operation. And they usually take an interest in mass murderers. Even if the murdered individuals have sold drugs or something. And since they're professionals, they tend to be better at finding crime and dealing with it than most amateurs no matter how bad ass they are since it's not so much about being a maelstrom of destruction all the time.
So all that, yeah, that's unrealistic.

Kids perpetrating violence? Hell that's going on in Africa right now with child soldiers.
As for stylized, pick up some Manga. Plenty of sword wielding schoolgirl vampire cat whatevers righteously hacking their way though alien tentacle demon whatevers and giggling.
Ebert's been wrong before. But the morality schtick aside, I think he's also saying the film is shallow.
Meh. You have to have something to do sometimes in the popcorn stadium.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:38 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Probably part of Ebert's objection comes from how the film is marketed. All of the posters are bright, cheery, comic book posters. All of the previews have been goofy comic violence and laced with humor. And then the movie beats the shit out of its characters.

I disagree. Like I said before, I have not and probably will not see Kick Ass. I have, however, seen bus benches all over town that show various characters faces with grim or beat-up looks on a splatter-pattern background. I've seen the trailer, which clearly shows Hit Girl killing some dudes. There's nothing about the marketing of this movie that suggests that it won't be a super-violent romp for those who like super-violent romps, which also features children. I'm fairly out of touch with televised or movie media (honestly, before seeing this post I thought that Kick Ass had come out several weeks ago), but even I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Although I have to admit to the possibilty that part of that might have come from seeing Mark Millar's name attached to the project.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:39 PM on April 16, 2010


You'd be surprised what parents miss. John Waters always talks about parents who like Hairspray taking their kids to the video store and grabbing a copy of Pink Flamingos. One set of parents actually called the police a few minutes into the film.

Not that this is the fault of the film or the filmmaker, but there will be many very angry parents this weekend.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:40 PM on April 16, 2010


there's no way in hell a parent paying attention would be even slightly confused as to whats going on.

I've worked in movie theaters. Parents don't pay attention.
posted by empath at 1:42 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The BBFC extended classification information (WHICH CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS) says that "the predominant effect" of the one use of very strong language "is comic". It also says that "the comedic, fantastical tone of the film as a whole means that even the strongest moments of violent action have a lighter counterbalance."
posted by IanMorr at 1:42 PM on April 16, 2010


Haven't seen the movie. My impression is that the film is interested in shocking the audience with its casual immorality (specifically, a child who's been raised on vigilante justice murdering with relish). Where it runs into trouble with Ebert and others is that instead of saying "imagine if this disturbing scenario were true" and treating it with a degree of reality that's respectful to the viewer, it treats it like a sick pleasure. The name "Kick Ass" reinforces that it's all about fun, but it ignores (or perhaps has contempt for) the audience's gut reaction that maybe the premise of the film is sick -- probably both as a consequence of juvenile (hack) writing and as a marketing tactic.

I will not be seeing this movie.
posted by gonna get a dog at 1:44 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, how did this come out in the US 2 weeks after it came out in the UK? It's like I'm on Bizarro-Earth.

Anyways, I thought it was great. Literally the only films I've seen with Nicolas Cage where he wasn't shit. His Adam West impression was brilliant. Overall it was funny, the action scenes were great, and it was violent in a comic-book/Kill Bill-esque kind of way (severed limbs, people getting the crap beaten out of them). Soundtrack was good too.

I'm not saying its a problem for her, only that i can see why watching an actual 11-year-old girl say 'cunt' a half dozen times, covered in blood and being shot in the chest and playing it all for laughs could make someone uncomfortable.

She says it once FYI.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:45 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've worked in movie theaters. Parents don't pay attention.

This is no reason the studios shouldn't make what they do.
posted by griphus at 1:45 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


You go into a theater to watch a movie called "Kick-Ass" and you make a really socially awkward review talking about the message???? Wtf did you think you were watching?

lol


OH SNAP AM I RIGHT
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:45 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Everything in it is PRETEND.

popcorn action flick

IT'S JUST A MOVIE

etc.


I'm really rather wary of arguments that basically consist of 'Because I watch it for entertainment, there is no need to be concerned about the content.' Without coming down on either side regarding this particular film, I think discussions about what we do and do not consider entertaining as a culture, particularly as pertains to images of violence and etc.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:47 PM on April 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


Hit Girl totally makes the comic... I read the first couple of issues but did'nt really feel compelled to carry on (I tend to run hot and cold over Millar anyway). But I kept reading/hearing good things so I can back to it and was pretty much blown away.

Not seen the film yet, but anything that uses The Dickies' version of the Banana Splits theme for a fight scene can't be all bad.

Though Ebert possibly need to worry... I've heard rumours from movie bloggers that there's been empty midnight screenings... which has been put down to bad marketing.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:48 PM on April 16, 2010


This is no reason the studios shouldn't make what they do.

Every studio passed on this movie, FWIW.
posted by empath at 1:49 PM on April 16, 2010


I won't be going to see it. Millar's work, more and more, tends to be vacuous mash-ups of the works of better artists (Wanted, for example, was basically a DC Elseworlds with bits of Fight Club stuck in) that he successfully markets by pushing people's buttons. In this one, he's taking the Bride from Kill Bill and getting everyone to make a fuss about it by making her a kid.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:50 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, yeah, the marketing.

The first trailers I saw for Kick-Ass ("APPROVED FOR ALL AUDIENCES") made it look like half Superbad, half gooey-faced-Nic-Cage-and-adorable-moppet family movie -- enough so that I lost interest. I was talking about it with a friend who showed me the non-approved-for-all-audiences trailer, featuring all the ultraviolence and Hit Girl spewing mind-blistering profanity, and I thought, oh, I get it now.

The thing that really stuck with me was the vastly different impressions I got of the movie based on the two different trailers.

I saw the general audience trailer on a number of occasions at the movie theater. I haven't seen any of these ultra-bloody posters other folks here are talking about.

I am not terribly sympathetic to parents who take their pre-teen children to rated R movies, but in this case, I can totally understand how someone would get the wrong impression about the film because of how it was marketed.

Anyway, it'll be an interesting weekend.
posted by trunk muffins at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2010


I'm really rather wary of arguments that basically consist of 'Because I watch it for entertainment, there is no need to be concerned about the content.' Without coming down on either side regarding this particular film, I think discussions about what we do and do not consider entertaining as a culture, particularly as pertains to images of violence and etc.

Yeah, basically, if it doesn't mean anything, why make it and why watch it? If you want to make a defense of its artistic merit, go ahead, but "It's just a movie" doesn't fly for me. I don't think it should be banned. I just think it looks like a terrible movie.
posted by empath at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Everything in it is PRETEND. popcorn action flick IT'S JUST A MOVIE etc. I'm really rather wary of arguments that basically consist of 'Because I watch it for entertainment, there is no need to be concerned about the content.' Without coming down on either side regarding this particular film, I think discussions about what we do and do not consider entertaining as a culture, particularly as pertains to images of violence and etc.

I mean, it's an entire discipline in which I work, FYI. I know many people do NOT WANT to think about what they're consuming (I try not to be annoying with the omg how post-9/11 or whatever IRL), but it's a valid area of analysis. It isn't going away, and the same twits who say "oh it's all in fun, shaddap," still love the Daily Show's media ombudsman play, so there's no real logic to their dismissals. It's really kind of a personal thing, the way we respond to media. And within "the discipline," audience reception is the big, bad variable in any study.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:57 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The movie lives up to its name. I enjoyed the hell out of it... caught myself moralizing a bit, expecting it to conform to the typical morals of Hollywood movies... and then I got over it... it's far more fun not knowing exactly what is going to happen next. This movie has lots of death and destruction contained in a nice filling bundle.

My wife and I intend to see it again.
posted by MikeWarot at 1:59 PM on April 16, 2010


Every studio passed on this movie, FWIW.

The all passed on it when they read the script. Then the director / producer Vaughn went out and raised the money himself, made it and then sold it to Lionsgate (the story being for more than what he wanted in the first place...)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:59 PM on April 16, 2010


I'm with shakespeherian and empath. What do we gain by watching an 11-year-old girl involved in that kind of violence? After watching really violent movies I always feel worse about everything. But maybe I'm just a silly girl.
posted by bibbit at 2:01 PM on April 16, 2010


Burhanistan: "I was more traumatized by the child actresses' inteverview on Leno than I would be by any of the content in the movie."

Dude I hear you Leno is awful.

This is the newest poster I can find. Still pretty bright and vibrant if you ask me. And I hear what you're saying about the red band trailer but honestly, the only people who see those are fans who seek them out. They're seldom shown in theaters.

I'm with AZ. Lots of upset parents, dumb though that may be.
posted by graventy at 2:01 PM on April 16, 2010


Millar seems like the single worst offender of the brutality-for-its-own-sake trend that I consider a blight on superhero comics (but for all I know he's been surpassed, 'cause I've been avoiding him and that trend for a long time.) Won't be seeing this; won't be conflicted about not seeing this.

I try to avoid commenting in threads just to say I hate something, but for Millar's oeuvre, I'll make an exception.
posted by Zed at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Compare the regular trailer with the red-band trailer.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 2:03 PM on April 16, 2010


Millar seems like the single worst offender of the brutality-for-its-own-sake trend that I consider a blight on superhero comics

I don't think you're giving Miller enough credit. "I am the goddamn Batman." - is over the top nonsense for the sake of nonsense.
posted by graventy at 2:05 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if, just like porn has been shown to lessen sexual crimes, if these uber-violent movies/games are having the same effect on that side of our animal nature. Maybe it explains the random crime drop we are experiencing currently.
posted by frecklefaerie at 2:06 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mark Millar's work is popular because he's a demagogic talent who has, like nobody else, perfected the art of appealing to his audience's worst and basest instincts in a way that doesn't just absolve them from experiencing any guilt from the pleasure that comes with it, but even makes them think it's cool, because it comes with just enough of a "plausible deniability" sheen to shrug it off as satire, or as stupid popcorn entertainment that's not meant to be taken seriously.

I know everyone loves him, but to me, this quote could just as easily describe Tarantino.
posted by silkyd at 2:08 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]






Incidentally, I saw an advance screening of Scott Pilgrim, and was wicked disappointed by it.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2010



Incidentally, I saw an advance screening of Scott Pilgrim, and was wicked disappointed by it.


I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


What stereotype-breaking breakout role is Cera gonna do to revitalize his career in 8 years? I'm going with serial killer who uses the "George Micheal" act as a cover.
posted by The Whelk at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm really rather wary of arguments that basically consist of 'Because I watch it for entertainment, there is no need to be concerned about the content.'

I agree with you half way here. I think "It's just entertainment; it's not like it matters" is a silly thing to say (not to mention uninteresting). But why should content--as opposed to form--be the deciding ethical factor? Why do almost all moral arguments about film focus on what the film represents instead of how the film works as a film? As Godard said, "It's not blood; it's just red." I don't think his point was that cinema doesn't matter, but that it doesn't work the way most people seem to think it works.

Of course, I haven't seen this film yet, so I don't have an opinion about it one way or another (except that I kind of want to see it now). But I think our conversations about film in general and this film in particular would be more interesting if they weren't so fixated on film as a representational medium. It's not at all clear to me that representation is what film is primarily about.

But then I read Deleuze for fun, so YMMV.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, basically, if it doesn't mean anything, why make it and why watch it? If you want to make a defense of its artistic merit, go ahead, but "It's just a movie" doesn't fly for me.

I guess for me the thing that is annoying about reviews like Ebert's are that they seem to be focused almost entirely on the meta issues of what impact violent media has on people/children and the relative worth of violent media, rather than on the actual quality of the film within its chosen genre. I understand that reviewers base what they write on their own personal point of view and not what they imagine their audience wants to hear, but if I for instance pick up a review of the next shiny gadget that gets released I don't want to read a long rant from someone who would never buy it about whether or not gadgets are destroying our culture and how much better off everyone would be without them. As Ebert mentions in his review, he isn't at all familiar with the source material that the film draws from or really the whole ultra-violent comic book genre, so he comes off as an outsider criticizing something he isn't really invested in rather than someone who really gets the appeal but has reservations about the higher level issues.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just watched the Hit Girl trailer that starts with her and her dad in the diner talking about what she'll get for her birthday.

Is this film seriously causing all this fuss? It's clearly a bloody pantomime.

And she doesn't lace "the c-word" with nearly enough venom.
posted by knapah at 2:22 PM on April 16, 2010


The line between hilariously profane and violent 11-year old and disturbingly profane and violent 11-year old seems a bit thin.
posted by The Whelk at 2:25 PM on April 16, 2010


But why should content--as opposed to form--be the deciding ethical factor? Why do almost all moral arguments about film focus on what the film represents instead of how the film works as a film?

I'm not attempting to make any sweeping ethical claims about the content of film in general, but I also think that ignoring (or downplaying) the importance of the popular critical framework for film is at best an interesting academic exercise that doesn't allow one to say much that's usefully applicable to the greater cultural conversation. In other words, while Kick-Ass may be read as an exploration of genre conventions and the ways in which audience interaction and expectation inform a text, it's still necessary to understand that, for better or worse, the general movie-going public's primary (and, often, sole) approach to a film is through representation.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:29 PM on April 16, 2010


> Why do almost all moral arguments about film focus on what the film represents instead of how the film works as a film?

Well, I certainly don't think they should, but mostly the conversants in movie morality debates don't have an ethical position on film form or have any idea how ethics figures into it. And I'd question how much variation in film form there really is in wide-released fiction films right now anyway. There's just so much more to discuss in terms of content compared to form there. I mean, there's ethical discourse happening in productions, which stories are told, funded, how they're staffed, but in terms of textual analysis? I dunno if there's a lot of apparent need to dissect a film like Kick-Ass formally. On the other hand, yeah there's scads of formal concern to be given to... say... Mock Up on Mu.... or Give me Standard Operating Procedure and then we can do an ambidextrous deal.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:31 PM on April 16, 2010


Give me Standard Operating Procedure and then we can do an ambidextrous deal.

Yeah, let's talk about Guy Maddin or Hou Hsiao-hsien or something instead of this garbage because that sounds like more fun.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on April 16, 2010


She says it once FYI.

And how many takes did they do when filming?

Also, I read Ebert's review and I have to ask: That review spoiled it? Really? What part was the spoiler? Because if there's nothing to spoil in the movie other than what he revealed, what's the point of the movie?
posted by The World Famous at 2:41 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


won't somebody think of the children

That would be their parents' job.

The specific reaction to this film that frustrates me the most (haven't seen it yet, but I read the comics plus the first issue of the sequel, Nemesis) is the pervasive conflation of "kids in a movie"=="movie for kids." I really really really wish parents would learn that that is not always the case--same with animated films. "How dare they show x-y-z in a CARTOON!" Well, maybe you should find out what the movie is *about* before taking your children to it.
posted by tzikeh at 2:47 PM on April 16, 2010


Ever since I saw "The Professional", Natalie Portman's first star turn and a movie which I like on some levels, I've become more and more queasy about a trend I see in fanboy culture.

It's this image of young and/or young-looking girls committing or coming closer and closer to extreme violence (GoGo Yubari in Kill Bill 2, Buffy, River in Serenity). Psychologically, the reasons for this are pretty transparent (from the male fanboy perspective - why some women might like Buffy and/or River is a different issuey). It's basically a quasi-pedophilic misdirection, and that's what makes me so queasy about it.

It's no secret that sex and violence are related in the human psyche, both being essentially libidinous, emotionally charged, highly stimulating, activities, and both having associations with blood, power, etc.

Essentially, the "excitement" of watching Chloe Moretz blowing out brains and dropping c-bombs is that she combines two creepy insecure geek-boy fantasies in one: the fantasy of taking your revenge, trenchcoat-mafia style, on the jocks and suaves who tormented you in high school and the fantasy of getting the adolescent girl who wouldn't give you the time of day back then either. The fact that Hit Girl flirts with self-degradation by using the c-word in the first place (on men! not women! there's no sexism to see here!), is a "bonus".

The problem here is not "cause and effect" - that's where people like Ebert and parents groups get it wrong - it's not that movies like this one will cause kids and/or adults to become pedophiles or commit acts of violence. The icky part is that such regressive wish-fulfillment fantasies appeal to so many people in the first place.

To me this is a symptom, not a cause, of an American society rotting in its velvet suburban cages with no better outlet for their insecurity and disappointment than to identify with and slyly eroticize a tween girl. A tween girl who, you'll recall, lives for nothing more than to please her "daddy".

Hope all you guys who would never ACT OUT fantasies like the ones in Kick Ass feel good about yourselves. Yeah, this is light entertainment, but what specific things do your preferences in light entertainment say about you?
posted by macross city flaneur at 2:49 PM on April 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


She says it once FYI.

And how many takes did they do when filming?


If you read any interviews with her, you'll find she's quite clear that she should never, ever say that word in her real life, and has said that she never, and would never, talk like that, and her parents would kill her if she did (not really kill her, to state the obvious). So I'm not too worried about her.
posted by tzikeh at 2:50 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you read any interviews with her, you'll find she's quite clear that she should never, ever say that word in her real life, and has said that she never, and would never, talk like that, and her parents would kill her if she did (not really kill her, to state the obvious). So I'm not too worried about her.

Because child stars are never corrupted and irrevocably psychologically harmed even though they are taught to say in interviews that their parents are great people who would never let them do bad things?

Are you unaware of, say, every other child star, ever?
posted by The World Famous at 2:52 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the snootiest British reviewers seemed to love it, which I was a bit suprised for. I guess they're up for a spot of the old ultraviolence.
posted by Artw at 2:52 PM on April 16, 2010


The World Famous: "Also, I read Ebert's review and I have to ask: That review spoiled it? Really? What part was the spoiler? Because if there's nothing to spoil in the movie other than what he revealed, what's the point of the movie?"

I didn't read all of Ebert's review, but the "plot-twist", as it were, has been spoiled by the casting itself, really. And the posters. And most articles about the movie.

It's not something you'll notice until the person involved is introduced in the film, but at that point it should be pretty obvious, I think.
posted by graventy at 2:53 PM on April 16, 2010


The specific reaction to this film that frustrates me the most (haven't seen it yet, but I read the comics plus the first issue of the sequel, Nemesis) is the pervasive conflation of "kids in a movie"=="movie for kids."

The marketing contributes a lot to this, though. It's not just ignorance; I'd say there's also some level of deception. A number of people have pointed out that the trailers for Kick-Ass come across like Superbad meets superheros in a comic book comedy for junior high school kids, and that certainly doesn't make the issue any less confusing. I saw the commercials on TV and sort of wrote it off as another stupid kids' movie until I saw this post (it still looks like a stupid movie, but now it looks like a stupid movie marketed to the wrong audience).
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:56 PM on April 16, 2010


At least with Frank Miller (even at his craziest), or Garth Ennis or Warren Ellis (even at their most subtlety-devoid one-notery), though, you get the idea that there's SOME larger goal they have in mind; Millar's stuff most often reminds me of the kid in junior high who is endlessly entranced with the idea of feeding Alka-Seltzer to seagulls so he can watch them explode.

Yeah, that's about it, he's mainly about the people punching each others bodily organs out and swearing. Sometimes he's quite amusing with it, but mostly it's quite lazy and dull. Kick Ass looks to be on the amusing side.


He *is* capable of better, see Superman: Red Son or his run on Swamp Thing, but he's not really encouraged to be - people like the lazy and dull.
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I’m just saying that if you’ve seen some of the more popular and successful comedies in the last 4 years or so, you’ve seen plenty of kids cussing. But what we haven’t seen is plenty of white girls uttering this type of language and engaging in this type of behavior. Therein lies the aspect of this controversy that rubs me the wrong way. People accept, even condone, this type of behavior from white boys (filmic or otherwise), and who knows due to racial stereotypes regarding black hyper-masculinity, these same people may expect the same behavior and language from African American boys. What people won’t stand for is the same language to come from the mouth of a white (read innocent, protected, and treasured) girl. Hmmm . . .
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 2:59 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not seen the film yet, but anything that uses The Dickies' version of the Banana Splits theme for a fight scene can't be all bad.

It looks like Watchmen meets Lazy Town, and it may reinvigorate the old Banana Splits/Bob Marley debate.

