MovieBob - Intermission
What's the Problem With Hit-Girl?

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 23 Apr 2010 16:00
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Mind you, I'm not trying to pull a cutesy-poo "no, it is you who are the misogynist!" turnaround on the folks who have a genuine discomfort with a preteen girl killing people with throwing knives and getting thrown through tables. But I do think it's worth pointing out that similar acts of brutality don't seem to draw quite the same reactions - derogatory or enthusiastic - when they're done by male children. The Patriot features middle school aged boys taking sniper shots at British soldiers, and the underrated PG family flick Baby's Day Out has a scene where an infant sets fire to a kidnapper's testicles.

And yes, I recognize that a big part of this character is that she's supposed to make the audience uncomfortable, and not just in terms of the violence. While she's not anywhere near as edgy as, say, Natalie Portman in The Professional, there's a small undercurrent to the character that reads like a dark parody of the "violent women are hot" cliché that tends to crop up around female superheroes. ("I think I'm in love with her!" blurts out one of Kick-Ass's geeky buddies, who then only half-jokingly vows to "save himself" when reminded of her age.) If nothing else, the purple wig and plaid skirt could be seen as reference a certain not-entirely-innocent archetype of the Anime/Manga scene, which, these days, is where a girl her age is more likely to draw her superhero inspiration from, as opposed to Kick-Ass's unironic Spider-Man parroting, or her father's vocal channeling of Adam West once his mask goes on.

In the end, all this conflicting unease is what's made Hit-Girl - despite Kick-Ass's less-than-earthshaking performance in terms of actual boxoffice - thus-far the character of 2010. If there's a button, she's pushing it - probably two or three at a time: Violence against children? Violence by children? Women with too much toughness? Check, check and check.

I've seen articles and commentators weighing in on this character from angles as varied as outrage at her very existence, worried concern that irresponsible parents will mistake her (and thus the film) for family fare, ironic bemusement and even effusive feminist praise in the form of "if only there had been a character like this to look up to when I was that age!" Hit-Girl exists in a hazy middle ground between exploitation, empowerment and satire, all of which just goes to show that it's never impossible to have themes, characters or even ideas worthy of serious discussion in a genre movie - even one with a title like Kick-Ass.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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