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

Bob Chipman | 23 Apr 2010 12:00
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This article includes spoilers for both the movie and the comic book Kick-Ass.

The things that are supposed to set us off as a culture tend to change over time, and not always in a linear fashion. The 1930 film Morocco caused a culture-shattering sensation when star Marlene Dietrich strode onto a nightclub stage in a man's suit, complete with top hat and pants - itself a major taboo at the time - then sauntered out into the audience to plant a mouth-to-mouth kiss on a female patron. Yeah, really. In 1930. See for yourself. Staged in the same manner today, the scene would still draw disapproving tongue-clucks from the back rows, but now they'd be objecting to the way Dietrich - and everyone else in the room - gleefully puffs away on their cigarettes.

Other things, though, are constants: No matter how tame or extreme movie violence has ever been, it's always been too much for some people. Especially certain kinds of violence - or, rather, violence done by or to certain kinds of people. Violence against people perceived (fairly or not) as being less able to defend themselves - usually meaning women and children. Sometimes, you could maybe get away with one or the other. The Golden Age of Hollywood is littered with damsels in distress being thrown to and fro, and young boys have dished out and taken plenty of cinematic lumps over the years - 1944's Tomorrow The World features a pre-teen Hitler Youth cadet who tries to murder his same-aged adopted cousin and pays for it with a righteously-violent beatdown at the hands of his American classmates.

But mixing both, as in violence involving female children? That's almost always "too far," and if it's done at all it's usually to take advantage of the assumed edginess of the material, a conceit that took its ultimate form in The Exorcist, where the premise of demonic possession allowed for the unleashing of taboo-horror incarnate: A little girl who endures (and delivers) horrible mutilation, curses like a sailor and at one point sexually mutilates herself with a Crucifix. (Speaking of things you couldn't get away with in a modern movie...)

And there you have it: What's the ultimate, consistent hot button taboo of movies? The mixing of violence and young women. Or, summarized in two words:

Hit. Girl.

The R-rated action-comedy Kick-Ass, - reviewed on Escape to The Movies last week - is about a teenage boy who tries to become a real-life superhero, which primarily earns him a succession of increasingly more savage beatings. But the star attraction has turned out to be one of the supporting players: Chloe Grace Mortez's "Hit-Girl," ostensibly a bubbly 11 year-old girl but actually a vastly more proficient real-life superhero, trained by her father "Big Daddy" (Nicolas Cage) in the arts of lethal combat to help him exact a personal vendetta against a vicious crimeboss.

Clad in a leather and kevlar costume, Manga-esque purple wig and omnipresent plaid skirt, Hit-Girl gets three of the film's major action scenes more or less to herself, and all three turn on the same axis: A ridiculously well-armed little girl murdering whole teams of adult men with an arsenal of swords, knives and guns. She also gets almost as good as she gives: She's shot point-blank in the chest at least three times, and when going up against an equally combat-proficient adult hand-to-hand in the climactic battle, she gets slammed around like a rag doll - with a brutal roundhouse to the face serving as one of the all-time most effective "by the way, the hero isn't invincible" gut-punch moments I can remember.

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