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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 04/14/2010

Wait 'til they get a load of Hit-Girl

By Jen Chaney

She uses language worthy of a diatribe in a Quentin Tarantino movie. She covets butterfly knives and Berettas, not Barbies. And instead of fretting about whether boys like her, she opts to swiftly slice through mafia men with a samurai-style sword in each of her adolescent hands.

She is Hit-Girl.


(Lionsgate)

And even though her movie, "Kick-Ass," won't be widely released in American theaters until Friday, the 11-year-old assassin who sports a bob the color of grape Kool-Aid -- and is portrayed by Hit-Girl "It" Girl Chloë Moretz -- already has emerged as the most controversial and magnetic comic-book-movie icon since Heath Ledger reinvented the Joker.

Depending on who you ask, Hit-Girl -- who first sprang into existence in the 2008 "Kick-Ass" comic book, written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita, Jr. -- is either a new standard-setter for superheroic awesomeness, a fresh-faced symbol of female empowerment or flagrant evidence that our culture has coarsened beyond repair.

To get a clearer sense of how her cinematic creators view her, we went directly to one of the sources: Jane Goldman, co-screenwriter of "Kick-Ass," wife of well-known British TV and radio host Jonathan Ross and mother of three girls.

Goldman, chatting via phone from Los Angeles, says she expected the character -- who, in addition to kicking you-know-what, isn't shy about dropping f-bombs and the c-word -- to generate some controversy, especially since executives at various studios initially "loved the story but didn't feel they would be able to take the movie on if Hit-Girl remained that age." The feedback Goldman and co-screenwriter/director Matthew Vaughn consistently got: If you change the character's age to 18, then it's fine.

"That seems to me rather flimsy morals," she says. "If you disapprove of violence then you can't think there is any age when violence is appropriate. A lot of people use the phrase underage violence, which to me is meaningless."

Goldman says she was reluctant to turn Hit-Girl into a legal adult because it would be unfaithful to the source material (she is 10 years old in the comic), and would run the risk of sexualizing the character.

"She is a female antihero and it's actually by virtue of the fact that she is young that we've avoided that glamorizing, guns-and-girls type of violence, which is more offensive to me," she says.

"The point about her is that she is not there to be decorative. She's an antihero. She's Han Solo."

Despite the tongue-in-cheek, playful energy that infuses every frame of "Kick-Ass," both the movie and Hit-Girl in particular have raised the hair on more than a few critics' necks in the UK and Australia, where it's already playing in theaters. In the Daily Mail, Christopher Tookey called it "one of the most deeply cynical, shamelessly irresponsible films ever." The Australian branch of Focus on the Family also has expressed concern about placing a child at the center of so much non-stop maim-and-murder mayhem.

"The interesting thing about the controversy in England and Australia is that it's seemed to take place largely in the press," Goldman says. "Obviously everyone is free to express their opinion but we haven't met any kind of resisting force. And I haven't met anyone who's seen the movie who was offended by it, or who felt it shouldn't have been made or released. They just said it wasn't suitable for children, and I agree. To me, that's sort of the beginning and the end of the issue."

Even though the film is rated R in the U.S., all the ancillary marketing may put Hit-Girl in front of impressionable eyes, whether kids see the movie or not. For obvious reasons, McDonald's isn't doing a "Kick-Ass"/Happy Meal tie-in, but Hot Topic, one of the favorite shopping mall hang-outs among the aiming-for-edgy tween set, is selling its share of "Kick-Ass" merchandise, including Hit-Girl T-shirts that proclaim, "Girls Kick Ass!"

"I don't think anyone has ever been corrupted by a T-shirt," Goldman says, "unless there's a huge objection to the word ass."

This is America, I remind Goldman. There might be. She laughs.

And when asked if we'd even be having this conversation if Hit-Girl were Hit-Boy, Goldman has another chuckle.

"I think that's an excellent question," she says. "I think there is something about [a girl in this role] that makes people more uncomfortable. It amazes me that the traditional view of little girls as being innocent and sweet still holds true."

"I'm personally fed up with people seeing women and girls cast as victims," she adds, "so I feel it's refreshing."

By Jen Chaney  | April 14, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Movies, Pop Culture  
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Comments

I wanna dye my hair purple.

Posted by: hodie | April 14, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

With no other context by which to judge this film, I fall back on a reliable shortcut:

If Focus On The Family is against it, then I'm for it.

Posted by: byoolin1 | April 14, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Do it hodie. I think I'd much more relaxed if my doctor had purple hair.

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | April 14, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Dear Australia,

Please accept our apology for the export of Focus on the Family. Unfortunately, all sales are final and the merchandise cannot be returned for any reason.

Sincerely,
Rational America

Posted by: northgs | April 14, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Hodie, I'm right there with you - that is a great color!

Posted by: northgs | April 14, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

I got as far as this quote:

"one of the most deeply cynical, shamelessly irresponsible films ever."

And now I know I NEEEED to see this flick!!

Posted by: wadejg | April 14, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

byoolin - Very nice. Words to live by!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 14, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Was there any such matching uproar over 'Role Models'? The kid in that movie swore to make your uncle in the Navy proud.