What's not to like?
posted by Avelwood at 3:00 PM on April 16, 2010


Ever since I saw "The Professional", Natalie Portman's first star turn and a movie which I like on some levels, I've become more and more queasy about a trend I see in fanboy culture.

Yeah, i had the same reaction to reading Sin City. Or watching Neon Genesis Evangelion. Neither of which I finished. Fanboy culture is sick.
posted by empath at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Watchmen meets Lazy Town

Uh oh. Speed Racer flashback?
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2010



Hit-Girl Responds To The Outrage Against Her Teenage Ultra-Violence
Do you see yourself being a role model for them?

"No, I mean. It's a role model in the sense that it's women empowerment. A girl has never really been the hero really. Girls are always the damsel in distress on the railroad tracks. It's like [the saying] "You punch like a girl," then when you see Hit Girl, she's punching like a girl should. She's doing stuff that a girl should do, and that's how a girl should be seen, not just I like dolls and ponies."
The adults failed here.
posted by Anything at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw it a couple of weeks ago and it's a lot of fun if you don't mind violence. Hit-Girl is essentially Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Robin cranked up to 11, but that's fine, and the thing is with modern technology the indestructible action hero could be anybody - a 12-year-old girl, and 80-year-old man, a dog of any vintage at all.

It's certainly not as stylish as Tarantino, but whatever.

It's the most 2000AD movie I've ever seen, if you can take 2000AD as an aesthetic. At its best the amoral brutality of the 2000AD generation writers does call into question whether one's moral notions are just sentimentality, and I kind of respect the way it looks you in the eye and says offensive things to see if you flinch.

I have been wondering why British (in particular) fantasy writers are so fixated on having small-girl avatars in their work - it's something that seems to recur from Carroll through Pratchett, Gaiman, Moffatt, this... Interesting.

Anyway, the sheer wtf amorality of it is part of the fun. Is most of the fun, actually. Watching a twelve-year-old girl shoot lots of people in the face is quite liberating, not because you think they ought to, but because you know they won't, and being able to see that (when you know that others can't) is quite exhilarating.
posted by Grangousier at 3:04 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dunno if there's a lot of apparent need to dissect a film like Kick-Ass formally.

Well, I haven't seen it yet, but you're probably right that it follows action conventions more or less exactly. But I think when the content is so extreme is exactly the right time to talk about form. Because if there's practically no formal difference between a film like Kick-Ass and some other generic action thing that doesn't disturb people, that brings up some interesting questions. Like why was it okay to use this form to portray other kinds of equally morally questionable content but suddenly it's not okay when it involves an eleven-year-old girl? And why is it okay to use equally hackneyed hollywood forms to portray disturbing content involving children if it's somehow taken "seriously" (like in a historical drama or something)?

... ignoring (or downplaying) the importance of the popular critical framework for film is at best an interesting academic exercise that doesn't allow one to say much that's usefully applicable to the greater cultural conversation.

What if it's a polemical exercise that hopes to change the greater cultural conversation?
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 3:05 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


All the snootiest British reviewers seemed to love it, which I was a bit suprised for.

And Jeanette Winterson! Which I'm still in shock about...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:05 PM on April 16, 2010


I should probably add St Trinian's to my list. There's something hardcore St Trinians about Hit Girl.
posted by Grangousier at 3:06 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is light entertainment, but what specific things do your preferences in light entertainment say about you?

You know what? Fuck you. I am entitled to bizarre gory over-the-top movies if I feel like it and it says nothing about me but that sometimes it's fun to go see a grossly violent movie with a bunch of people.

I made plans to see Kick-Ass tomorrow. I hadn't read anything about this; knew nothing about this young 11-year-old girl who violently kills people and says the C-word. Now that I've gone through and read all the links, I'm pretty sure I'm still going to see it tomorrow, not because I endorse young people being violent but because I'm sure it'll still be a terribly fun crowdgoing experience.

I'm also able to enjoy a movie in the vein of Kick Ass and also like other kinds of light entertainment. I love the shit out of Hot Fuzz, which is one of the cleverest, funniest movies I've ever seen. And sometimes I have large group viewings of Synecdoche, NY, and it's an absolute blast. Or I'll watch The Room, which is offensively sexist, and still get a kick out of it, without feeling like I'm promoting a secret misogynist agenda.

I'd never heard of Mark Millar before. From everything I've now read of his works, I doubt I'll ever read his comics, or even approve of his artistic direction. But that personal dislike of over-the-top violence gets submerged in the crowd experience, which is all about adrenaline and larger-than-life experiences. It's like how I saw Avatar in IMAX and loved it, but can still safely say it's poorly-written and that I probably will never see it on a smaller screen. It's the experience and not the art that I'm looking for with things like this.

And you're suggesting that by watching young girls act violently I'm somehow encouraging pedophilia? Again: Fuck you. That's like saying I'm a pedophile because I enjoy Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone I'm encouraging child abandonment and disrespect to elders, when obviously I enjoy him for his terrible acting and semilisp and terrifying creepy smile. Or it's like saying when I watch the avante-garde Jam sketch wherein a young child violently kills a man I'm encouraging violence in youth. I'm capable of detaching myself from the literal happenings in a film, mkay? I can enjoy the content of something without necessarily enjoying the message it purports. I'm capable of ignoring the message if it would make me happier.

I go to see concerts. I just recently saw Joanna Newsom, one of my absolute favorite musicians, perform live in Philly. It was terrible. She felt uncomfortable on stage and added nothing to her show that made listening to her any better than plugging in a CD. Last year, on the other hand, I went to see a Streetlight Manifesto concert. Streetlight isn't brilliant. Their music's fun but not innovative and breathtaking and tearjerking. But they put on a hell of a good live show. I'll go see them again first chance I get.

Does that mean I'm encouraging the rise of ska music? Of course not! It means that there're some aspects of entertainment that matter more than artistic merit on a Saturday night. At home I've got Joanna, but I go out at nights, and some great things simply aren't good social experiences.

So if there was a new Tarantino flick out this week, maybe I'd go see that. But there isn't, so I'll see Kick Ass instead. And I'll make a bet that none of the people I'm going to see Kick Ass with are going there to get off to a young girl, or to get off to nerd revenge fantasies. Fuck you a third time for your presumptions.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:08 PM on April 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Fuck you a third time for your presumptions.

Your manner of response confirms the presumptions.
posted by The World Famous at 3:12 PM on April 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


This. To all the people who are all "Everyone knows what they're getting if they're paying attention", if you saw one of the first trailers for this, it really looks like "SharkGirl and LavaBoy and McLuvin" type of harmless fun. I was going to go see it this weekend, and this is the first I heard that it's all ultraviolent.

Same here. I can't remember what movie I was seeing when I saw the trailer for this, but it really just looked like a kind of silly/fun movie about ordinary kids putting on superhero costumes. The brightly colored ads in the NYC subway system didn't give me any other ideas about it. I'm surprised to learn it's actually very violent and not just silly kid violence.
posted by wondermouse at 3:12 PM on April 16, 2010


You know what? Fuck you.

dude, that's not even necessary. it was a legitimate point of argument not directed at you personally; there's a good argument that what we prefer to entertain ourselves with as a society says something about the society.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:14 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Millar seems like the single worst offender of the brutality-for-its-own-sake trend..."

Possibly, but I think Frank Miller set such a bad example that MillAr is just the first follower to come to our attention. Like we need more stupidity and ugliness in comics. (And I liked Kick-Ass...)
posted by sneebler at 3:17 PM on April 16, 2010


dude, that's not even necessary. it was a legitimate point of argument not directed at you personally; there's a good argument that what we prefer to entertain ourselves with as a society says something about the society.

To some extent, I agree. To a greater extent I think such arguments are flawed, because people think much less about entertainment than one would like to think; we're predisposed to preferring sensationalism, which includes violence, not because our society is violent but, as David Foster Wallace wrote in 1993, we vary in our refined tastes and are alike in our dumb ones.

macross city flaneur went a bit overboard, however, with his argument. A line like:

Hope all you guys who would never ACT OUT fantasies like the ones in Kick Ass feel good about yourselves.

is obnoxious and smug. If you disagree I'd like to hear how you're interpreting that, because that's the attitude that I think ought to fuck off.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:21 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Macross city flaneur: "Essentially, the "excitement" of watching Chloe Moretz blowing out brains and dropping c-bombs is that she combines two creepy insecure geek-boy fantasies in one: the fantasy of taking your revenge, trenchcoat-mafia style, on the jocks and suaves who tormented you in high school and the fantasy of getting the adolescent girl who wouldn't give you the time of day back then either. The fact that Hit Girl flirts with self-degradation by using the c-word in the first place (on men! not women! there's no sexism to see here!), is a "bonus"."

Burhanistan: "Rory Marinich is a very young man."

I won't drop the f-bomb just cause I'm suave like that, but yeah, I kind of empathize with Rory's feelings. If you like this movie, you're indulging in insecure creepy geek-boy fantasies? And then the whining about how it's symptomatic of society's decline. Yawn. You can accuse Rory of being young, but it's just as valid to say Metafilter is getting old and crotchety.
posted by mullingitover at 3:24 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think the movie looks dumb. Cute things beating the hell out of bad guys is beyond. played out. This controversy can only help it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:24 PM on April 16, 2010


You know what? Fuck you. I am entitled

Location: Philadelphia, PA

BRING ME MY TWEENAGE POTTYMOUTH KILLERS NOW OR THE GIRL IN THE FRONT ROW GETS IT *BLUARGHHH*
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:25 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


To a greater extent I think such arguments are flawed...

well, you know, people around here are pretty smart, and if you just say the argument is flawed, and why you think so, we'll get it. i mean, not to get all carly simon on your ass, but it doesn't bode well for your argument that people don't take violent entertainment too seriously when you get that hostile over and seem to take personally a simple point of argument.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:26 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory Marinich, You sure doth protest a lot.
posted by macross city flaneur at 3:27 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't want to go on a rant, which I easily could but I think Millar's gender/sexual issues can be summed up with the fact that this is a man who once said, "Rape is a rare thing in comics and is seldom done in an exploitative way."

Then he wrote a scene where a Batman stand-in anally raped a Captain America stand-in with a jack hammer.

Mark Millar is a bit like a modern day Stan Lee with ADHD. He's one of the best self promoters there's ever been and he knows that nothing sells better than something over-the-top. Whether it's the jingoistic representation of Captain America or the graphic spousal abuse done by Giant-Man in the Ultimates, the bizarre sexualization of Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, the Oedipal and misogynistic themes of Wanted, or, Hell, all of the Unfunnies Millar's goal is to give people something to talk about.

He's not really an artist. He's a marketing machine who creates product so that he has something to peddle, something that stands out from everything else. He has no moral qualms about putting things out there which are morally reprehensible without any narrative value. And I have no qualms about not caring about his work.
posted by jaybeans at 3:31 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


i mean, not to get all carly simon on your ass, but it doesn't bode well for your argument that people don't take violent entertainment too seriously when you get that hostile over and seem to take personally a simple point of argument.

Am I not allowed to enjoy my Friday nights of passionate beanplating? It's not like I'm some quiet user who only ever shows up in threads about shallow sensationalist movies.

If the argument was that people take violent entertainment seriously, then it wouldn't have so drawn my ire. But that wasn't the argument. The argument was that I want to see Kick Ass because I get off to revenge fantasies and violent pre-teens. And that's, you know, kind of dumb.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:33 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I first saw the trailers, I too thought it would be... well not so much a junior high romp as a movie about, you know, teenagers deciding to try being superheroes and who kick a lot of ass. It looked stylish and fun and when people started making the Superbad comparisons, my thought was, "oh because Superbad is the go-to movie for anything unexpectedly adult featuring teens, but there's no way this is as sick as that was" (and I loved Superbad.)

A few days ago I started hearing about what the movie is really like, and yeah, okay, the comparison is I guess pretty apt. I haven't seen it yet, and I've never read any of Millar's work. My roommate and his fiancee just got back from it and loved it, though. I'm still going to see it, because hell, I get a kick out of highly stylized on-screen violence, and the kid involved in it gives it another layer of subversive thrill. Actual violence, or even just verbal confrontations I'm not involved in, make me extremely uncomfortable and nauseous, but I love them on screen. I don't know why, but I'm also not going to feel guilty about it.

That said, if I'd gone into this with my original expectations, I'd probably have been thrown for such a loop that I wouldn't have enjoyed a movie that I'm pretty damn certain I'm going to love now that I have a better idea of what it really is. The marketing fucked this one up.

Rory Marinich is right, though. That wasn't a question of "why do we enjoy this?" It was basically a statement of "if you enjoy this than you are messed up," posed as some righteous bullshit.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:34 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, cut it out with the fuck-you stuff.
posted by cortex at 3:38 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't care who watches this film, but saying "it's just a movie" is akin to saying that "words are just words." The last time I checked, words have shared meanings and affect us in all sorts of ways. Saying this is a disturbing movie is in no way a Jack Thompsonian call for censorship, it is relating one's experience of watching it.
posted by mecran01 at 3:42 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I'm still going to see it tomorrow, not because I endorse young people being violent but because I'm sure it'll still be a terribly fun crowdgoing experience.

All anyone said was that the sort of entertainment you enjoy means something. They didn't say it means you endorse those things-- they didn't say what it means.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:45 PM on April 16, 2010


I think discussions about what we do and do not consider entertaining as a culture, particularly as pertains to images of violence and etc.

For myself, I was being more dismissive of Eberts pan as he seemed to want to start a dialog about children committing violence in an action movie or show some sort of consequences. Here, sure there is room for nuance and discussion, but in the flick itself?

That's just silly - like asking why there wasn't anything in District 9 about the macroeconomic effect the prawns had on the global cat food market. Not what the art is about, man.

the bizarre sexualization of Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass

I thought that in the interview the creators said she was written to be pre-sexual (ie 11). How did sexuality come in to this discussion at all? Seems weird.
posted by anti social order at 3:47 PM on April 16, 2010


I'm uneasily thinking someone out there is making (or already has made) the "X number of days until Chloe Moretz turns 18" as was done with Emma Watson.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:52 PM on April 16, 2010


They didn't say it means you endorse those things-- they didn't say what it means.

Really? How did you read this?
Psychologically, the reasons for this are pretty transparent (from the male fanboy perspective - why some women might like Buffy and/or River is a different issuey). It's basically a quasi-pedophilic misdirection, and that's what makes me so queasy about it.

...and in the next paragraph:
Essentially, the "excitement" of watching Chloe Moretz blowing out brains and dropping c-bombs is that she combines two creepy insecure geek-boy fantasies in one: the fantasy of taking your revenge, trenchcoat-mafia style, on the jocks and suaves who tormented you in high school and the fantasy of getting the adolescent girl who wouldn't give you the time of day back then either.
posted by SAC at 3:52 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


griphus: “I really respect Ebert but, I mean, come on. Gruesome violence has been a part of media since god-knows-when. What about Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus? How about Grand Guignol?”

I don't think that's really fair, considering that Ebert clearly understood the point of the film. I haven't seen the film yet (I assume you haven't, either) but I've read the first issue of the comic book, and the whole moral reaction is (as BitterOldPunk's really great link points out) entirely the point of the story. It's supposed to elicit this reaction. So it's a bit naive to say "oh, but there's been violence in stuff for generations!" - there has not been violence like this in stuff for generations, and frankly if you subtract the violence the whole moral center of the story (if you can call it that) dissolves.

This is what's interesting to me - in the context of freedom of speech, violence and bloodshed in media are flattened as much as they are in the context of moralistic censorship. To the censors, it's: 'this has violence, and everything that has violence and profanity must be removed!' To the free-speechers, it's 'this has violence, but plenty of valuable things have violence, so it's fine!'

The fact is that not all violence has the same quality. We're not talking about censorship here, so let's leave that off the table entirely - what we're talking about is whether something is worthwhile, whether it's morally focused and beneficial to the human spirit. I think there's a lot of latitude there, and it might even be impossible to define what's actually good for human beings; but I think it is possible to identify art that portrays bloody-minded violence with no good result. Titus Andronicus had violence, but it was not bloody-minded violence. I have seen death scenes, and even rape scenes, that did the moment justice and weren't degrading to the human spirit. But I've also seen violence in comic books and movies - sometimes less extreme than the 'good' violence, mind you - that was morally reprehensible.

But to see that, we have to step outside the frame of whether something is going to be censored or not. I know that we're all on the side of the crusade for freedom of speech. We're not talking about limiting anyone's freedom here, though - we're talking about art and its impact on society. And I think you have to appreciate the fact that there are certainly fine shades of difference between the many different uses of violence that we've seen in media.
posted by koeselitz at 3:52 PM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wonder if, just like porn has been shown to lessen sexual crimes, if these uber-violent movies/games are having the same effect on that side of our animal nature.
What? I remember a post on metafilter that showed people who used the Internet were less likely to commit rape or something like that, with the hypothesis that seeing porn made people less, but that's pretty thin. I don't think it's been "shown" that viewing porn makes people less likely to commit sexual crimes at all.

It's no secret that sex and violence are related in the human psyche, both being essentially libidinous, emotionally charged, highly stimulating, activities, and both having associations with blood, power, etc.

Um, what? Are you saying they're related because they both involve "emotion"?
You know what? Fuck you... Again: Fuck you. ... Fuck you a third time for your presumptions. -- Rory Marinich
Do you need someone to call a whammbulance?
posted by delmoi at 3:53 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


All anyone said was that the sort of entertainment you enjoy means something. They didn't say it means you endorse those things-- they didn't say what it means.

The implied meaning seemed pretty clear to me.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:54 PM on April 16, 2010


-- I mean, seriously. Anybody who thinks this is just another movie with some violence in it doesn't know the story - although I confess that the movie might be substantially different from the comic book, I don't know. But judging from the comic book, the extremity of the violence is the whole point of the story; so you can't really blame people when that's the way they react. They're supposed to react that way. This sure as hell isn't Titus Andronicus, is what I'm saying.
posted by koeselitz at 3:54 PM on April 16, 2010


When one is quick to dis Ebert, one is quick to dis oneself. He has loved plenty of violent thrillers that are well made.

But he has a long and distinguished history of panning movies he feels are lazy in what they do with a premise. For example, in his classic review of Jack Frost, where Michael Keaton comes back from the dead as a snowman, he made fun of the script for failing to consider the full ramifications of such a situation. Even though I loved Trek '09, I respected Ebert's crankiness about the film's failure to go deeper.

I think something like that is going on here. I also enjoyed his casual rejection of the cliché that a movie's existence is justified by its loyalty to a comic. That was funny.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 3:54 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


And while this movie may well be good, I'd rather have Ebert challenging filmmakers to do better in living up to the old standards, rather than following the rest of newspaper critics into a resigned acceptance of shit CG action films. When the critics started fawning over stuff like Attack of the Clones, it was sadder than the Democrats lining up behind Bush.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 3:58 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I kind of linked Ebert's review when I read it this morning to his famous review of Blue Velvet. Ebert's very sensitive to "ironic equality", particularly relating to women and violence. He gets frustrated pretty often at movies that justify violence with the protest that they were making an ironic statement.

I don't necessarily agree with his arguments (Blue Velvet's a film of extraordinary power that impacted me when I first saw it), but I understand where he's coming from. I just wish it wouldn't override the rest of his review when it catches his eye, because I'm sure he had other thoughts about the movie that got buried under his first horrified reaction, just as I'm sure he had interesting things to say about Blue Velvet that he'll never write.

Do you need someone to call a whammbulance?

This is the third time this week you've targeted your petty snark at me. Why do you feel the need to be ornery without providing any meaningful response? It bothers me.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:00 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are tons of messages, norms, and values embedded in light entertainment. And no one needs to be thinking consciously about them to absorb them. In fact, the vast majority of what you think, feel, and know has been communicated to you without your conscious awareness, and the normative power of popular entertainment is heavily tied to the fact that most people don't think about it the messages it contains.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:04 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The implied meaning seemed pretty clear to me.

Then I apologize for misspeaking. I certainly didn't suggest what this sort of entertainment says about individuals who enjoy it, and I think I was one of the first people who brought it up, so I was referring to myself.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:05 PM on April 16, 2010


Like most of you, I haven't seen the movie, but I'll withhold judgment until I do. As for the c-word, the director Matthew Vaughn and his screenwriter are British, and "cunt" is, in the U.K., equivalent to saying "muthafucka"; it's used in jest amongst friends. Different connotation here, to be sure, but maybe this will break the taboo. It's just a muthafuckin' word, you cunts.

