Roger Ebert vs. Harry Knowles on the Politics of Kick-Ass's Hit Girl
We've known for quite a while that Hit Girl from Kick-Ass would be cinematically controversial, but now that the film is in release, the debate about her has gotten kicked up a notch. On one side, you have Roger Ebert, who gives the film one star and questions the delight taken in Hit Girl's R-rated behavior (which involves ultraviolence and a terribly dirty mouth). One the other side, you have Harry Knowles saying, "Naw, old man!" and then ding-dong-ditching Ebert. Let's examine their arguments, shall we?
First up, we have Ebert's take on the matter:
Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool? Will I seem hopelessly square if I find "Kick-Ass" morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point? Let's say you're a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in. A movie camera makes a record of whatever is placed in front of it, and in this case, it shows deadly carnage dished out by an 11-year-old girl, after which an adult man brutally hammers her to within an inch of her life. Blood everywhere. Now tell me all about the context. [...]
I know, I know. This is a satire. But a satire of what? The movie's rated R, which means in this case that it's doubly attractive to anyone under 17. I'm not too worried about 16-year-olds here. I'm thinking of 6-year-olds. There are characters here with walls covered in carefully mounted firearms, ranging from handguns through automatic weapons to bazookas. At the end, when the villain deliciously anticipates blowing a bullet hole in the child's head, he is prevented only because her friend, in the nick of time, shoots him with bazooka shell at 10-foot range and blows him through a skyscraper window and across several city blocks of sky in a projectile of blood, flame and smoke. As I often read on the Internet: Hahahahaha.
Knowles responds with a long treatise about the wide availability of toy guns in Ebert's childhood and the classic films that also put young actors in murky situations:
I remind you that there was a time, when Martin Scorsese was under fire for having a 13 year old Jodie Foster play a whore in TAXI DRIVER - which is more or less about a man that in the end is a hero for taking violent action to protect that girl.
At that time there were critics that wanted to hang Marty. You were not one of them. I remember that time because as a 6 year old I can remember watching you and Gene defend Scorsese and you were my heroes.
I have to say it is a little sad to see you go the route you did in your KICK ASS review. And don't worry, while I suppose you'll never really just get KICK-ASS... You're no square in my book. But you may be in danger of being a 'grown up'.
All right, Harry, good argument. But then you lose me here:
The sort of kids that will see KICK ASS this weekend are well prepared for it. Talk to a teacher at our public schools and you'll hear fouler language than even Hit Girl dishes in the classrooms. Not of a private school, but I have dear friends that teach - their kids know the language and how to use it. They'll see it as just a really cool movie that really let kids KICK ASS. And hopefully it'll make a few kids want to get into acting so they could do stuff like that. Hopefully.
Kick-Ass is going to inspire more little girls to become child actors? BAN IT! KILL IT!
Kick-Ass [Roger Ebert]