Posted by: gorilla_monsoon72 | April 14, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I think that "Focus on the Family" works so much better when it is pronounced a la Quebecois.

N'est ce pas, Byoo'?

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 14, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I actually like Focus on the Family's movie reviews (Pluggedin.com). They are extremely thorough and so you know exactly what to expect - especially if you are going to take children to the movies.

I'm not sure why you'd categorically reject their opinion just b/c you don't like their politics. The movie reviews are not so much dogmatic as they are clear and descriptive.

Sometimes reviews I read in a newspaper don't give as much detail so it's hard to know whether or not something is child appropriate.

Posted by: Amelia5 | April 14, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Amelia5! I agree, Focus on the Family's movie reviews are much more thorough and unbiased than a lot of online or newspaper reviews. Simply because something is Christian based doesn't mean you have to reject it automatically because of that fact. There's something very wrong with America when everything Christian is immediately colored negatively and turn around and embrace atheism.

Posted by: IrishFox | April 14, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Except for the last two commenters, I love you guys. You have made my otherwise painfully dull day brighter.

Posted by: Clairebell | April 14, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Focus on the Family does provide a service to like-minded inviduals in providing critiques and advice on what movies to see, or avoid. Good for 'em. In that regard, it's not really a different sevice than Harry Knowles' Aint It Cool.

But, to continue the analogy - Aint It Cool followers don't protest movies they don't like. They don't stage pickets, pressure theater owners, etc. I'd say it's pretty bad when one's actions are more childish than a pile of fanboys.

By the way: it would be just about the most AWESOME thing ever if the fanboys and Focus and Family banded together to put a complete end to Sex and the City 2.

Posted by: molsonmich | April 14, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, Clairebell. I'm sad to be left out of the love!!

Posted by: Amelia5 | April 14, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Read Focus on the Family's review of "Date Night," and try not to puke. Under the heading of Crude or Profane Language, metrics include the number of times God's name is "misused." How could it be misused? I was raised Catholic, and always thought that God's last name was Damn.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | April 14, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Amelia, there are other sites out there that do the kind of reviews you're looking for without the bias. As a filmmaker, FotF reviews make me sick.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | April 14, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Sas, you made me go look. I may not forgive you.

Under drug and alcohol content:

"Phil's friend Brad drinks a beer."

OH MY GOD!!! Hide the kids! Someone drank A BEER!

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | April 14, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

What Molsonmich said.

Posted by: northgs | April 14, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Thanks socerer's cat! I do check other websites, too.

I guess I don't think it's a bad thing to read reviews, even if I don't agree with them. I think it's funny that anyone would find READING the reviews offensive.

After reading a variety of them, I can make up my own mind.
And Focus on the Family's are particulary detailed.

And I do like the detail. Even if it's "Brad drinks a beer." I want to know how that is portrayed while I'm deciding whether or not to see a film or have one of my children see it.

Focus on the Family is one point of view that I find valuable. I particularly appreciated their review of "Dear John" - a film that was touted as family values, Christian, etc. The details made me realize that I didn't want my tween watching - and Focus on the Family endorsed the movie (as did many family oriented websites). It's not that I think there's anything wrong with "Dear John" - I just decided that my tween didn't need to start watching movies that portray women as whining cheaters with no guts.

Posted by: Amelia5 | April 14, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Fair enough, Amelia. For you, it's a point of view worth reading. But I'll have to reserve the right to still find them varying degrees of smug, condescending, and/or absurd. For a screenwriter the whole process is pretty revolting. To parse every scene and line down to, for example, a single adult character drinking a beer (not falling down drunk or the like) is offensive. After reading their reviews I shudder to think how they would "break down" my latest despite no sex, minimal swearing, oh, and the occasional beer. It's a romantic comedy. They would fail to see the romance, the comedy or the complexity of the characters because they are blinded by inessential details, make value judgments on CHARACTERS as if they're real people or role models, and reinterpret plot to make their point.

arrrgh. okay. end of rant!

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | April 14, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Good points socerers cat!

I agree that they parse it all down - but I find it more helpful, again, then some other reviews that don't put in the context.

Some say:

x number of curse words
x times drinking occurs
x times sex occues

Well - that doesn't explain much to me. I don't object to everything - I object to certain things in certain contexts.

And I'm not even sure "objects" is the correct word. I'm just not interested in certain things. So, if it's another movie with the same joke about sex that I've already heard 3,000 times (since I DID go to jr. high school) then I'm not interested. BUT, I'd personally like to know the context before I go. Some people wouldn't.

A great example is "My Cousin Vinny." Do I necessarily want to hear curse words? (No) Do I seek them out? (No). But I found the context of the constant cussing in that movie to be clever, original and hilarious.

Thus, what I like about Focus on the Family's reviews is the specific information. I also don't care if people tell me the ending of a movie before I see it (and I even felt that way as a teenager!) I know that kills some people!

Hearing other people's perspectives is interesting to me - even when I don't agree with them. But I do think it is odd to categorically reject everything written simply because of the source.

Good luck on your new movie!!

Posted by: Amelia5 | April 14, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Amelia.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | April 14, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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