As for the violence committed by an 11-year-old...it sounds like this movie glorifies violence without any morality attached to it. I'm not offended by this per se, but I like to consume art that has a moral balance to it, with consequences for actions, both good and bad. (Ok, fine, I like seeing shit blown up and people killed sometimes.) But I think it is different if children are doing the killing. Makes me think of third world countries and kids who have to kill at a young age and how wrong that is.

Maybe this is much ado about nothing. On the bright side, I think Vaughn is a particularly brilliant director, so I'll see it for that reason alone.
posted by zardoz at 4:05 PM on April 16, 2010


This is the third time this week you've targeted your petty snark at me. Why do you feel the need to be ornery without providing any meaningful response? It bothers me.

You really have no one to blame but yourself. Bang a dude's mom in a truck stop bathroom enough times, and he's bound to get angry with you.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:06 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was being more dismissive of Eberts pan as he seemed to want to start a dialog about children committing violence in an action movie or show some sort of consequences.

i think the notion of proportionate moral consequences is outdated (though it makes watching old films interesting, how they negotiate that). i guess i saw his argument as more having to do with the facts that (1) in just the bits of discussion by the filmmakers referenced here, part of the message of this movie is the empowerment of women; (2) saying this is an adult movie does not mean it won't be seen by kids--in fact, it will be sought out by them, and kids are going to see it; and (3) kids do have a tendency toward imitation when it comes to ideas they admire (back in my day, pre-teens admired madonna for her individuality, and they exercised this admiration not by dressing as individuals, but by dressing exactly like madonna). that's not to say kids now aren't more sophisticated or will be prone to violence because of it, but if we accept, for instance, that girls internalize messages about appearance because of stuff like magazine covers, then it might be reasonable to consider how they'll process a film like this that is praised by cooler adults and derided by prudes--like, say, their parents. maybe there's nothing to worry about at all, but i think we're better for having the conversation than avoiding it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 4:07 PM on April 16, 2010


but that is the same kind of thinking that enables games like RapeLay to exist

I guess, but I'm not really interested in that sort of thing, so I don't know, to be honest. Not intended as a cop-out, but I really don't know. I can't imagine why anyone who didn't fantasise about raping would play such a game, but then I've forsworn games since Prince of Fucking Persia ate six months of my life, so I don't really know from games. I certainly don't fantasise about being a prepubescent girl with a gun fetish, though Mark Millar might.

Hit Girl is not only not real, she's impossible and I suspect that notions of morality that presume to govern what we are supposed to think of impossibilities are really nothing more than prurient sentimentality - any relation to reality at all that she has is purely what the viewer wishes to read into it, and any offence they feel is as much offence as they want to feel. I don't see that much difference between her and Tom and Jerry or Wile E Coyote. Within the film this is contrasted with very real, painful violence (that is to say that results in the lead character's hospitalisation).

Whatever. There's a rich seam of amorality in British culture (which this is essentially a part of, despite the setting and the accents) - The Sex Pistols, Aleister Crowley and Jam* are only the first things to spring to mind. We tend to have a very narrow-minded and moralistic bourgeoisie, and shocking them is as easy as it is pleasurable.

Politically the amorality muscle is a useful one to keep exercised. Metaphorically - most doors are actually left open, and the only thing that stops you from walking through them is your own reticence.

And Hit Girl? She's mostly a bunch of pixels, sometimes a child actress, quite a good one too, as far as I can tell. But not in the least bit real.

*For example, this remix of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Princess Diana's funeral.
posted by Grangousier at 4:12 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]




I can't believe the reaction to this - I've seen a lot worse.

Everyone should go see it. It really isn't that bad!*

* although my date for the evening did feel sick at various points of the movie
posted by lemonfridge at 4:16 PM on April 16, 2010


Oh, and for me, the most violent and shocking scene featured Big Daddy and Kick-Ass. That was one part where I actually squirmed on my seat from the brutal violence.
posted by lemonfridge at 4:17 PM on April 16, 2010


And Hit Girl? She's mostly a bunch of pixels, sometimes a child actress, quite a good one too, as far as I can tell. But not in the least bit real.

I guess I should see the movie. Because I'm really, really hoping that the whole point of the movie is that Hit Girl is not real, but is instead a figment of the imagination of her father, who somehow previously caused the death of his real - and genuinely innocent - daughter by doing something horrible and is now attempting to atone for his sin that resulted in her death by exacting vigilante justice on people he perceives as being as bad as he was when he killed her.

But, based on the reviews I've read and the "spoilers" therein, I'm guessing that this Fight Club/Ferris Bueller theory of Kick-Ass is not actually substantiated in the film. Nevertheless, it would sort of justify the sort of film that reviews suggest it is. A film about a delusional father transforming his daughter's actual loss of innocence in his own mind by imagining it as a completely different sort of loss of innocence could be a powerful thing - and disturbing.
posted by The World Famous at 4:23 PM on April 16, 2010


Ever since I saw "The Professional", Natalie Portman's first star turn and a movie which I like on some levels, I've become more and more queasy about a trend I see in fanboy culture...

I find your claims a little spurious.

Can you cite a single peer-reviewed article in any reputable publication that backs up what you claim is "pretty transparent" psychology?

Can you provide more than five examples (some of which, I would argue, don't actually count) of what you claim is some sort of burgeoning trend in modern culture, or show that portrayals of violent young people have only started to surface in recent times?

Can you make your argument without referring to the "male fanboy perspective"? "Fanboy" is merely a pejorative term that oversimplifies and stereotypes the diverse interests of huge numbers of sincere fans all over the world, and not an actual demographic (this also goes for the poster above who seems to think that Sin City and Neon Genesis Evangelion are somehow linked).

Look, I understand that you might personally find certain types of entertainment distasteful, but I don't think that gives you the right to make ill-informed and incredibly vicious judgements about other people. I'm sure there are people out there who would think your interests were signs of some deep-rooted perversion (on a lighter note, I find it amusing that a poster raging about the eroticisation of young girls takes their name from the anime franchise that gave us Lynn Minmay), but in the interests of freedom and civility I'm sure they generally refrain from saying so.
posted by fearthehat at 4:26 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you're going to hate Mark Millar, hate him for Wanted. I watched that movie for some dumb reason, then went back and read the comics to see if they were any better, but they were in fact even more morally deprived. It was just like what was said above, about kids that feed alka seltzer to pigeon.

The Millar stories aren't bad per se. In fact, if you read super hero comic books regularly, it would do you good to read Wanted, or Kick-Ass, or the upcoming Nemesis.

I don't think Kick-Ass is even remotely as bad as Wanted. I actually enjoyed Kick-Ass a lot. Behind all of its 12-year-old-little-girl violence, there is a good question that is answered, and there is some heart in it, even if there is a lot of stuff in there just for shock value.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:27 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I should see the movie. Because I'm really, really hoping that the whole point of the movie is that Hit Girl is not real
I should probably stop, because I suspect I'm being more noise than signal, but to be clear: within the context of the film, she's perfectly real. What I mean is that the existence of this character has no impact on reality whatsoever.
posted by Grangousier at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2010


Um, what? Are you saying they're related because they both involve "emotion"?

No, I'm saying they're related because of the many reasons I listed. They are emotionally charged, related to "libido", or the desiring, power-expressing parts of ourselves, and they have related visual triggers - blood, hair flying, body parts extending and retracting, etc. At its foundation it's the same reason dancing so easily becomes a field of sexual expression, or sport. Which is not to say that violent activity is always about sex, but that it has that expressive potential, and, intended or not, often expresses sexuality.

And indeed, this trend of fetishizing violent female characters seems to me highly tied to an effort to covertly sexualize them. Frankly, it isn't even very covert in most cases. In Chloe Moretz's case, this is complicated by the fact that she is such a young girl, and the directors seem to be explicitly using her youth as evidence that they "can't" be sexualizing her. Whether that's true or not depends on the movie, and I haven't seen the movie (and probably won't), so I can't judge. But just the fact that the argument has already been made that she "can't" be sexualized because of her age makes me suspicious. She most certainly can be sexualized at 11, but the directors are hoping that anyone who wants to make this claim will be afraid of being implicated in having a "pedophilic imagination". It's a very shifty maneuver, and it's why it makes me suspicious of them.

All anyone said was that the sort of entertainment you enjoy means something. They didn't say it means you endorse those things-- they didn't say what it means.

The implied meaning seemed pretty clear to me.


I did not say that "everyone" who sees this movie is going to have the same reaction to it, or is seeing it for the same reasons. I, for one, said that I'd seen "The Professional", and liked aspects of it, but that it was the beginning of my becoming aware of this trend. So already that's one example of the different reactions that viewers can have.

However, I did implicate the broader "fanboy" culture in suspect reasons for embracing movie after movie with this kind of character in it. And I concluded by saying you should "ask yourself" what drives your preferences in movies. Frankly, the folks who've asked themselves that and posted angrily here have done nothing to de-implicate themselves.

But that doesn't mean that people don't have different reasons for liking the things they like.

And it also doesn't mean that you can't like something for reasons you know are relatively wrong. I, for one, am a smoker. I keep smoking. I know why I smoke on a lot of levels - chemical, psychological, and most of those reasons don't reflect very well on my character. The point is we can like things while also being critical of our own reasons for liking them. Some people call this the "critical mindset".
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:30 PM on April 16, 2010


Yeah, there really is no upside to Wanted.
posted by Artw at 4:32 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


cortex: "Seriously, cut it out with the fuck-you stuff."

Just send Hit Girl over to there places to learn them some manners.
posted by bwg at 4:33 PM on April 16, 2010


Ugh ... 'their' places ...

Interweb make me stoopid.
posted by bwg at 4:34 PM on April 16, 2010


It's this image of young and/or young-looking girls committing or coming closer and closer to extreme violence (GoGo Yubari in Kill Bill 2, Buffy, River in Serenity). Psychologically, the reasons for this are pretty transparent (from the male fanboy perspective - why some women might like Buffy and/or River is a different issuey). It's basically a quasi-pedophilic misdirection, and that's what makes me so queasy about it.

These depictions only stand out because media violence ("fanboy" oriented or otherwise) is more often associated with adult males.

Are there transparent psychological reasons for that as well?
posted by brundlefly at 4:35 PM on April 16, 2010


It's the most 2000AD movie I've ever seen, if you can take 2000AD as an aesthetic.

RoboCop and Hardware would take some beating there. As would the last episode of Who, though in a very different way.
posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on April 16, 2010


I should probably stop, because I suspect I'm being more noise than signal, but to be clear: within the context of the film, she's perfectly real. What I mean is that the existence of this character has no impact on reality whatsoever.

Yeah, that's what I was afraid of. While it is a trope, I imagine that the "she was a figment of his imagination because of a much darker backstory than you imagined" thing could really suit this film.
posted by The World Famous at 4:37 PM on April 16, 2010


While it is a trope

An overplayed, boring, yawntastic one at that, now up there with "they were actually dead all along and this is the afterlife/they are ghosts!" and "actually the ones you thought were sane are crazy!" in terms of cack-handed laziness.
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on April 16, 2010


The last two tweets that turned up for me in Tweetdeck:

If an 11-year-old girl can can say "cunt" in "Kick-Ass," can I tell you on Twitter it's one reason I despise the movie?
Roger Ebert

Kind of fascinating to think that this is the weekend where Mark Millar starts to become super-rich.
Warren Ellis
posted by Grangousier at 4:43 PM on April 16, 2010


An overplayed, boring, yawntastic one at that, now up there with "they were actually dead all along and this is the afterlife/they are ghosts!" and "actually the ones you thought were sane are crazy!" in terms of cack-handed laziness.

Exactly. So it would be perfect for this kind of movie.
posted by The World Famous at 4:44 PM on April 16, 2010


And how many takes did they do when filming?

The poor child will be blighted for life.

I wonder how many children you are familiar with, if the idea of a child saying the bad words disturbs you so much. Best you stay away from playgrounds or your head might esplode...though they do tend to cut down on the profanity when there are grownups around.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:52 PM on April 16, 2010


knocking superheroes down a peg or two genre that was pioneered by the likes of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (who's still at it. Anyone ever read an issue of The Boys?)

Yes, and when I did, it was written by Garth Ennis, not Mr. Morrison.

I do admit that's an easy mistake, though, at this late date in the darker-n-grittier conversation.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:54 PM on April 16, 2010


Can you cite a single peer-reviewed article in any reputable publication that backs up what you claim is "pretty transparent" psychology?

The fact that sex and violence are related is taken by most psychologists, critics, and artists to be so obvious that no one bothers "stating" it most of the time. A sort of locus classicus would be Freud, I guess. I'm no cognitive scientist, and I'm not going to bother taking your bait and finding articles that would neuroscientifically back up the notion that related neurons are firing, but I bet that evidence is out there. If you care to find contradictory evidence, I'd love to be enlightened.

Can you provide more than five examples (some of which, I would argue, don't actually count) of what you claim is some sort of burgeoning trend in modern culture, or show that portrayals of violent young people have only started to surface in recent times?

The fact of violence is not what's at issue here. What's at issue is a very recent trend in the portrayal of especially young women, or young-looking women, committing violent acts. Violence is certainly present in, for example, dramatic art going back to ancient Greece, but the manner and context of the presentation is not the same. Violent portrayals vary in countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways throughout history, and across culture at a given moment.

Fantasies of female "jeopardy" are not new (though their extreme popularity dawned in the late 19th century). Nor is the fetishization of youthful looking women (the ingenue, schoolgirl, etc). Mostly I was correlating the youth of these figures and the fact of they're being "jeopardized", but it's also that they're "kicking ass". If I had to analyze it further, I would say that certain (cynical) men have simply seized on this thematic of women "giving as good as they get" to extend themes and images of female jeopardy that would now seem patently outdated and sexist if they were presented in their "classical" (i.e. pre-feminist movement) form. And now, going beyond that, they see that this image of "empowerment" can be further used to cover the fetishization of younger and younger women, something that even the Grand Guignol shied away from.

But it's subtle. Obviously Ripley in Alien, Aeon in Aeon Flux, or Xena in Xena Warrior Princess are completely different kinds of action heroes than Chloe Moretz, and different from each other, both in the way they fight and they way they are sexualized. Physically "strong" women can be strong characters, but its not equal to being a strong character.

As far as five examples , in addition to the Kill Bill, Buffy, and Serenity examples I gave above, I would also cite the general "Japanese school girl ass-kicker" trend which is in tons of anime, Claire Bennett in Heroes, and Anna Paquin's character in Trueblood. And yes, a lot of these shows are particularly beloved by "fanboy" or "geek" culture.

There are many women action hero characters out there, but the youngest and most sexualized always seem to be coming from the shows that are beloved by this particular subculture.
posted by macross city flaneur at 5:04 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


t's pretty weird how people get all touchy just because you imply they're pedophiles

But that's exactly why it's telling. I precisely didn't imply these individuals were pedophiles, and most people on the thread didn't interpret me as meaning them, whether they liked the movie or not.

Those who did interpret me as specifically targeting them were precisely having an unusually strong reaction.
posted by macross city flaneur at 5:09 PM on April 16, 2010


Adds "It really annoys prissy yanks" to reasons to see this as soon as possible.
posted by Artw at 5:10 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, mcf, there's a lot to respond to here, but I'm kinda eating pizza and stuff so let me just ask the first question that comes to mind: Isn't Anna Paquin like 30 by now?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:10 PM on April 16, 2010


I'd rather have Ebert challenging filmmakers to do better in living up to the old standards, rather than following the rest of newspaper critics into a resigned acceptance of shit CG action films.

what

posted by Sys Rq at 5:12 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Punk as fuck.
posted by Artw at 5:13 PM on April 16, 2010


Adds "It really annoys prissy yanks" to reasons to see this as soon as possible.

Careful going down that road, as it will lead you to see far more Nic Cage movies than anyone ought to.
posted by The World Famous at 5:14 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


for a girl making this kind of movie, i would hope a master class with jodie foster and drew barrymore is part of the deal. was kinda sketchy for drew there for a while, but those ladies have been through some shit and are to be admired for coming out of it so well.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:14 PM on April 16, 2010


Face/Off is a triumph!
posted by Artw at 5:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I did not say that "everyone" who sees this movie is going to have the same reaction to it, or is seeing it for the same reasons. I, for one, said that I'd seen "The Professional", and liked aspects of it, but that it was the beginning of my becoming aware of this trend. So already that's one example of the different reactions that viewers can have.

Honestly, your reaction to Léon is just as disturbing and bizarre as your reaction to Kick-Ass. If a little girl with a gun is perceived, by you, as a "covert attempt to fetishize", well, that's your own personal squick, and not in the movie. Unless there are some extended shots of her licking guns in there, or something.

The reaction is the pathology, here. Leon is a movie with a plot so tired it is one giant cliche, made somewhat unusual by the fact that the child is female. Kick-Ass is exactly the same - if the lead was male, nobody would bat an eye. But girls are supposed to be playing with dolls, guns are for boys!
posted by mek at 5:15 PM on April 16, 2010


I didn't realize that "11-year-old is trained by father to be a mass murderer" was a "plot so tired it is one giant cliche." Can you provide, say, 4 or 5 examples of other movies that have that plot? Not that 4 or 5 is sufficient to form a tired cliche, mind.
posted by The World Famous at 5:19 PM on April 16, 2010


Kick-Ass is exactly the same - if the lead was male, nobody would bat an eye.

really? i mean, not sarcastically, but considering it, i imagined that i would react the same way. i figured the public reaction to it would be more memories-of-columbine-ish. but maybe there are some solid examples of it already that i'm not thinking of.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2010


Drew Barrimore was in ET, which was twee as fuck. Surely that would support the argument that if you're a child actor you should be in something as violent and sweary as possible?

Fun fact: Drew Barrimore's borthday is 3 days off of mine. I don;t know what being in the movie was like, but watching it aged 7 or 8 I would definately have prefered it if it featured more random shootings and gore.
posted by Artw at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2010


macross city flaneur: "It's basically a quasi-pedophilic misdirection, and that's what makes me so queasy about it."

"I precisely didn't imply these individuals were pedophiles"

*golf clap*
posted by mullingitover at 5:24 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


i was thinking drew barrymore in a going-through-adult-shit-at-a-young-age sense, and jodie foster on the acting-in-heavy-duty-adult-shit-and-having-pervs-try-to-assassinate-people-for-you sense.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2010


This is the third time this week you've targeted your petty snark at me.
I don't think that's correct, this is the only other thread we've both participated in in the past seven days. (Also this is my most recent reply to one of your comments, which was 8 days ago and simply pointed out a mistake you made in a non-snarky way.)
I guess I should see the movie. Because I'm really, really hoping that the whole point of the movie is that Hit Girl is not real, but is instead a figment of the imagination of her father, who somehow previously caused the death of his real - and genuinely innocent - daughter by doing something horrible and is now attempting to atone for his sin that resulted in her death by exacting vigilante justice on people he perceives as being as bad as he was when he killed her.
Hmm, reading the thread from the bottom up I thought you guys had spoiled the film. Not that it matters since I think this movie looks pretty silly and I don't even know if I'll see the film. I feel like George Costanza's dad, I don't want to hear spoilers even about movies I might not ever see.
No, I'm saying they're related because of the many reasons I listed. They are emotionally charged, related to "libido", or the desiring, power-expressing parts of ourselves, and they have related visual triggers - blood, hair flying, body parts extending and retracting, etc
You're not going all Jungian are you? The fact that two concepts are linked in 19th century psychology doesn't have much bearing on anything. If you just mean that they are both visceral as opposed to, say, intellectual that's still not saying much. A lot of things are visceral.

I also think you're falling into a trap of only thinking about male sexual response. Leading men, even violent ones, have always been sexual fantasies for women. So doesn't it stand to reason that the opposite would be true when you have more female leads? If so, what's wrong with that?

Trying to restrict those roles to men in order to avoid "sexualizing" them (i.e. having men get turned on by them) is sexist. It's not a major deal but it is annoying.
really? i mean, not sarcastically, but considering it, i imagined that i would react the same way.
Are you sure? Because there are male characters in the movie, in fact Hit Girl isn't even the title character, the main is the eponymous Kick Ass! But no one is talking about the violence perpetrated by him or any of the other male characters (he's apparently a high-school student in the movie)
posted by delmoi at 5:30 PM on April 16, 2010


lemonfridge: “It really isn't that bad!”

Then it totally failed to capture the spirit of the comic book. Hell, I'd even say that if you came out feeling like it "isn't that bad," the movie must have been totally counter to what the comic book was apparently trying to do.
posted by koeselitz at 5:31 PM on April 16, 2010


I feel I should defend my original comment, which has been taken completely out of context and conflated with someone else's, so here goes:

Ebert's statement, "These men, and many others in the film, are really stone-cold dead," is false. No one died making this film; it is not a snuff film.

That's all I was saying. It wasn't a defense of the film.

Though, for what it's worth, I do take issue TO THE EXTREME with Ebert's moralistic screed about a work of fiction. I like and respect Ebert a great deal, but I especially like him when he doesn't sound like a book-burner.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:36 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you sure? Because there are male characters in the movie...

no, but that's why i said 'imagined'...i haven't seen the movie and wasn't aware there were pre-teen males doing the same thing, and i just can't recall offhand movies where pre-teen boys have killed a bunch of people and nobody got upset over it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:38 PM on April 16, 2010


(or i guess pre-teen isn't accurate...)
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2010


jodie foster on the acting-in-heavy-duty-adult-shit-and-having-pervs-try-to-assassinate-people-for-you sense

Also, she was mauled by a lion!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2010


> why is it okay to use equally hackneyed hollywood forms to portray disturbing content involving children if it's somehow taken "seriously" (like in a historical drama or something)?

I say it isn't, not necessarily. And it isn't necessarily egregious in low culture pulp, either. It's definitely a context-based, somewhat personal call, which really requires thoughtful engagement to be convincingly argued. It's all too easy to laud challenging ethical content when it's paired with highbrow aesthetic sensibilities, but the ethics in such a text remain worthy of analysis and critique. That dichotomy you're citing is sensational itself and representative of an overly black and white divided tendency in our entertainment culture. It's not something respected by invested debaters. Sorry to be a Suzy Sensible about it.

As a brief for instance, this film and Battle Royale. Well, is this film a dystopian fable too?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: “Though, for what it's worth, I do take issue TO THE EXTREME with Ebert's moralistic screed about a work of fiction. I like and respect Ebert a great deal, but I especially like him when he doesn't sound like a book-burner.”

I tried to say this before, but: you don't have to be a moralistic censor to find some violence gratuitous and even "morally reprehensible." In fact, it's a little cute to me that some people are still feel so personally involved in the freedom-of-speech thing that they'll defend works they don't seem to know much about from criticism that didn't even imply censorship of any kind.

Again, the whole point of Kick Ass is to shove this stuff in your face and insist that when speech is free, nothing is immoral. You might agree with the comic/film's premise on this point, but it's more than a little naive to side with it like that before you've actually engaged the work at all. Seriously, please contemplate this for a moment: setting aside even the possibility of censorship (because, again, that's not even an issue here - when was the last time Ebert got a movie banned?) have you ever seen a work of art in any genre that you thought was immoral, or that said something untrue about the human spirit, or that was simply bad for people? I don't like Mark Millar's work because he seems almost smart enough to see what he's doing here - he's daring people to enjoy stuff that they see as immoral. Think of the worst thing you've ever seen in a movie or a comic book, the thing that brought you closest to saying it was morally wrong - Mark Millar wants to put that in front of you and make you think it's cool. Some people think that's really awesome. I think it's manipulative and sadistic, personally.

So you can complain all day about how Ebert's being moralistic, but I don't think you can say he's missed the point. He's gotten the point perfectly. That moral question is the whole theme of Kick Ass. Again, I think it's a theme that's presented in a sick and inhumane way. Maybe that makes me a moralist; I don't know. But I suspect that "raising questions" like this is supposed to be part of the Millar experience, whatever the hell that is.
posted by koeselitz at 5:49 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


The film is fun. That is all.
posted by jonnyploy at 5:49 PM on April 16, 2010


In fairness, I am increasingly unsure that real children should appear in movies at all. It just doesn't seem to end well for them. I propose that all future films that include child characters feature "children" that are actually motion-capture CGI creations. (Who has your back, Andy Serkis? That's right. It's this guy.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:51 PM on April 16, 2010


In fact, it's a little cute to me that some people are still feel so personally involved in the freedom-of-speech thing that they'll defend works they don't seem to know much about from criticism that didn't even imply censorship of any kind.

It's "a little cute" that you don't consider self-censorship a kind of censorship. Ebert is advocating self-censorship. I find that morally reprehensible.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:54 PM on April 16, 2010


hehe. So at this point, I'm awfully curious to see the film, right? And I'm thinking "maybe this is one of those times I should buy a ticket for something else so I don't send a cent the direction of the picture I really want to see, because it's a Bad Object, like the time I paid for Joe Dirt to see AI." (Yeah, I can be ridiculous and petulant) and then I realize -- oh, no, how could I possibly go to the megaplex and see Kick-Ass?? Ghost Writer is playing and I really truly do want to, nay have to see Polanski's-- oh. Oh dear. Think of the children...

Now that's an ethical dilemma.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:57 PM on April 16, 2010


It's "a little cute" that you don't consider self-censorship a kind of censorship. Ebert is advocating self-censorship. I find that morally reprehensible.

Reprehensible, really?
posted by empath at 5:59 PM on April 16, 2010


I'd avoid Ghost Writer because after all the nicely done build up it falls to peices completly at the end, TBH.
posted by Artw at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2010


Sys Rq: “It's "a little cute" that you don't consider self-censorship a kind of censorship. Ebert is advocating self-censorship. I find that morally reprehensible.”

What in god's name is "self-censorship"? Seriously, it sounds like you're trying to argue that art has no value in any sense whatsoever - that it is merely abstract, and has nothing to do with the way humans live their lives. Maybe to you, but I like art.
posted by koeselitz at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2010


Do you think that Ebert should have refrained from advocating self-censorship? I'm not sure what you would call that.
posted by empath at 6:00 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Ambrosia Voyeur: “So at this point, I'm awfully curious to see the film, right?”

I'm going to see it tomorrow. And, yeah, I'm pretty curious.
posted by koeselitz at 6:03 PM on April 16, 2010


I mean, isn't 'self-censorship' just another word for 'editing'?
posted by koeselitz at 6:04 PM on April 16, 2010


What in god's name is "self-censorship"?

Dude, I didn't invent the phrase out of thin air.

Seriously, it sounds like you're trying to argue that art has no value in any sense whatsoever - that it is merely abstract, and has nothing to do with the way humans live their lives. Maybe to you, but I like art.


I have no fucking idea where that came from. What are you responding to? I spent seven years in university studying fine arts. I kind of like it too.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:06 PM on April 16, 2010


It's "a little cute" that you don't consider self-censorship a kind of censorship. Ebert is advocating self-censorship. I find that morally reprehensible.

Ohhhhhhhh, no, Ebert's actually advocating that artists have a sense of personal responsibility about their work. Whether this is a good way to produce spiritually enriching work, a good way to produce bland work, or just a way to produce no work at all is the subject of some debate, but I'm pretty sure that Ebert's on the same page here as this gentleman.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:06 PM on April 16, 2010


(I should back up and say: I'm sort about the "a little cute" bit. Not really fair, and certainly way too derisive and derogatory. I didn't realize it at the time, but that sounds really belittling. Sorry, Sys Rq - I honestly don't want to escalate this into a shitfest, I find the discussion interesting.)

Sys Rq: “I have no fucking idea where that came from. What are you responding to? I spent seven years in university studying fine arts. I kind of like it too.”

I didn't explain that very well, I guess, but - doesn't it seem possible for art to have some moral value? For it to be morally good or morally bad, at least in certain circumstances? You seem to be seeing all of this within the frame of censorship - but Ebert's seen a lot of movies in his life that he's reviewed poorly, and I never thought he was arguing for censorship. Is quality possible in art? Or is art merely abstract, having nothing to do with the way people live their lives?

As far as the "self-censorship" goes, I'd never heard that curious phrase (sorry) but it's interesting to me. I looked over here at this wikipedia page on it - I guess what you mean is that people shape their art with their audience's sensibilities in mind. Which is an odd thing to find morally reprehensible, honestly; I though all artists did that.
posted by koeselitz at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2010


I looked over here at this wikipedia page on it - I guess what you mean is that people shape their art with their audience's sensibilities in mind.

You should probably read that article a few more times.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:16 PM on April 16, 2010


Why?
posted by koeselitz at 6:18 PM on April 16, 2010


Seriously, I've read it twice through now, and I have a hard time seeing how it applies to comic books and action movies. I apologize if I'm being thick here.
posted by koeselitz at 6:20 PM on April 16, 2010


I didn't explain that very well, I guess, but - doesn't it seem possible for art to have some moral value? For it to be morally good or morally bad, at least in certain circumstances?

Yes. Obviously.

I'm just trying to figure out why on earth you would think I believed the contrary.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:20 PM on April 16, 2010


The fact that sex and violence are related is taken by most psychologists, critics, and artists to be so obvious that no one bothers "stating" it most of the time. A sort of locus classicus would be Freud, I guess. I'm no cognitive scientist, and I'm not going to bother taking your bait and finding articles that would neuroscientifically back up the notion that related neurons are firing, but I bet that evidence is out there. If you care to find contradictory evidence, I'd love to be enlightened.

Hmmm, maybe I wasn't clear enough. What I was asking for proof of is your notion about "quasi-pedophilic" impulses, which is the part of your theory you claim is "pretty transparent". Please don't feel that I'm trying to trap or bait you in any way. However, as I have previously stated, you are making some pretty vicious accusations here, and at the very least you should back up your points with some reputable psychological literature. As you're the one making these unusual accusations, the burden of proof lies with you - it's not up to other people to disprove your ideas.

As far as five examples , in addition to the Kill Bill, Buffy, and Serenity examples I gave above, I would also cite the general "Japanese school girl ass-kicker" trend which is in tons of anime, Claire Bennett in Heroes, and Anna Paquin's character in Trueblood. And yes, a lot of these shows are particularly beloved by "fanboy" or "geek" culture.

Again, there is no such thing as a single, unified "fanboy" or "geek" culture. Viewers of these shows come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience these texts in different ways. Take True Blood, for example (although I think you may be overstretching by equating the 27 year old Anna Paquin with the prepubescent Hit Girl). It is popular with female audiences (as described here, for example) and is strongly concerned with issues of queerness (as you'd expect from the involvement of Alan Ball). Straight male viewers, too, watch and enjoy the show in highly individual ways.

If your ideas are correct, however, it follows that the show's wide appeal is purely coincidental and accidental, that female and queer fans of the show are incorrectly interpreting and enjoying it, and that the true purpose of the show is to convey outdated and sexist ideas about women. You're entitled to your opinion of course, but this view seems overly cynical and more than a little patronising to me.

I'd also question whether the "Japanese school girl ass-kicker" figure you bring up is an appropriate example. Clearly the predominance of schoolgirl characters in anime does say something about attitudes to age and gender in Japanese society. Remember, though, that Japan is not a Western country, and that it has its own distinct history and social issues. Even though you seem to rely heavily on universalist psychological theories, I would still caution you against assuming that identical societal and psychological forces are at work in every part of the world.

As I stated in my previous post, it's perfectly natural for you to personally dislike certain texts, but I don't see why you have to spin this dislike into a huge and overarching, if extremely tenuous, theory rather than simply accepting that the tastes of other people might differ from yours.
posted by fearthehat at 6:21 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd have to say that if there's one strength that Millar plays to the hilt it's an absolute lack of self censorship. Sometime the result is glorious, sometimes the result is a bit of a bore in the manner of a seven year old saying the word "fuck" over and over because they know it has shock value, but basically if you;'re after tasteful and restrained don't bother.... and TBH if the world was only things that are tasteful and restrained it would be a very boring place.
posted by Artw at 6:22 PM on April 16, 2010


Wuggie Norple: "I'm uneasily thinking someone out there is making (or already has made) the "X number of days until Chloe Moretz turns 18" as was done with Emma Watson."

This was first done with Natalie Portman after "The Professional", as I remember. It was called the "Natalie Portman countdown to legality".
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:30 PM on April 16, 2010


what a load of crap. can't anyone do better?
posted by kuatto at 6:31 PM on April 16, 2010


Part of me's a little bit curious about the comic Kick-Ass

God, don't bother. koeselitz' defense is based on just reading the first issue; he really needs to finish before talking about what he thinks is "entirely the point of the story."

The first issue *is* kind of appealing; a lame-o kid decides to be a superhero and gets his ass handed to him multiple times. But Millar very quickly abandons that interesting, quasi-realistic take on a tired genre. The comic becomes horribly stupid very quickly after that, with Millar's bizarre racial politics - "I know! Let's make the guy his girlfriend dumps him for black! What an added insult!" - and oh-so-edgy liberal baiting* helping push Kick-Ass the comic into (honestly, there's no other phrase) unredeemed garbage.

I've said it before: I've got not-so-grudging respect for Millar's carving out his own independent path (anyone who's already got financing to direct his next original superhero script deserves that) but he really is the lowest kind of easy provocateur, offering next to nothing of value as he pushes all the obvious reactionary buttons and laughs all the way to the bank.

*There's a training scene where Hit-Girl's dad is quizzing her via radio while she gruesomely slices and dices a group of bad guys; here's the alternating dialogue across a page of panels:

Dad: The dictionary definition of a Democrat?
Hit Girl: Oh, that's easy
D: Continue.
HG: A fucked-up prick who will march for the right to murder babies...
...but hold candlelight vigils for serial killers.


Classic Mark Millar reactionary bad boy schtick. What's the point? Oh, right - there is none.
posted by mediareport at 6:36 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize that "11-year-old is trained by father to be a mass murderer" was a "plot so tired it is one giant cliche."

I think you misread my comment as I was referring to Leon/The Professional, which is youngster-witnesses-tragic-death-of-parents-is-raised-by-a-cold-but-intelligent-stranger-and-becomes-equipped-with-resources-necessary-to-achieve-revenge-while-developing-an-unlikely-but-close-and-meaningful-relationship-for-the-first-time, which is uhhh, obviously a well-used bit.
posted by mek at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2010


That dichotomy you're citing is sensational itself and representative of an overly black and white divided tendency in our entertainment culture. It's not something respected by invested debaters.

But the tendency to be perfectly okay with violence in so-called serious films and to find it disturbing in action films is endemic among popular reviewers and popular discussion about film. And I didn't mean to imply that you personally take that view, just that it's prevalent and bothersome. Sure, it's not something academics bother to talk about much among themselves, having for the most part moved on to more interesting questions. But I'd like to see the popular discussion become a little more sophisticated as well. The point I was trying to make is that not talking about form (even in silly action movies) is what allows this dichotomy--and other sloppy thinking that's just as problematic--to remain in place. So it can be interesting when a hollywood film pushes the bounds of acceptable content precisely because it forces a larger proportion of general viewers to examine the formal context in which that content occurs.

(Good lord, that last sentence is a monstrosity. Hopefully it makes some sort of sense.)
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who is expecting this to be any better than violence porn/gore porn/torture porn in a speedo clearly thinks too much of the source material and is a bit out of touch themselves.
posted by davros42 at 4:17 PM on April 16 [+] [!]


You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Hope all you guys who would never ACT OUT fantasies like the ones in Kick Ass feel good about yourselves. Yeah, this is light entertainment, but what specific things do your preferences in light entertainment say about you?
posted by macross city flaneur at 5:49 PM on April 16 [4 favorites +] [!]


Yeah, okay, I'll support the sentiment, if not the language behind Rory Marinich's "fuck off."

Classic Mark Millar reactionary bad boy schtick. What's the point? Oh, right - there is none.
posted by mediareport at 9:36 PM on April 16 [2 favorites +] [!]


I don't disagree with the overall sentiment about Millar, but that's not actually true. There is a point in this case, that being: "Among people who, for whatever reason feel compelled to dress up like lunatics and beat up criminals, there are certain types of individuals. Comic book fanboys might be one. Angry right-wingers with vigilante complexes are probably another." Given Tea Parties, it doesn't seem like an entirely invalid observation.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:02 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've said it before: I've got not-so-grudging respect for Millar's carving out his own independent path

Well, no. Millar spent fifteen years or so writing work-for-hire material for a major corporation; after he had proven his worth to them, the corporation allowed him to publish a comic via their auspices (and distribution channels) (with their advertising power) of which, due largely to the struggles of creators who mostly did their work of greatest influence before Millar was born (and also created the characters that Millar would later write to much greater personal financial gain), his benefactors allowed him to retain ownership. It doesn't get a whole lot less DIY than that. Mind you, this is the story of almost every comics creator of any popularity in the last two decades, so I'm not singling out Millar as being especially indebted to corporate comics, but there's absolutely nothing independent about him, and it's kind of insulting to the Dan Cloweses, Charles Burnses, Chris Wares, et al, of the world to suggest there is.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:04 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


So it can be interesting when a hollywood film pushes the bounds of acceptable content precisely because it forces a larger proportion of general viewers to examine the formal context in which that content occurs.

I'm not sure that is interesting -- at that point, you have a movie that's about movies, and while there's something to be said for metacommentary as an element of a film, when that's the whole entire deal I think the filmmaker is in grave danger of vanishing up his/her own asshole.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:17 PM on April 16, 2010


It doesn't get a whole lot less DIY than that.

Oh, thank you thank you!

*tosses out last bit of respect for Millar*

I feel much better.
posted by mediareport at 7:20 PM on April 16, 2010


Child violence in City of God is treated with the attitude of "look how awful it is." Child violence in Kick-Ass is treated with the attitude of "look how awesome it is."

That's the difference.
posted by aesacus at 7:33 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Actually, reviewing the above, I realize I screwed up a detail: Millar has written corporate comics for probably more than fifteen years, but hasn't written for Marvel -- the company that published Kick-Ass -- any more than maybe ten. Someone will care!!)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:45 PM on April 16, 2010


Hmmm, maybe I wasn't clear enough. What I was asking for proof of is your notion about "quasi-pedophilic" impulses, which is the part of your theory you claim is "pretty transparent".

back up your points with some reputable psychological literature.


What's transparent about the pedophilia in these media doesn't require psychological literature to highlight. The fetish for "young-looking" women and women in jeopardy is, as I said, no secret. I'll use Lolita as my reputable backup literature there. What's novel is the particular configuration of sexuality and violence in these examples (something that no, I don't think is as transparent.)

Let's take Nikita, for starters.

Transparent part: she is sexualized by being put in adult clothes, in the scene where she puts on makeup, the wrestling or chasing scenes with Leon, the fact that she doesn't speak like a child (because she's supposedly been "hardened" by what she's seen), etc. The chasing/wrestling scenes are especially creepy because they are "fatherly" (and indeed, we might not be creeped out by a father behaving that way with his daughter), but Leon is not Nikita's father. He is a strange man Nikita went to when her family was killed. And Leon did not immediately take her to protective services. Oh, and he's a hitman - rarely the paragons of virtue we assume them to be. :-)

Non-transparent part:
Nikita's avid desire to be a hitman (and the larger trope of young women being violent in general) signifies an embrace of the often degrading terms of masculine sexuality for women - an implicit agreement to "rough and tumble", that, to a greater or lesser degree, women are expected to put up with - precisely because it is imposed on them. That is, until they develop the sense of self and maturity and confidence to confront men on the terms of their adult sexuality, whatever it may be. Thus, what's particularly eroticized is a young woman's unsteady and naive acceptance of a basically abusive and unequal sexuality. This is what "ingenues with guns" ultimately signifies in the films/media I'm thinking of.

In Claire Bennet's case, in Heroes, it's the simple fact that she's a cheerleader, and in high school, and that her body is impervious (read: abuse-ready, indeed, built to be "harmed").

In True Blood, it's the fact that Anna Paquin, despite her age, is still an ingenue and plays young, combined with the fact that she's dating a much older man. (The tropes of Lolita-dom - doe-eyes, naivety, trustingness, the tendency to latch on to older men, to require and accept "protecting" - extend the acting careers of many actresses.) The "abuse ready" trope arises again here. Except this time it's a bit more complicated. This time, her ability to recover from injury or "defend" herself are ambiguous. We don't really know what Suki is capable of, and neither does she (again, signifying youthful insecurity). However, we DO know that Bill can "heal" her with his blood. She's abuse-ready, and he's always sorry for "putting her in danger", but the implicit serial abuser in question is the only one with the ability to heal her (even more disempowering than in Claire Bennet's case).

Buffy is a transparent Lolita figure. And again, the bruising and beating scenes are prolific, she's good at recovering (has a professor for a "father figure" for God's sake), etc.

The one case here that I think is the slightest bit different would have to be River in Serenity. River is more or less kept innocent, and though Mal is a kind of father figure, he's an atypical one. Also, the fight scenes with river are rarely sexualized. So, I'll take her out of the list for now.

As far as the Japanese schoolgirl thing, yes Japanese culture is different, but its reasons for fetishizing young-seeming women prone to violence are quite the same - they are non-threatening, code as easily dominated, naive, and accepting of the terms of masculine abuse/sexuality, etc.

And even if that weren't the case, the issue in question here would be more the American embrace of a Japanese paradigm. Indeed, the appearance of this kind of character, by my lights, coincides with the rise of American interest in manga and anime.

[Trueblood] is popular with female audiences (as described here, for example) and is strongly concerned with issues of queerness (as you'd expect from the involvement of Alan Ball). Straight male viewers, too, watch and enjoy the show in highly individual ways.


Women's embrace of an aspect of culture does not signify that it is liberatory or positive for them. I don't know about specific treatments of True Blood, but the feminist revulsion for the themes of abuse in the Twilight series is well-documented all over the feminist blogosphere.

Point taken about the diversity of fandom, and clearly Twilight, as one example, is a popular phenomenon. Nonetheless, I think we are living through a period in which the tropes and preferences of a particular subculture that likes certain elements sci-fi, vampires, and fantasy, are increasingly mainstreamed. My friend's upper middle class 50 year old Dad watches BSG, which amazes me, but his least favorite part is the Baltar/Six psychodrama, which I would put in the category of the worst kind of fanservice. Mainstream culture still finds these sorts of hallmarks of geek culture strange and even distasteful, so the conversion of geek values to mainstream success remains an incomplete project. (And while it has been going on for years, its embrace has not meant the universal mainstreaming of geek culture. SyFy remains literally alien territory for most Americans.)

If your ideas are correct, however, it follows that the show's wide appeal is purely coincidental and accidental, that female and queer fans of the show are incorrectly interpreting and enjoying it, and that the true purpose of the show is to convey outdated and sexist ideas about women. You're entitled to your opinion of course, but this view seems overly cynical and more than a little patronising to me.


There's no correct and incorrect, and again, people see different things in different shows.

One source of misunderstanding between us is the distinction between pedophilia as an activity and pedophilia as a quality of something aesthetic. Pedophilia is all around us, in all aspects of our culture. Regular people embrace it all the time without knowing it, and even knowing it, the question whether to reject a whole series or movie because of it has to be evaluated in the context of many other factors. As I said, I like The Professional in many ways, but the basic dynamics of Leon and Nikita's relationship I find unbelievable and mildly repulsive.

I'm not trying to destroy anyone's right to enjoy anything, just get people to be a little more self-examining with regards to their media consupmtion. But Pandagon would probably say that yes, heterosexual women have to be self-hating to some degree to enjoy True Blood. Then again, a little self hatred makes everyone's food a little more savory, I suppose. How much? That's for American men and women to decided, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't think critically about what they consume.
posted by macross city flaneur at 7:48 PM on April 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, with regards to my last post, let me be the first to say tl; dr
posted by macross city flaneur at 7:48 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that sex and violence are related is taken by most psychologists, critics, and artists to be so obvious that no one bothers "stating" it most of the time. A sort of locus classicus would be Freud, I guess. I'm no cognitive scientist...

No sir, no you are not.

I'm not trying to destroy anyone's right to enjoy anything, just get people to be a little more self-examining with regards to their media consupmtion

That's really not what you've been saying at all, though, dude. You have, instead, been painting anyone that enjoys a *huge* variety of media and stories as an essentially coherent group of depraved, ignorant, pedophile, violent sickos.And that's why people are getting pissed off. You may have some legitimate points hiding out in there, but your manner of phrasing and stereotypical characterisation of audiences and texts successfully obfuscates them, and alienates anyone who's not 100% with you.

I think a lot of this comes to to that old reader response vs new criticism debate. Can readers be trusted to construct their own meanings from the texts they are given - regardless of authorial intent - or are they the interpretive equivalent of jellyfish; helpless, washed along by the tide of popular media and tropes, responding only to what they are given, and consuming it only in a certain way.

Personally I think both sides of the "debate" are a little reductive, but I'm nonetheless inclined to think that people are perfectly capable of constructing (and deconstructing, for that matter) their own meanings, and I tend to get a little edgy when someone tries to tell me what I'm thinking or feeling.
posted by smoke at 8:13 PM on April 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


it says nothing about me but that sometimes it's fun to go see a grossly violent movie with a bunch of people.

It's one of the strange and creepy things about our society today that people really seem to enjoy seeing people dying in unbelievably awful ways, through systematic torture or through mass murder, and yet believe that this fact says nothing about them or their world.

I reject the argument that this sort of violence is a constant and eternal part of culture. I'm an older male; I've been watching movies and such for years and the level of nastiness has ratcheted up to a level I find almost intolerable, and only in the last 10 years or so.

I've been watching fringe movies, difficult movies, strange movies for my whole life - but only in the last decade or so did torture scenes become commonplace (in fact, I find it hard to remember any serious torture scenes in a film before about 2000 or so).

I saw the movie Palindromes with a friend, and I insisted she turn it off - the main character, a girl of about 13, had been raped a couple of times, and then a 12-year-old was shot in the head, and yet my friend had no idea why I was upset.

Just the same is true with Audition - I got up and literally demanded that it be turned off and my companion was quite surprised.

The "Critical Response" section of the Wikipedia article sums it up for me: "When shown at the 2000 Rotterdam Film Festival, one enraged female viewer confronted Miike by shouting at him: "You're evil!" During uncensored members-only shows at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin in 2001, some patrons collapsed in apparent shock. One audience member was rushed to the St. James's Hospital but later discharged himself."

So I really don't care if I'm an old fuddy-duddy - there's something wrong in your soul if you like this shit.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:13 PM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


there's something wrong in your soul if you like this shit

Word.
posted by PuppyCat at 8:17 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have, instead, been painting anyone that enjoys a *huge* variety of media and stories as an essentially coherent group of depraved, ignorant, pedophile, violent sickos.

If you throw away the deliberately purple prose, this is more or less my opinion, except that you see these as "a *huge* variety" whereas I see these as a tiny portion of the art and entertainment spectrum that deals with extreme and realistic violence and torture.

I don't think it's any coincidence that these mainly stem from a culture that's perfectly capable of inflicting just these very horrors on entire countries without any apparently moral qualms (you might remember me from previous threads where we have breathless photoessays about deceased soldiers without ever investigating the slightest possibility that the wars that killed them might be less than the most marvelous invention ever).

That society has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade or so, without any apparently soul-searching - but that should be no surprise to anyone who's seen the society's entertainment.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:20 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have, instead, been painting anyone that enjoys a *huge* variety of media and stories as an essentially coherent group of depraved, ignorant, pedophile, violent sickos.

Yes, and I want to make those depraved, ignorant, pedophile, violent, sickos a little more self-aware.
posted by macross city flaneur at 8:37 PM on April 16, 2010


That society has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade or so, without any apparently soul-searching - but that should be no surprise to anyone who's seen the society's entertainment.

You know, I'm not trying to take anything away from our fucked up real-world behavior in the last benighted decade of American life, but it's not like we invented war in 2003. I'm pretty sure you'll find a staggering array of atrocities committed well before the advent of the "torture porn" film, and maybe even one or two that predate the advent of film itself.

Look, I'm sorry you didn't like Audition, but (a) it's a film that isn't even really all that violent (it's disturbing as all hell, yes, but you don't actually see a whole lot of stuff happen), and (b) if you really think it heralded an era of coarseness in filmmaking heretofore unprecedented...well, fuck, man, Salo was made almost forty years ago! The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Cannibal Holocaust -- these movies are all old enough to have children in high school now! If current violent films are more graphic, it's probably just because every gobbet of flesh is lovingly rendered in CGI to appear in glorious HD. Back in the day, these guys had to rely on in-camera effects. So, I dunno, blame Steve Jobs. But don't blame a coarsening of culture, because culture isn't getting any coarser; it's the same as it ever was.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:39 PM on April 16, 2010 [10 favorites]


For the record, it's always the same as it ever was. But it's also never the same as it ever was.
posted by macross city flaneur at 8:46 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude, that is the deepest thing you've said all night. I'm gonna ruminate on that shit.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:48 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, and I want to make those depraved, ignorant, pedophile, violent, sickos a little more self-aware.

Dude, if that's what you're bringing to this discussion, you should just check out. It's not helpful, not warranted, not new, not interesting, not three-dimensional, not good faith, not courteous, not sophisticated, not friendly, not fair and - I would argue - not metafilter.

To paraphrase your own thoughts about this film and its supposed audience: if you can't do better, you shouldn't do at all.
posted by smoke at 8:49 PM on April 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


macross city flaneur: It's really impossible to find anything that's a really a pull quote, but I have to ask, what's your point? Again you completely ignore female sexuality and fantasy. Aren't James Bond and Don Draper characters that women fantasize about? You mention twilight in passing (actually as an example of something that's not this wank material)

But in Fact Twilight is almost all about a sexual fantasy for girls. And one that's entirely unhealthy by modern feminist standards.

It's a common standard in fantasy (in the broad sense) material, you have a main character who one gender wants to be and the other gender wants to sleep with. (Well, I don't think many men would want to be mopey emo Edward from Twilight, and there are probably examples of female characters that women wouldn't want to be)

So to say we shouldn't have sexualized heroins, is to say we shouldn't have hardly any female heroins, because of course main characters in movies are going to be sexy.

It's a bit more complicated in this movie because the character is 12. The trailer I saw for the movie, the interaction between her and her father did seem pretty creepy. But whatever.
posted by delmoi at 8:49 PM on April 16, 2010


All I know as a comic book store owner is that for the next year and a half, my staff and I will be asked "Do you have any comics like KICK ASS?" We'll see where that puts us on everyone's radar.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:57 PM on April 16, 2010


I just finished reading the comics. It's interesting how the movie follows the them very closely in some places, but there are minor changes that make it a completely different story. The movie isn't nearly as perverse as the comics and it makes Nick Cage's character a lot less psychotic (which is saying a lot).
posted by mullingitover at 9:00 PM on April 16, 2010


It's not helpful, not warranted, not new, not interesting, not three-dimensional, not good faith, not courteous, not sophisticated, not friendly, not fair and - I would argue - not metafilter.

I wish I could express in a comments thread how four-dimensionally I meant that comment. Your reaction to me is the same as people's reaction in general to Freud, or Darwin, or anyone who's ever suggested the regular folks are a little more ugly than people typically like to think.

Also, vis-a-vis your cite of the reader response/new criticism debate, you should understand that the point of reader response theory (which came in large measure from a Marxist tradition that constantly doubted and denigrated the capacity of the masses to think for themselves without help), was to try to find subgroups of people doing interesting readings. To show that they were in fact doing so.

But the problem here, and RR people are as aware of it as their critics - was always that it might be used to broadly justify ignorant, reactionary, or just plain bad readings. Which is exactly the way you appear to be using RR from where I'm standing.

RR does not invalidate the need for sophisticated criticism. It simply speculates that some people might be more sophisticated, in unexpected ways, than the traditional Marxist paradigm assumed.

Again you completely ignore female sexuality and fantasy.

Yes, and nutritionists completely ignore people's desire to eat junk food in drawing up their recommendations.
posted by macross city flaneur at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2010


This is because all good nutritionists hate people, don't know anything about food, and think everyone is a bunch of candy-sneaking bastards.
posted by macross city flaneur at 9:04 PM on April 16, 2010


Yes, and I want to make those depraved, ignorant, pedophile, violent, sickos a little more self-aware.

Dude, if that's what you're bringing to this discussion, you should just check out. It's not helpful, not warranted, not new, not interesting, not three-dimensional, not good faith, not courteous, not sophisticated, not friendly, not fair and - I would argue - not metafilter.


Seems like that's sort of the point of Kick-Ass, though, isn't it? And yeah, from what I've read and seen Kick-Ass is not helpful, not warranted, not new, not interesting, not three-dimensional, not good faith, not courteous, not sophisticated, not friendly, not fair and - I would argue - not metafilter.

Gosh. You really hold MetaFilter to a high standard. Has it ever measured up?
posted by The World Famous at 9:06 PM on April 16, 2010


Ebert-shmebert, I reserve judgement until the Vatican's film critic weighs in.
posted by mazola at 9:10 PM on April 16, 2010


I wish I could express in a comments thread how four-dimensionally I meant that comment. Your reaction to me is the same as people's reaction in general to Freud, or Darwin, or anyone who's ever suggested the regular folks are a little more ugly than people typically like to think.

Oh, man. Are we the regular folks? I guess that's better than the alternative, right?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:13 PM on April 16, 2010


Oh, man. Are we the regular folks? I guess that's better than the alternative, right?

The constipated folks?
posted by The World Famous at 9:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


knocking superheroes down a peg or two genre that was pioneered by the likes of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison

Now, remember, those two owe everything they've got to The Greatest American Hero.

That's the true pioneer. I still know the song by heart.

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air
I never thought I would feel so free...

posted by fungible at 9:15 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw Kick-Ass and quite enjoyed it. I am female, hate 'torture porn', and like the word 'cunt', FWIW. I was expecting a lot more violence than what I got, considered the apparent controversy (or at least more realistic, graphic, gore), and I don't believe for a second that there would have been the same reaction if Hit Girl had been a boy.
posted by ghost dance beat at 9:18 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


EndsOfInvention: "Literally the only film I've seen with Nicolas Cage where he wasn't shit"

Since I was exposed to these Japanese commercials I've discovered this: every bad performance Nicolas Cage has ever done is immeasurably improved when you mentally edit all of his dialog to repeated varying inflections of "pachinko!" Consider:

Edward Malus: [holding Rowan's doll] Is this hers? How'd it get burned? How'd it get burned? HOW'D IT GET BURNED, HOW'D IT GET BURNED?
Sister Willow: I-DON'T-KNOW!

becomes...

Edward Malus: [holding Rowan's doll] Pachinko? Pachinko pachinko? Pachinko pachinko?? PACHINKO PACHINKO, PACHINKO PACHINKO???!!!
Sister Willower: I-DON'T-KNOW!

This technique is the only thing that got me through "Knowing" while sober.
posted by Drastic at 9:19 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


i saw this last week at an advanced screening. i thought it was totally eponymous.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:31 PM on April 16, 2010


> But don't blame a coarsening of culture, because culture isn't getting any coarser; it's the same as it ever was.

I for one don't think our culture is coarser, per se... but desensitized? Yeah, I think that may be so. I'm still pondering the answer to the question I posed upthread of what, specifically, it may mean for our group psychological profile to have this text as a popular one, and of course the critical and cultural response to it continues to develop.

And please, those of you who have, unlike me, a working knowledge of the story, please correct me if you like, I'm only facilely extrapolating from the basic archetypes in play here, as I've read about them: but perhaps it's that we project some of our own anxieties about lost innocence on her character, our impossible desire to be magically powerful and without remorse or real accountability, and to fill the archetypal molds fantasy and reprentational media set out for us (she actually becomes a superhero) which are so impossibly flat. So, her horrific success in responding to the fantasies to which we're all exposed catharses our feelings of subjection to them? In that respect, maybe it's only different from Harry Potter in degree and tone. Still, if this sticks to the wall, I'd maintain that the difference in tone and degree which that represents is also the critical difference between positive self-actualization fantasies and vengeful, sadistic ones. And I just don't personally dig on sadistic fantasies. I won't knock them, but I don't rock them either. I can see why there's cause for them, there are pathological phenomena to be reacted against in our culture, and this text seems like one outlet among many for such a reaction, but the model it uses: "YOU TOO, small helpless media consuming critter, can be a two-dimensional badass motherfucker as you see here on the screen/page, and at last have your agency -- and how" echoes in reality by implicating the audience in a way that can be said to be more negatively influential than other kinds of glorified violence.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:33 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Buffy is a transparent Lolita figure.

You know, making a series of spurious, ungrounded and borderline ridiculous claims does not constitute an argument. I appreciate the fact that, to you, most teenage female representations are "pedophilia", but this does not resemble any definition of pedophilia I understand, which generally has to do with pre-teen children.
posted by mek at 9:36 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Um, accidental invention of the verb "catharse," but I'm goin' with it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:36 PM on April 16, 2010


"Again you completely ignore female sexuality and fantasy."

Yes, and nutritionists completely ignore people's desire to eat junk food in drawing up their recommendations.

Wow, can't believe I missed this gem. Are you claiming female sexuality is inherently maladaptive and should be expunged? That would explain your views above, I suppose.
posted by mek at 9:43 PM on April 16, 2010


Good lord. Middle-aged self-pity parties are always the worst parties.

If I ever get to the point where I'm going full-moral-panic about a movie I haven't seen, just fucking shoot me, somebody. I'm sure by then the culture will be coarsened to the point that I can count on you to, as you'll surely have developed into one of the nihilistic superpredators that even now are beginning to swarm mercilessly in our ever-exponentially depraved society, you know how they do, those nihilist kids.
posted by furiousthought at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2010 [13 favorites]


You know, I'm not trying to take anything away from our fucked up real-world behavior in the last benighted decade of American life, but it's not like we invented war in 2003. I'm pretty sure you'll find a staggering array of atrocities committed well before the advent of the "torture porn" film, and maybe even one or two that predate the advent of film itself.

With respect to the torture porn, uhh, "genre", it still seems like an interesting question though, why now? I mean, if art and entertainment are a mirror on the culture in which they're created, what exactly is that form of entertainment reflecting?

Here are three well-known pictures from a previous war, with the text taken from the associated wikipedia article:

Photographs taken by Browne of the self-immolation quickly spread across the wire services and featured on the front pages of newspapers worldwide. The self-immolation was later regarded as a turning point in the Buddhist crisis and the critical point in the collapse of the Diem regime.

The photo (captioned "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon") and film would become two of the most famous images in journalism and started to change the American public's views on the Vietnam War.

When [the My Lai Massacre] incident became public knowledge in 1969, it prompted widespread outrage around the world. The massacre also increased domestic opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

It's not hard to spot the common theme in the commentary.

Here's a picture from the Iraq war. It's also famous. But like every other picture (or video) from the current two wars, there's no sense to me that it has a real lasting effect. We're a culture that's developed a tolerance to the evidence that's in front of us (literally, in that we just accept it) and metaphorically (in that we need larger doses to achieve an effect).

It seems like torture porn reflects that; as if it's daring you to be disgusted, to get angry at it, to care in a way that involuntarily takes you outside of the entertainment instead of cheering for a death scene more inventively gruesome than the last one. Maybe it's trying to find that lasting image.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, can't believe I missed this gem. Are you claiming female sexuality is inherently maladaptive and should be expunged? That would explain your views above, I suppose.

No, I'm claiming that women who fantasize about being abused are maladaptive. For you to associate that view with me, you would have to assume that abuse is a part of an adult sexual relationship.
posted by macross city flaneur at 9:51 PM on April 16, 2010


ghost dance beat: “I saw Kick-Ass and quite enjoyed it. I am female, hate 'torture porn', and like the word 'cunt', FWIW. I was expecting a lot more violence than what I got, considered the apparent controversy (or at least more realistic, graphic, gore), and I don't believe for a second that there would have been the same reaction if Hit Girl had been a boy.”

You seriously judge gore by how realistic it is? Why does that matter at all? I mean, I know the fundy nutbags who want to censor everything think realism is somehow the most important thing ever, but those of us who hate Millar and think he's a real douche don't hate him because his stuff is realistic, or even because it's extremely gory - we hate him because he uses violence in an exploitative and manipulative way, and because he's happy to capitalize on sexism, homophobia, and bloody-mindedness.

Seriously, if you think it's just sexism that keeps people from liking the whole Kick Ass thing, you should read Wanted. There's plenty of sexism in there. If anybody's perpetuating sexism in society, it's certainly not Mark Millar's critics - it's Mark Millar himself. And no matter that that smart dude wants to deflect by acting like he's just 'making a statement,' it's still sexism, homophobia, etc.

Honestly, I don't mind violence - it's about using it right. And you can say that people wouldn't have minded this if it was a boy, but that doesn't mean shit to me - people are sexist. Why would I judge a movie based on what people would think if the character was different? Americans are still bloody-minded, and the fact that they're sexist and bloody-minded doesn't make the bloody-mindedness okay.
posted by koeselitz at 9:53 PM on April 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


EndsOfInvention: “Literally the only films I've seen with Nicolas Cage where he wasn't shit. His Adam West impression was brilliant.”

Yeesh, seriously? Nicolas Cage is one of the great actors of our time, and the fact that he's an idiot who picks the most ridiculous roles ever doesn't change that. You are hereby commanded to go watch Wild At Heart and Raising Arizona right now.
posted by koeselitz at 9:59 PM on April 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


I mean, seriously - Leaving Las Vegas was one of the best movies of the last twenty years, and Nicolas Cage was insanely good in that.
posted by koeselitz at 10:00 PM on April 16, 2010


And by the way, there are many feminists who've explored the idea that heterosexuality is inherently maladaptive, like Andrea Dworkin. I don't happen to agree with her, but I guess when you're reaching for witchhunt material, exploring ideas isn't as exciting as stumbling on a new hobgoblin.
posted by macross city flaneur at 10:02 PM on April 16, 2010


"I think I'm coming up."

What does this mean?
posted by Bonzai at 10:06 PM on April 16, 2010


I have no idea whatsoever. Seriously, Bonzai, I've wondered about that since I first read that. I figured it must be UK slang for puking.
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course it matters. It matters because a movie is visual. There are ways that violence is presented that I am deeply uncomfortable with. Regardless of how I feel about it, 'exploitative and manipulative' violence is hardly unique to this particular movie. As for Millar, I never mentioned him. I know nothing about him. I never said sexism was the only reason people don't like the movie, but I know it is a large part. Wanted has nothing to do with it. Millar and his critics can be on opposite sides and still be sexist in different ways. Millar may be the biggest douche in the world, but it's not going to stop me from enjoying a movie where a girl is the hero and the sole scene in the movie where her gender plays a role is when she chose to use it to her advantage.
posted by ghost dance beat at 10:19 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good lord. Middle-aged self-pity parties are always the worst parties.

You're just going to the wrong ones. The middle-aged self-pity parties I go to are hot.
posted by The World Famous at 10:33 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, so here's what weirds me out about the Hit-Girl and the reaction to her.

Have two fairly unsexualized female characters: Hermione Granger (I'm talking about the earlier, pre-romance movies) and River Tam, and they're both pretty awesome! Hermione saves the day all the time, and she does it with her brain! River saves the day with her brain AND with her terrifyingly badass skills with every weapon she is ever given!

Neither of these are sexual characters: River is violent and crazy; Hermione is 13. And yet the fanboy reaction is crazy! People are totally into Caufield and Glau; they are also totally into Hermione and River, in a boners way.

This is, for obvious reasons, unsettling, because it forces sexualization on actresses who were not "consenting" to it by playing a "sexy" role. (The quotation marks are there because women who do play "sexy" roles also get stalked and shit, and they while they are probably OK with being seen as sexy because they picked those types of roles, they aren't asking for the other kinds of attention that they're getting, and they probably also aren't asking to be pidgeonholed because they happen to be attractive.)

I think this is one of the reasons we find Hit-Girl unsettling: She is a fucking BADASS, and she's in a genre where ALL female characters (but especially the badasses, as in the case of River Tam) become sexualized, even if they're 11. But do we not include those roles, and those characters, because of the bad behavior of creepo fanboys? Because if we do, that means we're allowing them to dictate what roles women/girls are able to take in these types of movies.
posted by NoraReed at 10:45 PM on April 16, 2010


Violence is junk food for the brain. Hit Girl is HFCS.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:37 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


the whole point of Kick Ass is to shove this stuff in your face and insist that when speech is free, nothing is immoral.

If that's true, then the movie is very different from the comic book, since there's not even a hint of that in the book. Have you actually seen the movie?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:39 PM on April 16, 2010


Are you unaware of, say, every other child star, ever?

Are you saying you don't want kids to be in movies, or that you don't want kids to swear in movies, or that kids swearing in movies leads them down a path of destruction?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:54 PM on April 16, 2010


Are you saying you don't want kids to be in movies, or that you don't want kids to swear in movies, or that kids swearing in movies leads them down a path of destruction?

I'm saying that when a child star from an ultra-violent movie loaded with profanity and murder by an 11-year-old character earnestly tells an interviewer that her parents want nothing but the best and most morally pure upbringing for her and that they would never tolerate her using the very language that they signed her up to use in an employment situation, I would recommend taking it with a grain of salt.
posted by The World Famous at 11:58 PM on April 16, 2010


Violence is junk food for the brain. Hit Girl is HFCS.

Yeah, and rock and roll is aspartame!

Sex is cane sugar.

Reality tv is trans-fat.

Oprah is Pringles.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:58 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would recommend taking it with a grain of salt.

I'd recommend withholding judgments unless you know the family personally. I'm not really interested in your unfounded speculations.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:00 AM on April 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


This sure as hell isn't Titus Andronicus, is what I'm saying.
posted by koeselitz


Have you ever seen a production of TA? Do you know the critical history of the play? For many, many years it was never performed, and much ink was shed trying to prove that Shakespeare could never write something so violent and bloody and without a shred of meaning or morality. Now, I'm not saying that Kick-Ass (which I just saw) is anywhere near the quality of Titus, but in terms of their use of violence, they aren't that different. If anything, Kick-Ass is much milder.

And macross: Why do you assume that Hit Girl is sexualized in the film? I just saw the film, and she isn't, so... Your example of GoGo from Kill Bill is also strange -- she appears to be a fetishized sex object (cute Japanese girl in a schoolgrl outfit), but in fact she's the farthest thing from it, which she demonstrates in her evisceration of a drooling fanboy type who wants to fuck her. So, what was your point?

I gotta say that I side with Rory 100% on his reaction. There's been a lot of "when did you stop beating your wife" style rhetorical moves in this thread. Mealy-mouthed nonsense like, "oh, I wasn't saying that you are a pedophile, I was just making a general statement, but if you feel that I was directing it you, well then..." It is, to quote an earlier commenter, "not metafilter." Or maybe it is, whatever.

Anyway, the movie is not that bad. It's a lot of fun, it switches smoothly between comedy, over the top action, and decent melodrama. And really, the ultra-violence doesn't even start until a little ways into the film.
{Spoilers}
When Kick-Ass first encounters Hit Girl and Big Daddy, he is completely shocked and horrified by their mass slaughter. As he's the narrator and the audience's POV character in the film, we too are taken aback by it. Kick-Ass is basically just a dork who gets in fistfights; he's not at all a hero. So when he sees people murdering others, he kind of goes into shock. The rest of the movie is, in a way, a pastiche made up of the different media that expose us to violence: we see it on the internet, on TV, in comics, there's even a video game-esque sequence. Often, we're going back and forth from being in the scene itself to being someplace where others are watching the scene. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but in a lot of ways the movie is about the experience of consuming and being affected by media. I mean, it's about a kid who reads comics and so he wants to become a superhero, for fuck's sake.

And like I said, it's not even that bad. There's blood. So what? In a lot of ways, I'd rather that my kids (if I have any) see a movie where people are shot and bleed rather than a movie where people are shot and they just fall down -- yeah, that's right, you bleed when you are shot. It fucking hurts. It's scary, not like a game of Cowboys and Indians. The girl says "cunt." Ooooh, how scary! Do you know what 11 yr old kids do and say these days? Hell, not even these days -- do you know what 11 yr old kids have been doing and saying THROUGHOUT HUMAN HISTORY?

No teenage or pre-teen girl who sees this is going to go out and kill a bunch of people -- that is, assuming they don't already have severe mental problems. But hey, maybe some will want to take martial arts and learn how to defend themselves, maybe some will decide they don't have to be shrinking violets like Bella from Twilight -- and that's a GOOD thing. At worst, they might pepper their language with a few more curses. Oh no, I guess the fucking sky is falling.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:03 AM on April 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Lots and lots and lots of Pringles.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:07 AM on April 17, 2010


Mark Millar is Grant Morrison without the brains and compassion, Garth Ennis without the chops and humanity and Warren Ellis without the style* and morality.

*I'm not a huge fan of Ellis and generally find his style grating and often self-parodic, but I needed a third comic-writin' guy with an adorable accent.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:07 AM on April 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


But hey, maybe some will want to take martial arts and learn how to defend themselves, maybe some will decide they don't have to be shrinking violets like Bella from Twilight -- and that's a GOOD thing. At worst, they might pepper their language with a few more curses. Oh no, I guess the fucking sky is falling.

Next, we need movies with twink boys, to balance out the karma. Some sort of Disney Princess, but with a boy in the lead role.

Did I use "twink" incorrectly? I'm so unhip my pants fall off.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:10 AM on April 17, 2010


the model it uses: "YOU TOO, small helpless media consuming critter, can be a two-dimensional badass motherfucker as you see here on the screen/page, and at last have your agency -- and how"

That's precisely the inverse of the theme of the comic. However, I don't want to get into spoilers.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:12 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alvy: I normally agree with you. I never liked the Ultimates, read the first issue of Wanted and had no desire to read further, but I did really like Superman: Red Son. After seeing Kick-Ass, I am interested in reading the comics. I don't know if Vaughn and Co just really improved on the source material, but it seems a lot more interesting that Millar's usual fare.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:14 AM on April 17, 2010


More importantly, I think it was really unrealistic that all the characters in the movie had swank-ass web skills. I mean, I sort of get that Red Mist had the money to get someone to make him an expensive-looking Flash site, but what high schoolers actually know how to make a MySpace profile look good, let alone put a yellow "On Vacation" banner across the front of it? Geez, it's like they don't even care about realistic portrayals of web design AT ALL.
posted by NoraReed at 12:19 AM on April 17, 2010


I appreciate the fact that, to you, most teenage female representations are "pedophilia", but this does not resemble any definition of pedophilia I understand, which generally has to do with pre-teen children.

It's not really a Catholic School Girl get-up because ... it's purple.

I've never read the comic and and am unfamiliar with Miller's work but the memes he's touching upon and mixing here .... are disturbing . Good art should be disturbing - bad hacks who pander to the lowest urges within us are often distubing as well. How to tell the difference .... ?

I know this however.
From thw way this movie was marketed I had absolutely no idea what it was actually about. It was heavily misrepresented which means to me that ai'm being sold a bill of goods for something that has no redeeming value.

Fuck you Holywood movie marketers. You've fooled me too many times before. I'm not spending a dime on your misrepresented piece of crap. Two words for this movie for me: Pirate Bay.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:20 AM on April 17, 2010


Pirate Bay

And you help them win: you're eyeballs for the product placements.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 AM on April 17, 2010


i just can't recall offhand movies where pre-teen boys have killed a bunch of people and nobody got upset over it.

What, you mean like this?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:29 AM on April 17, 2010


@Poet_Lariat Wait what? The movie is exactly like the trailer. It is just longer, and it has a plot. It even has the same music! The Not For All Audiences Extra Salacious trailer even features Hit-Girl swearing! I do not understand how they are misrepresenting it: it is a movie where people kill stuff a lot, and one of the people who kills things is an 11 year old girl, and they wear silly costumes. 80% of the controversial material in the movie? In the trailer.

Short of hiding the extremely revealing trailer away and crossing the title off of all the advertisements for "Menopause: The Musical" and replacing them with "Kick-Ass" I do not know how Hollywood can be lying to you this badly.
posted by NoraReed at 12:40 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Saxon Kane: “Have you ever seen a production of TA? Do you know the critical history of the play? For many, many years it was never performed, and much ink was shed trying to prove that Shakespeare could never write something so violent and bloody and without a shred of meaning or morality. Now, I'm not saying that Kick-Ass (which I just saw) is anywhere near the quality of Titus, but in terms of their use of violence, they aren't that different. If anything, Kick-Ass is much milder.”

Yeah, I worked on a production of Titus Andronicus one summer - twenty individual showings, with me sitting in the back taping shit. I could probably recite half the scenes in that play by heart. Yes, I know Titus Andronicus is graphic and bloody - I thought it was precisely a good example because of that fact. As I said above, I don't mind graphic. And I know that the violence in Titus Andronicus can seem utterly pointless - strikingly so, and that's a major theme of the play - but there's a lot more to it than that.

I'm getting the feeling, to be honest, that the movie is ridiculously different from the comic book. I mean, it's just very interesting how there seem to be two groups of people in this thread - the people who've read the comic book, and who think Kick Ass is ridiculously, gratuitously, pointlessly violent, and probably too offensive to exist - and the people who saw the movie, who thought it was fun and kind of exciting.

me: “the whole point of Kick Ass is to shove this stuff in your face and insist that when speech is free, nothing is immoral.”

Jimmy Havok: “If that's true, then the movie is very different from the comic book, since there's not even a hint of that in the book. Have you actually seen the movie?”

Err... you're confusing me here. I have read the first volume of the comic book, and glanced some at the rest of it. I have not seen the film, though I plan to later today. And as far as there being "not even a hint of that in the book," well... I can admit that I use the word "point" loosely; I think part of Millar's idea is to avoid having a point altogether. But that said: yeah, I think the comic book really does this. It's intentionally just about as forceful as it can be. I mean - the tagline was "SICKENING VIOLENCE: JUST THE WAY YOU LIKE IT!" I don't know if there was ever any point about free speech that Millar was trying to make, but he sure as hell took advantage of it consciously.
posted by koeselitz at 12:52 AM on April 17, 2010


Yeah, I just borrowed Kick Ass from a friend to read and I'm kind of meh about it. I think it's another matter of me reading it too late in life, like The Catcher in the Rye and possibly at the wrong point in history, like Watchmen.

As with The Catcher in the Rye I spent most of it wondering "Who is this idiot and why do I care?" If I was a little younger maybe I would have connected with it more.

I'll probably go see the film. I made it all the way through Wanted, which was pretty stupid and I only read the first two or three comics of that due to lack of interest.

It's kind of interesting that this violent film is being derided as "pointless" as if it were somehow better justified then there wouldn't be a problem. Maybe if like in Taken some young girl was at risk, then we could feel okay with several dozen killings. So we want our fake violence to be justified for us? That seems a little weird, doesn't it? There comes a point for me, maybe not for everyone, but it happens to me in certain movies, where everything is so over the top that it just breaks my suspension of disbelief. I find myself hyper-aware that these are actors reciting lines and moving in a choreographed sequence. This happened recently with Inglorious Basterds. So something with a small fraction of the violence usually has a much larger emotional effect on me.

The comic becomes horribly stupid very quickly after that, with Millar's bizarre racial politics - "I know! Let's make the guy his girlfriend dumps him for black! What an added insult!" - and oh-so-edgy liberal baiting* helping push Kick-Ass the comic into (honestly, there's no other phrase) unredeemed garbage.

I don't know anything about Millar's politics, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but having recently read the comics I didn't get any of that from them.

You have story about a criminally insane father who has taught his daughter to kill without remorse since she's been in diapers and the character flaw that drives the series to "unredeemed garbage" is that he's on the far right?

That society has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade or so, without any apparently soul-searching - but that should be no surprise to anyone who's seen the society's entertainment.

It's interesting you say that, because ultra-violence in film makes me think of Iraq and Afghanistan in an entirely different way. I see a backlash against actors pretending to hurt other actors that is making its way to me much louder than any backlash against actual violence being done to actual people (11 year-old girls included). This is probably mostly due to anti-war protests being "old news".

"I think I'm coming up."

What does this mean?


The cocaine is kicking in? That's how I read it.
posted by ODiV at 2:22 AM on April 17, 2010


No, I'm claiming that women who fantasize about being abused are maladaptive.

I guess this is where we part ways. As a homosexual male who finds BDSM not only acceptable but just great, I can't find it in myself to judge the fairer sex for engaging in similar activities.
posted by mek at 3:27 AM on April 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


A bit late to the game, but this thread had me thinking all last night. I hate pointlessly gratuitous "torture porn" movies, but I just saw Kick-Ass last night and found it to be great fun, mainly because it was often pretty funny, and the violence in it was enjoyable.

In my mind the violence in any film is composed of a few fairly separate elements. The visuals, the performance, and the intent behind it.

In superhero films like this, the visuals are usually stylised or at least somewhat toned down, which makes it become a lot more about the nebulous idea of winning against someone than the actual details of the pain being inflicted. Maybe it's a bad thing to ever disconnect violence from the reality of those actions, but iconic representations like that seem like a fundamental part of the language of our stories to me.

When I say "performance", I'm talking about the sort of stylish, impressive action that is glorified in films like The Matrix. It seems like there are plenty of sports where actual violence takes place, but where people are still able to appreciate the skill and execution because we know the intent is fairly neutral.

The intent behind violence in superhero films is usually just as simple as the good guy winning against the bad guy. When the bad guy does it, he almost always does it with more cruelty and with less of a reason. Is it a bad thing to have a little vicarious wish fulfilment in seeing the little powerless guy destroy the evil bullies?

I really like films where those elements are all "good", and I don't mind movies where the visuals and performance are realistically unpleasant but the intent has purpose.
I dislike violence where the intent is evil, obviously, and I especially hate it when it has no reason beyond the whims of the magically invincible, adolescently self-righteous psychopath so common in horror movies. But the only time I have an actual problem with it is when the intent is just to create violence, and give the visuals and performance an excuse to revel in it - When the main point of a movie is just to gawk at people being hurt.

Perhaps it's desensitisation to violence that makes me compartmentalise like that, but I think it's just part of understanding that we live in a complicated world where things aren't just defined by their outward appearance.
posted by lucidium at 4:01 AM on April 17, 2010


As an aside, I just watched Defendor and really liked it.

Similar, in that it deals with a perfectly mundane guy (in this case, one who is also mentally challenged) that decides to make a "costume" and "fight crime", and severe beatings ensue.

Different, in that there are no 11-year-old mass murderers, and in that it isn't based on something written by Mark Millar, my objections to whom are so similar to that in the article linked by BitterOldPunk above that I can't possibly phrase it differently, or certainly not any better.
posted by Shepherd at 4:08 AM on April 17, 2010


Kick-Ass in 60 Seconds
posted by jaybeans at 4:35 AM on April 17, 2010


Saw it last night. It's hardly worth the moral panic people are working themselves into a lather about. For one thing, the violence in the film is often discreet, and, when not, its cartoonish -- a little bit like Beat Takeshi's Zatoishi. Burst of blood and whatnot are just unrealistic enough to be obviously computer generated. An entire sequence filmed from Hit Girl's perspective looks precisely like a first-person shooter. She's not sexualized, unless you consider superhero outfits and schoolgirl skirts to be inherently sexual (and you might have a case for that), but nobody interacts with Hit Girl or responds to her sexually. Well, one kid declares his love for her, and is immediately chastised and reminded that she is 11. She swears, but not as often as you might think -- one or two times in a really deliberate way. And I don't mind kids swearing.

I think there were a lot of squandered opportunities in this film. The relationship between Kick Ass and Red Mist could have been explored a lot more, but it's glossed over, and some of it is really the work of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who manages to convey a loneliness that isn't really in the script. The film suggests a fairly complex idea -- that, if there were real superheroes, they wouldn't have superpowers, would probably get beat up a lot, and the really successful ones would be amoral psychopaths who primarily win through greater artillery. And some of this is well-handled -- Kick Ass gets realistically beaten up a few times. I think that was the point of the over-the-top action scenes -- to show that superheroing isn't a pleasant game of quips and knuckeldusting, but a brutal battle to the death. The fact that these scenes are shot in an unrealistic manner undermines this point, though. Hit Girl really is a movie superhero, and not a little girl whose been trained by an obsessed, mentally unstable father. She does impossible, superheroic things. We do feel like Kick Ass is badly out of his depth, and could easily be killed the moment he leaves his home. We never feel that way about Hit Girl.

Of course, had the film actually explored its themes, it probably would have wound up like Observe and Report, in which a security guy goes off his meds, which convinces him that he's a hero, when he is, in fact, becoming increasingly psychopathic and dangerous to everybody around him. That was a far bleaker film than Kick Ass, but I think a far more honest one.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:18 AM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


EndsOfInvention: “Literally the only films I've seen with Nicolas Cage where he wasn't shit. His Adam West impression was brilliant.”

koeselitz: "Yeesh, seriously? Nicolas Cage is one of the great actors of our time, and the fact that he's an idiot who picks the most ridiculous roles ever doesn't change that. You are hereby commanded to go watch Wild At Heart and Raising Arizona right now.
"

I have yet to see a movie where I have not enjoyed Nicolas Cage's performance. He throws himself into roles with such gusto, it's great! I watch the bad shit because Cage is in it, and while the movies are generally awful, he's always so earnest. It's like he's a method actor of a sort and actually believes the world is ending, or his daughter was kidnapped by a cult, or he made a deal with the devil to deal vengeance.
posted by graventy at 6:51 AM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or he's in love with that girl from the valley.
posted by Sailormom at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think there were a lot of squandered opportunities in this film.

That was my takeaway too. I would have liked the whole twisted morality side of Big Daddy to have been played up a bit more, particularly in its effects on Mindy. She is a child soldier, with the same amorality often found in kids rescued from conflict, and it would have helped the film to play that up. I thought the portrayal of Kick-ass himself was very well done though.

A couple of stray thoughts:
LN pointed out that male preteens committing ultraviolence are pretty common trope: Jim in Treasure Island is a preteen (or at least a very young teen), and that was written in 1883. The best feature about Kick-ass is the gender reversal, were this a story about an 11-year-old boy repeatedly saving a pretty, naive 17-year-old girl, it would be nothing but eyeroll-inducing escapist fantasy, and it probably would have had a PG rating.

Hit-Girl's costume is actually desexualized imo. She and Big Daddy are referencing Batman and Robin. Which outfit is more provocative on a preteen: skin-tight red panties or a knee-length skirt?

It was a good film though and neither of us regret seeing it.
posted by bonehead at 7:36 AM on April 17, 2010


skin-tight red panties

green

/nerdfail
posted by bonehead at 7:39 AM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man, this thread.

So I saw the movie last night. I have, generally, a low tolerance for gore; there were a few times when I had to turn away. None of these scenes involved Hit Girl.

The first was at the very beginning, when Kick-Ass makes his first outing, mouseover for spoilers. The second was when the bad guys put a character into a man-sized microwave. The third was near the end, during a protracted beating scene.

The message I got through those scenes were that the violence enacted by the bad guys of this universe was cruel and unnecessarily protracted. Hit Girl, in comparison, was the film's sole clean, efficient killer. She disposed of her enemies the way that a super hero is supposed to--quickly, cleanly, and without excessive cruelty. She's an expert in a universe of amateurs. She does better than the grown-ups, and better than the boy. The idea that Red Mist would be Kick-Ass's sidekick was laughable, because Kick-Ass is really her sidekick, as demonstrated at the end of the movie.

So I can really, really see what the actress was saying as to why she thinks this was a feminist role. I think back to when I was 10 or 11. My favorite movie character was from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves--it was Wulf, Little John's son, a really minor character. But he was my age, and allowed to shoot and fight with the adults. I was also a big fan of the Home Alone movies, which to me really seemed to be the story of a bad ass, self-sufficient little boy. I wanted to be as capable as adults were in movies, but still a kid. And I can't think of any girls in movies from the time that had fit the bill (years later, I discovered girlie anime like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura--wish I had sooner. Japan did capable young women much better than American cartoons at the time, even if it put them in ridiculous outfits).

Of course, due to the violent nature of the movie, Kick-Ass is clearly not for kids. But it was really goddamned refreshing to see a girl in this role, even if at times it seemed primarily meant for shock value--having a little girl curse and such. But it seemed to me that this was more of a reflection of how Hit Girl was trying--self-consciously, too, mind you--to ape the behavior of adult superheroes.

There were also a few times when I got the feeling that she was meant to be mimicking the sexualized posture and behavior of adult female superheroes--she blows Kick-Ass a kiss at one point, she sits in a sort-of posed position in another. And yet it's never, ever sexy. Instead, it felt, fairly realistically for a fantasy movie, like a little girl trying to act like a female super hero is supposed to. Which, in our culture, is sexualized. But it's far from sexy, because she's freaking eleven. And Hit Girl is wearing a really realistic outfit--body armer from neck to toes, with a fairly long kilt over a pair of pants, which underscores the fact that the audience is not meant to see her as sexualized. In many ways, this is a kid playing a game (her father refers to it as such, at one point)--but she's not playing a game in the most important ways, because, when it comes down to it, she saves everyone. That, to me, was more interesting than all of the cursing and the killing. Showing a little girl as capable and heroic still feels daring, especially in a superhero genre that's still fond of slap-slap-kiss plotlines (I'm looking at you, Sin City).

I also thought she was an interesting counterpoint to the other female characters of the movie--stereotypical pretty girls who need men to teach them about comics/save them from their unhealthy romantic entanglements. But then we have the ultimate genre-savvy girl, who's not in a romantic relationship with anyone and saves the day. Yay for that.

In True Blood, it's the fact that Anna Paquin, despite her age, is still an ingenue and plays young, combined with the fact that she's dating a much older man. (The tropes of Lolita-dom - doe-eyes, naivety, trustingness, the tendency to latch on to older men, to require and accept "protecting" - extend the acting careers of many actresses.) The "abuse ready" trope arises again here. Except this time it's a bit more complicated. This time, her ability to recover from injury or "defend" herself are ambiguous. We don't really know what Suki is capable of, and neither does she (again, signifying youthful insecurity). However, we DO know that Bill can "heal" her with his blood. She's abuse-ready, and he's always sorry for "putting her in danger", but the implicit serial abuser in question is the only one with the ability to heal her (even more disempowering than in Claire Bennet's case).

I think it's really beyond bizarre to read True Blood this way. Whatever stretch you're trying to make in describing an adult actress as looking Lolita-like, it's ultimately a failure because, um, Anna Paquin is a grown-up, playing a grown-up character whose lack of knowledge about her powers does not, in fact, signify youthful insecurity but instead signifies a powerful woman coming into her own. And unlike many heroines lifted from romance novels (and Sookie was originally created by a woman, natch), she's unafraid to end unhealthy romantic entanglements and stand up for herself. I mean, hell, the series starts with her saving Bill. Trying to force her--or Buffy, for all the problems I have with Joss Whedon's feminism sometimes--into a mold of a sexualized, helpless teen is just weird. And just doesn't work.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:46 AM on April 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Of course, had the film actually explored its themes, it probably would have wound up like Observe and Report

Funny thing about O&R is that its marketing was similarly askew; the way it was portrayed in the trailers I wasn't expecting anything nearly so dark. It was actually a rather pleasant surprise.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:53 AM on April 17, 2010


AV sez:

extrapolating from the basic archetypes in play here, as I've read about them: but perhaps it's that we project some of our own anxieties about lost innocence on her character, our impossible desire to be magically powerful and without remorse or real accountability, and to fill the archetypal molds fantasy and reprentational media set out for us (she actually becomes a superhero) which are so impossibly flat. So, her horrific success in responding to the fantasies to which we're all exposed catharses our feelings of subjection to them? In that respect, maybe it's only different from Harry Potter in degree and tone.

I think this is all charged with much more depth than Kick-Ass probably actually has (or at least that it intentionally has), but it's a more interesting subject than Kick-Ass, so I'm gonna run with it. I'm not in the, like, same academic league as AV and shit, but I'd probably be good to go w/r/t teaching English 101 at a community college near you with just a few small education credits under my belt; accordingly, my approach is more along the lines of here's some study questions, and why don't you guys walk down the hall to the snack machines and get some pop and candy and when you come back we'll discuss them and then you'll all watch a video while I step out of the room and have a bitter cell phone conversation with my ex-wife. You know the drill. And so:

You guys, there have been one hell of a lot of superhero movies in the last decade. We've always had larger-than-life fantasy figures in our popular film -- hell, we've even had costumed superheroes, right? But Superman in the 1970s/early '80s didn't really lead to much until Batman in the 1980s/early '90s, and that didn't lead to much, either. People liked these movies a lot (mostly); they were enormously financially successful; logically, given Hollywood's propensity for seizing on any trend, no matter how obscure, and sucking that thing dry within instants like a starved, cocaine-frenzied Dracula, they should have produced an army of knockoffs. But they didn't. Why not? Why didn't that happen until the 2000s, when for a while there it seemed there were about two of these things a week?

I, um...I don't know? But I do know there's an essential problem with the superhero as the dominant role in the cultural discourse: Superheroes are bullshit. I don't mean that pejoratively; I mean it the same way Santa Claus is bullshit, or Sarah Palin. (You didn't think Palin was a real person, did you? Come ON.) It's not just that the role of the superhero is "impossibly flat" (though it kinda is: I'd argue there's much more breathing room within the universe of Harry Potter than within the punch-evil-to-death framework of the superhero story, a milieu than Ayn Rand might reject as lacking nuance), it's that the role of the superhero only makes sense within the realm of the fantastic, and has only the most abstract applications to the real world. I'll put it another way: looking at the parallel development of the "torture porn" film may less useful here than looking at the parallel development of the "slacker porn" film -- you know, the movies where some slovenly guy who sprackens the douche in elaborate Kevin Smith-style flourishes ends up hooking up with some chick who's like a billion times hotter than he is and actually has a life and at the end she realizes that expecting this guy to make anything of himself is, like, so fucking bitchy of her and she should just love his fat ass for what it is, man? Well, to be fair, if that guy's role models are like fucking Batman and Spider-Man, what is he supposed to do with himself other than be a shitty couch potato, you know? Real aspiration is taken off the table when self-fulfillment seems available only via the Matrix. That's a problem, because the Matrix is kinda not...really...real?

Now I am not suggesting that our movies are why we suck, but I am suggesting that the life choices as presented by our movies -- reality (loser) vs. fantasy (Batman!!!) -- are reflective of where we feel we're at as real life people. More to the point, I'm suggesting that this is literally where filmmakers are at as filmmakers, in the sense that there really does seem to be a stark choice between "realistic" filmmaking that presents lives no one wants to lead and wildly unrealistic filmmaking that presents lives anyone would want to lead, were it only possible, but it'll never be possible until someone suspends the laws of physics and also pretty much all the moral laws that govern us in society. This presents fantasy as both the only logical route for filmmakers who don't want to die of perpetual misery, and also -- by extension -- characterizes reality as a perpetual misery machine. As we live in reality, whether we want to or not, this is a singularly bad proposition.

But for commercial filmmakers -- whose lives, let's face it, are generally way more awesome than your life or mine, and have no real reason not to want to face reality when reality for them, well, kicks much ass -- there's another problem, too, in that having to make films within the confines of what are essentially children's stories is kind of...limiting? (This has, incidentally, been a major issue for comics creators for at least thirty years, probably longer, and continues to be an issue now.) So the superhero story has to open up to include all this Actual Drama stuff that it is not built for at all, and that can only lead one of three places:

* A superhero story that is about superheroes doing mundane real world stuff, possibly to exclude crimefighting altogether (in comics, like 90% of everything Steve Gerber wrote)

* A superhero story that does not flinch from the "realities" of life (sex, violence, cussin'!) but unfolds within the context of a world that, in terms of its complications, is really no more realistic than superhero stories have ever been, so it's basically just wish-fulfillment for people with more advanced fantasies (almost every mainstream superhero comic today)

* A superhero story that functions as metacommentary on the limitations and conventions of superhero stories (and usually addresses real-world concerns more or less satirically). This may also serve as wish-fulfillment, though it would prefer to be seen as something more elevated. Say no more.

Really, it's only the second option that I think faces major, built-in obstacles to producing good art. Option one lends itself best to comedy. Option three lends itself to all kinds of things, but it kinda feeds parasitically from the continued familiarity with/popularity of the genre as a whole, and is. very. difficult. to do. well. Marshall Law did it; Watchmen and Miracleman did it; Dark Knight Returns kinda does it, but Frank Miller has a tough time with tone, which has a lot to do with why his work is so polarizing (I'm not sure he even knows when he's kidding). When too many others try to do it, they end up with something that looks more like an R-rated version of option two.

Still -- all three stem from the prevalence of a genre that frustrates a lot of creators because of its inherent limitations. Whether Hit-Girl -- an angry, precocious child trying to act like an adult -- is at all an intentional metaphor for the genre's place in contemporary culture, I dunno, really...but I think she's a pretty good one either way.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:59 AM on April 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


You were totally on Tony Stark's side during Civil War, weren't you?
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's really beyond bizarre to read True Blood this way.

We're getting a bit off topic now, and I totally don't get the lolita thing, but I did see True Blood as being very much about co-dependency and abusive relationships. Bill is obviously a recovering alcoholic/addict and Sookie is co-dependent.
posted by empath at 9:12 AM on April 17, 2010


I don't deny that Sookie and Bill's relationship is dysfunctional (and I'm curios to see how closely subsequent seasons will follow the books--Alan Ball seems much fonder of Bill than, like, anyone else). But it's reading her as an exemplar of a Lolita fantasy that I really object to--she's not an underage ingenue, but an adult woman who is clearly meant to be read/viewed as an adult woman, and it takes a lot of twisting of the writing and the source material to read her as a completely incapable teen.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:20 AM on April 17, 2010


Drew Barrimore was in ET, which was twee as fuck.

She had some badass moments in Firestarter!
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:41 AM on April 17, 2010


Apparently she started smoking around the time she was in Cats Eye, the pro-cat Horror movie with the utterly terrifying anti-smoking sequence - what does that do to the movie roles determisim theory? that's all over the place!

(Though, seriously, I suspect celebrity parents willing to take a 9 year old to Studio 54 might have more to do with her drug abuse than anything else, because seriously, what the fuck?)
posted by Artw at 10:01 AM on April 17, 2010


Yeah, I worked on a production of Titus Andronicus one summer ...

Touche. And, sorry for assuming that you were making a comment out of ignorance.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:54 AM on April 17, 2010


you're confusing me here. I have read the first volume of the comic book, and glanced some at the rest of it. I have not seen the film, though I plan to later today.

Got it. You have little idea of what either the movie or the book contains, but feel completely qualified to opine about both of them. I just wanted to clear that up. (I knew a guy who claimed he only had to read the last page of a book to know everything in it. A lot of the opinions in this discussion remind me of him.)

I haven't seen the movie yet. The violence in the book was meant, in my opinion, to be a contrast to the sanitary comic book violence of, for example, The Punisher, where people are shot and disappear from sight, or, even more absurdly, Spiderman is willing to team up with The Punisher as long as he uses anesthetic bullets (?!?!).

Millar was limited by the conventions of genre fiction, though, in that he had to have his hero triumph in the end...although he did subvert that a bit with the semi-realistic high school stuff.

Careful subversion of the form while staying close enough to the conventions to still fit in has really become Millar's style. He engages in meta-commentary without ever saying "Hey, look how meta I am!" in contrast with people like Morrison or Ennis, who straight out announce their intentions. I suspect that those who don't like Ultimates are either missing the deconstruction (e.g. SHIELD headquarters is called the Triskelion), or simply don't like having the subtext of superhero comics pushed in their faces.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:44 AM on April 17, 2010


I'm so glad I saw this movie before I knew there was a controversy about it. Was there a controversy over the badass kid in Role Models? I'm sure he said fuck, too. Hit Girl was adorable and totally made the movie. SHe was entirely unrealistic, very funny, and kicked ass.

The violence in the movie was a bit more than I expected, admittedly. The microwave scene was too much for me at the time, although my SO commented that it just reminded him of the gremlins microwave scene. Still, I didn't find any of Hit Girl's scenes disturbingly violent - she was just a classic superhero able to pull off fantastic feats of getting the bad guys.
posted by mdn at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2010


I haven't seen the movie yet. The violence in the book was meant, in my opinion, to be a contrast to the sanitary comic book violence of, for example, The Punisher, where people are shot and disappear from sight, or, even more absurdly, Spiderman is willing to team up with The Punisher as long as he uses anesthetic bullets (?!?!).

Rubber bullets. Honest.

The best Punisher/Spiderman Team-Up was the Ennis one - "We had a team-up. You were great."
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimmy Havok: “Got it. You have little idea of what either the movie or the book contains, but feel completely qualified to opine about both of them.”

Yep. No idea. No idea whatsoever. Just spouting my mouth off, feedle-dee-dee.

Keep telling yourself that. And keep telling yourself that everybody else who's come in here to say that Millar's work is overhyped crap is just a complete idiot. You are the only one who really gets what's going on.

“Careful subversion of the form while staying close enough to the conventions to still fit in has really become Millar's style. He engages in meta-commentary without ever saying "Hey, look how meta I am!" in contrast with people like Morrison or Ennis, who straight out announce their intentions. I suspect that those who don't like Ultimates are either missing the deconstruction (e.g. SHIELD headquarters is called the Triskelion), or simply don't like having the subtext of superhero comics pushed in their faces.”

Oh, yes, the deconstruction! I almost missed it!

Have you actually read Wanted? I'll admit that I'm one of those that's a bit bored by the whole "look, everybody, I'm making a statement about superhero comics! I'm subverting the genre!" schtick at this point, but that's because it's honestly tired - all Millar seems to be interested in doing is pounding the point home with as much shock value as he can muster. By the end of Wanted, he was doing that almost literally.
posted by koeselitz at 1:44 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suspect that those who don't like Ultimates are either missing the deconstruction (e.g. SHIELD headquarters is called the Triskelion), or simply don't like having the subtext of superhero comics pushed in their faces.

I was bored silly by it, does that count as dislike? Millar's strength is in concepts or set pieces. He can come up with a clever idea occasionally. It's a dang shame he doesn't seem to realize those ideas/concepts need to be strung together in a compelling, intelligent, or provocative (In the good way) manner and executed in a way that rewards a reader's investment. Most of his stuff is shallow and pretty facile.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having been on the film set of a few gore fests, I've found that the filming is done so disjointedly that the children (and adults) just act like it's just a Halloween Party in June. There did tend to be more hi-jinks at the horror sets than the non-horror sets I've been on. I was never really concerned for child actors of slasher films since.

(I remember that fuss made about Kirsten Dunst only 12 playing a vampire - Oprah totally had her panties in a bunch about it.)
posted by _paegan_ at 3:33 PM on April 17, 2010


Femnist Writer Amanda Marcotte liked it.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on April 17, 2010


Have you actually read Wanted?

Nope. And get this: I don't tell people what it's all about, either!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:20 PM on April 17, 2010


No, I'm claiming that women who fantasize about being abused are maladaptive.

That's a ridiculous statement.

Nic Cage is roughly 50/50 for starring in good and shite movies. It's also a toss up on whether his acting is good in any given movie. I can't say I don't enjoy his movies though.

Wanted, the comic, isn't that bad. It is about VILLIANS, and I think some people are missing the point entirely, but whatever. The I'm-so-hip-I-think-everything-is-shit factor seems to be kicking in here.

Anyway, didn't Veitch cover alot of this ground in Bratpack?
posted by P.o.B. at 6:55 PM on April 17, 2010


Saw it. Fucking loved it. Very Millar but in the once-in-blue-moon good way. You guys who don't like morally reprehensible shit are missing out.
posted by Artw at 11:28 PM on April 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jimmy Havok: “Nope. And get this: I don't tell people what it's all about, either!”

Seriously, what do you want from me? Look, because you're all tweaked off about it, I sat down and read all of Kick-Ass between last night and today. And honestly? It did nothing for me. I can see why I quit reading it the first time around - because this kind of stuff bores me. Partially because I was busy reading comic books, and partially because it was raining today, I missed actually seeing the film version today (though I'd still like to see it).

I posted a comment I shouldn't have - a comment where I simply said "fuck off" to you, and it got deleted promptly (as it should have). I wish I hadn't gone there, but I honestly don't know what to do. You're pretty intent on backing me up against a wall here, and I get that, but if you've got a problem with my opinion, I've made it damned clear from the very beginning of this thread what I've read, what little authority I'm speaking from, and how open I am to other points of view. I'm not pushing my shit on anybody, and I don't like the fact that you're acting like I'm trying to impose my authority or some such nonsense on everybody else here.

If you think I'm wrong, say so. If you think I'm wrong about the books, and you see completely different themes in the later ones, say "hey, I know you read the first one, but you should check out the rest, because they're more like X and Y." Don't kick me in the crotch and demand to know if I've read the whole thing when I've already told you this - and don't act like I forced anybody here to swallow any line of bullshit based on some sort of magical authority I assume I've got. I know where I stand - just another guy - and I don't mind that. I'd like it if you'd accept that I'm nothing more and nothing less than that.

And mods - whoever deleted that comment of mine - thank you. Sorry for doing that. I know it's not cool.
posted by koeselitz at 12:13 AM on April 18, 2010


(- and at this point, I guess I'm sorry I opened my mouth. I'm not a die-hard Millar fan, though I've read a few things he's done - so I'm not as knowledgeable about him as someone who actually really likes his work might be. I thought I was trying to point out to people that Millar is at least a bit conscious of the ultraviolence angle, that it's an aspect of his work - that Ebert is right to see that as a part of it, at least, even if he is a prude. But maybe I should not have tried to say that. You would've been a better person to do it, anyhow. Honestly.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:31 AM on April 18, 2010


I could have sworn there was already a movie with that name! haha
posted by harold_dumbacher at 12:33 AM on April 18, 2010


The reason why I couldn't stand The Ultimates was not because I'm a die-hard silver-age fan or something and can't stand to see my heroes being sullied; I don't read any super-hero books except those that seem to have an interesting take on the genre (Powers, for example). The reason I hated it was because it felt like reading the storyboard of a Michael Bay film. The dialogue was terrible, everyone was so self-aware and cool, ugh, bored me to fucking tears.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:46 AM on April 18, 2010


Why did Kick-Ass bomb?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:18 AM on April 18, 2010


Kick-Ass was pretty fantastic. Though it wasn't perfect by any means, it was massively enjoyable as an action film with a bit of edge. I think people confuse ‘gratuitous violence’ with ‘realistic violence’ a little too much these days. People are so used to the usual superhero/action movie trope of people being shot, stabbed and impaled on sharp objects without any sight of blood (usually because the movie studio wants to be able to market such films to the lucrative teen market) that when an even vaguely realistic depiction is put on screen they are immediately condemned as bloodthirsty and irresponsible. Putting aside the question of vigilante justice for a moment, if you want to kill someone with a gun, shooting them in the head is the most effective way. When someone gets shot in the head, blood is a fairly common result. Ditto to being hit with a baseball bat/crowbar/falling out of a moving vehicle.

What I find odder than anything else is that people seem to be of the opinion that the extreme violence practiced by Chloë Moretz's character is in some way any more wrong than any of the other characters. Her age seems to be the sticking point here; if she was not 11, but instead 16/18, would you consider her to still be incapable of making her own judgements? Her relationship with her father is obviously skewed, but that's more an issue for their collective moral compass than assuming she is too young and foolish to make significant decisions for herself. I can't say I didn't feel slightly perturbed by the comic book montage showing why she and her father became vigilantes, but movies aren't supposed to let you leave your worldview totally intact or as unchallenged as it was when you walked into the cinema.

Anyhow: the film is pretty damn great. One question for anyone who's seen it: was some of the dialogue a little difficult for you to hear? I've seen the film twice now, and there are a few slices of dialogue I can't make out at all. Same goes for those same portions of dialogue included on the soundtrack.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 7:36 AM on April 18, 2010


Really, MetaFilter? Really?

Oh dear lord...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2010


in Toronto, this film is being seriously misadvertised. The subway posters make it look like it might be like Mystery Men, which I adore. But it sounds like I would hate this film.

Just like how A Knight's Tale, another personal favorite, was badly advertised -- I didn't see it in theatres because it looked like a stupid, serious fakey-medieval film. But in reality, it was a brilliant, funny, fakey-medieval film.

Of course, this time the stupid backwards advertising is the right way around -- except that I had them fooled. Though I was interested in seeing Kick-Ass because I thought it would be Mystery Men-like, I'm way too disorganised to ever actually leave the house to go to a movie theatre.

I'm just going to sit at home and watch Mystery Men, for yet one more time.
posted by jb at 8:36 AM on April 18, 2010


(Note: I can handle serious super-hero stories -- I love Watchmen and liked Alan Moore's Swamp Thing as well. But the brilliance that is Watchmen isn't the edgyness -- it's the sophisticated writing and brilliant art of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Also, realistic depiction of being middle aged.)
posted by jb at 8:41 AM on April 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Of course, arguing "It's entertainment, so the content doesn't matter" makes about as much sense as claiming that Fox News is entertainment, and therefore what they do and say doesn't matter.

entertainment is art and art is the expression of our culture and it in turns shapes that culture.

what do you want your culture to be?
posted by jb at 9:22 AM on April 18, 2010


MetaFilter: I posted a comment I shouldn't have.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:29 AM on April 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


How many people have you heard of who think Kick-Ass is a documentary?

I'm pretty sure Nic Cage does. From what I heard, they just followed him around with a camera for a while and then spliced that footage in.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:20 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mark Millar is a fucking hack and Wanted had something that I've never encountered elsewhere: moral vacuity combined with total idiocy with the cherry on top of unbelievable smugness and superiority. The last two pages are such a graphic depiction of an author sucking his own cock and marveling at his "brilliance" that it makes Ayn Rand look like model of humility. He says nothing interesting with his premise and all his characters are two-dimensional and boring as sin. His concept of villainy is nothing more than RAPE RAPE RAPE and dull power fantasy (and by that I mean the fantasy is itself, dull, not that power fantasy is inherently dull,) . His definition of "conflict" both plot and character wise, apparently means keeping everything as static as possible.

This has nothing to do with Kick-Ass but it does mean that I will avoid having anything to do with Millar forever.
posted by Snyder at 10:21 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


jaffacakerhubarb, I had trouble understanding what Big Daddy was saying during the SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS scene in the movie that was being filmed for television, but that's about it. Was it just Nick Cage crazy talk?

Fun movie, and I usually avoid comic-booky films. I saw it yesterday in Richmond, VA, and I counted 5 other people in the theater with me. I expected a much bigger turnout.
posted by emelenjr at 10:28 AM on April 18, 2010


I'd just add that the movie trailers for this (which I ran into, somewhere) were indeed dreadful. I thought it was some sort of empowering role model family-friendly Spy Kids deal.
posted by mek at 12:06 PM on April 18, 2010


There must be a separate campaign based on geography, because everything I've seen has been up and up about what kind of movie it is. Hell, the movie's called "Kick-Ass." Do you think a family film would be called "Kick-Ass?!"
posted by brundlefly at 12:15 PM on April 18, 2010


Oh man, if you guys are shitting yoursleves over Kick Ass...

Garth Ennis' Crossed Coming to the Screen

posted by Artw at 6:46 PM on April 18, 2010


Hey, while not Ennis' best work, Crossed still teaches some important life lessons. You're totally comparing apples to horsecocks.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:49 PM on April 18, 2010


Call me when they get around to making Strange Killings. Better yet, I'd like to see Ex Machina turned into a movie.

Crossed still teaches some important life lessons. You're totally comparing apples to horsecocks.

I think you're underestimating the value of horsecock teachings.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:57 PM on April 18, 2010


Why did Kick-Ass bomb?

Didn't the movie open on Friday? How is an article written on Saturday so sure it bombed?
posted by Amanojaku at 9:45 PM on April 18, 2010


"Box office weekend" is Thu/Fri/Sat, so by Saturday afternoon you know the ballpark figure.
posted by mek at 9:50 PM on April 18, 2010


"Box office weekend" is Thu/Fri/Sat

No, actually, it isn't. It's Fri/Sat/Sun.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 PM on April 18, 2010


(and the term is "weekend box office")
posted by Sys Rq at 10:27 PM on April 18, 2010


fearfulsymmetry: "Why did Kick-Ass bomb?"

It definitely didn't bomb. It's a movie with a 30 mill production budget (cheap) that made almost 20 million in its first weekend in the US. Hollywood Reporter seems to think this is within expectation, although "on the lower end". There's no way this movie doesn't recoup its budget.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:18 AM on April 19, 2010


And I wonder whether they don't look at the cinema release as pre-promotion for the DVD anyway.
posted by Grangousier at 12:24 AM on April 19, 2010


I just saw Kick-Ass. It was on two screens at the end of the row (however, there was a film festival going on that had rented all the rest of the screen in the row), but there was a fair-sized crowd for a Sunday night.

I thought it managed to hold onto the theme of the comic pretty well, although I didn't like the changes that were made, for example MOUSEOVER SPOILER, and MOUSEOVER SPOILER but I suppose those were calculated moves aimed at the popular audience. Having Dave get cheekbones and a jawline at the end was pretty crass, too. I definitely preferred the shallow, mean comic book Katie to socially conscious movie Katie (that's a spoon, and me gagging on it).

However, McLovin as Red Mist was an absolutely beautiful bit of casting.

posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:41 AM on April 19, 2010


It definitely didn't bomb. It's a movie with a 30 mill production budget (cheap) that made almost 20 million in its first weekend in the US. Hollywood Reporter seems to think this is within expectation, although "on the lower end". There's no way this movie doesn't recoup its budget.

Well bomb is there words not mine. It's well under par. On top of the production budget you have to add on prints and advertising... that'll double that 30m. And the studio will only get about half the box office.... so no looking so good now is it. I'd like to see a sequal but it's looking unlikely
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:48 AM on April 19, 2010


Why did Kick-Ass bomb?

Maybe I just don't understand how these things are measured, but this article seemed to suggest that it was doing just fine.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:00 AM on April 19, 2010


Did anyone else catch the "creeper fan-boy" bash? spoilers...

The two dorky friends are sitting with love-interests-best-friend watching Hitgirl rescue kickass and her dad on the live video stream.

Dork 1 - staring at screen - "I think I'm in love"
Dork 2 - creeped out - "...uhh dude, she's like 11"
Dork 1 - "Well, I can save myself for her"
Dork 2 - dismissively - "Yeah, I don't think that will be a problem for you."
posted by anti social order at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2010


Maybe I just don't understand how these things are measured, but this article seemed to suggest that it was doing just fine.

Well the quoted executive from the studio thinks it's doing fine, quelle surprise. While it may not quite be an epic disaster it certainly looks to have underperformed.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:17 AM on April 19, 2010


And I wonder whether they don't look at the cinema release as pre-promotion for the DVD anyway.

Yeah, this. I still haven't seen it yet (hopefully in the next few days) but from what I'm hearing this could be a cult film in the making.
posted by brundlefly at 9:00 AM on April 19, 2010


Look, I can't be bothered to read this whole thread on a goddam Monday. My only question is, are asses genuinely kicked? I'm talking real asses with feet planted on them.
posted by Skot at 9:54 AM on April 19, 2010


DVDs. DVDs, dude. Lots of people will see this on DVD.

I remember watching Kevin Smith basically say this. He said it always cracks him up to listen to people, on the internet, talk about how movies make money and that they have no idea what the fuck they are going on about. He went on to say the box office receipts don't really show anything and there's a reason why shitty directors get to keep making movies. It's because they make people money.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:55 AM on April 19, 2010


While it may not quite be an epic disaster it certainly looks to have underperformed.

No way. Those movieline guys are crazy. A much better site for box office analysis is Box Office Prophets. A couple quotes from their monday morning quarterback column I linked to:
Kick-Ass, a Lionsgate comic book adaptation featuring Nicolas Cage, opened to $19.8 million. For a film with a $28 million budget, I think we all agree this is a satisfactory result.
...
(re:Watchmen) That movie had a huge budget and only got over $100 million overall domestically. Kick-Ass won't make that much, but was budgeted lower, and Lionsgate picked it up post-filming. It's a win all around.
...
I'd never heard of Kick-Ass until the movie release was approaching. Nicolas Cage is far from a sure thing and it's a pretty hard R. Making two-thirds of its production cost (itself a minor miracle) opening weekend is a home run.
...
The studio should be content with its $19 million opening weekend, but they're probably nervous about the road ahead due to the fanboy effect and the mixed reactions from audiences.
...
Given the buzz, and generally positive reviews, I was really hoping it would break out with a $30 million+ opening. This is still a good result
And so on. So the range here is from "a decent result if they were probably hoping for a little bit higher" to "a big win and anyone who says otherwise is clueless".

Calling it a bomb is just plain idiotic. A bomb doesn't make a profit. This will clearly make a profit, probably even in its theatrical run before DVD sales (which will be large for a movie like this) are factored in. At worst this is a middling result, and possibly a very good one.
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on April 19, 2010


AP says Kick Ass took the top spot, above How to Train Your Dragon. (Craig Ferguson is in both of them.) But if you want to call it a bomb, you're welcome to. Goes right along with all the other informed opinions we've been seeing here.

AP's also calling it a "superhero comedy," which makes me think the writer only saw the trailers.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:15 PM on April 19, 2010


Eh? But it *is* a superhero comedy. Not entirely sure what else you'd call it.

Rotten Tomatoes is showing it topping How To Train Your Dragon, BTW.

(Regarding How To Train Your Dragon, it's a 3D movie, so it's numbers are probably a little infalted that way. Also it's from the people behind Lilo and Stitch, so it's probably actually really good.)

Oh, and I read the comic this afternoon. Here's something I almost never say: I think the movie is actually better than the comic. Certainly a lot better structured, and tighter writing too - you have to wade through tons of first person captions in the first issue of the comic, wheras the V/O on the opening scenes gets you through that pretty quickly.

Possibly the comic fairs a little better if you've not seen the movie, as knowing what to expect mutes the impact of some of that stuff ...bits not in the movie like Condition Red and what comicbook Hit Girl bought from eBay do much better.... but I think themovie just pulls some of it off better. The comics a little more bitter and cynical, of course, and Hit Girl and Big Daddy more obviously psychopathic, which would have been the direction I would have fone for , but overall I think the film worked better.
posted by Artw at 9:34 PM on April 19, 2010


The comics a little more bitter and cynical, of course, and Hit Girl and Big Daddy more obviously psychopathic,

You mean Hit Girl isn't hackin' dudes apart with a sword? And she's not seven?

I was initially picking those up, but they came out so irregular I just kind of didn't get back around to them. I'll have to check the movie out though.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:04 PM on April 19, 2010


But it *is* a superhero comedy.

Dunno. Comedies usually have funny stuff in them. Kick-Ass looking for a lost cat named Mr. Bitey is pretty thin fare.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:25 PM on April 19, 2010


I for one always wanted to see the winsome tween from LazyTown maim and murder adult men. All that sass, killin' and swearin'; fellaz, those preee-koshuz lil' lolitas will do anything to prove to you how grown up they are on the inside, amirite. Nudge. Nudge.
posted by dgaicun at 12:01 AM on April 20, 2010


Goofy film: I was all set to be 'disturbed' and instead came away not shocked at all. It's no worse than any other film with cartoonish, over-the-top, unrealistic violence.

And the one-time use of the c-word? You would be used to it if you've seen any film out of England. In fact, I was more disturbed when Ed in Shaun of the Dead said to his friends, including two women: "Can I get any of you c***s another beer?" Though I know the Brits treat the word differently than North Americans, it still was jarring.

Hit Girl almost says it passing; if you weren't paying attention you'd miss it.

Much ado about nothing.
posted by bwg at 6:29 AM on April 20, 2010


The major differences between the original comic and the movie is that Big Daddy is a deluded loser, not a hero ex-cop. In the comic, just before he's killed, Big Daddy reveals that he was never a cop falsely accused with a dead wife. That's his self-invented backstory. Every hero needs an origin.

In reality, he abducted his daughter as an infant and trained her as a killer, for no reason other than because he thought it would be a cool thing to do. He's been paying for their lifestyle by slowly selling his million-dollar comic collection. He's Kick-ass, taken to the logical extreme.

At the end of the book, Mindy is reunited with her Mom who has been looking for her kidnapped baby for the past decade.

Artw is right, the movie is better than the comic---I reread it on the weekend, after seeing the movie---but this is one thing I wish that had been kept.
posted by bonehead at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Go see the movie. That's not how Hit-Girl in the movie is portrayed at ALL.

Well then why would I go see the movie?
posted by dgaicun at 8:13 AM on April 20, 2010


Who knows, you might ironically enjoy it.
posted by ODiV at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2010


Regarding How To Train Your Dragon, it's a 3D movie, so it's numbers are probably a little infalted that way. Also it's from the people behind Lilo and Stitch, so it's probably actually really good.

I saw it with my wife on Sunday and enjoyed it quite a bit. Nothing earth-shattering, not Pixar, but cute and endearing. The wife has already changed her desktop from Grunt to the main dragon from the movie. I'm expecting many rewatchings once the Blu-Ray hits.

Also keep in mind this was HTTAD's fourth weekend. I was actually quite surprised by how full the theater was. I expected it to be almost empty considering how long it's been out, but we actually had to sit separately from our friends. Though then again, this was one of those Alamo Drafthouse type movie theaters, so there's a lot fewer seats to begin with.
posted by kmz at 8:24 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Saw Kick-Ass last night. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I agree that the movie was better than the comic. I left the theatre wanting to see Hit-Girl kick more ass. She steals the film. My wife was practically out of her seat cheering for her during the climactic battle scene. And Nic Cage is, well, kinda great in it, too.

This movie has all the makings of a new cult classic, and I expect DVD sales to be stellar.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:52 AM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


BitterOldPunk, I also loved that throwaway scene at the end when Hit Girl attends school for the first time.
posted by bwg at 5:01 AM on April 22, 2010


I just got back from Kick-Ass and I was prepared to be disturbed and grossed out and newly aware of my apparently latent, uncontrollable pedophilia, but um, no, not so much.

Hit-Girl is 11. The movie makes about 0 attempts to sexualize her in any way, which I was wholly thankful for. It doesn't even come up, really. Even when she blows the kiss, Kick-Ass cocks his head to the side like "huh?" The scene with her entering the place dressed as a... well, schoolgirl I suppose, but not overtly-short-skirt-Japanese-schoolgirl style at all, served its purpose and was dispensed with quickly. I think it's a testament to the film that they delivered a VERY strong young, violent female lead without crossing the line into "everyone-in-the-audience-is-seriously-creeped-out-by-the-hyper-sexualized-11-year-old" because that just. didn't. happen.

What filled the rest of the time was a hilarious narration, a fun performance by the two supporting actor friends, and some cool meta-jokes about comics in general, peppered with great action scenes served up right. I hadn't read the book and I *really* enjoyed the film. I'd also kindly appreciate withholding the insinuation that I can't still feel feelings about torture, rape, Africa, the plight of women, war, stereotypes, society's downfall or any of the other things I'm supposedly desensitized to, having the capacity to have enjoyed this film so thoroughly.

The next time a thread on any of the aforementioned topics comes up which discusses said real world atrocities and problems, I will of course pop my head in and remind everyone that perhaps if I hadn't enjoyed Kick-Ass so much, I would have the capacity to care more.

Christ.
posted by disillusioned at 11:35 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Studies are showing that exposure to porn increases apathetic reactions to women claiming rape. Could there be an analogical truth for non-sexual transgressive displays?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:02 AM on April 23, 2010


Studies are showing that exposure to porn increases apathetic reactions to women claiming rape. Could there be an analogical truth for non-sexual transgressive displays?

You mean people might become apathetic to grown men claiming to have been beaten to a pulp by eleven-year-old girls?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:45 AM on April 23, 2010


I just saw it, and I was bored. It's filled with advertising in a really upfront "pop-culture" referencing way. The violence is over the top while also being entirely uninteresting. The humor was basic and retread, I laughed maybe twice.
posted by cyphill at 12:30 AM on April 25, 2010


I was prepared to be disturbed and grossed out and newly aware of my apparently latent, uncontrollable pedophilia, but um, no, not so much.

Obviously in denial. Just ask macross city flaneur. After all, if an invulnerable teenaged girl is an invitation to sadism, then an non-sexual 11-year-old is obviously an invitation to pedophilia. And you're GUILTY!!!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:20 AM on April 25, 2010


Kick-Ass was really, really fun – and did a pretty good job of painting its high-school clique dynamic with not a lot of screen time; better than most actual high school movies manage to do.

The scene with her entering the place dressed as a... well, schoolgirl I suppose, but not overtly-short-skirt-Japanese-schoolgirl style at all, served its purpose and was dispensed with quickly.

That seemed like a pretty heavy Kill Bill nod from where I was sitting.
posted by furiousthought at 11:36 PM on May 3, 2010


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