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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is the “controversy” over ‘Kick-Ass’ worth getting bothered about?

It started late last year, when the redband trailer for Kick-Ass debuted. Some fanboys appeared to find it hugely erotic to hear 11-year-old Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl say “cock” — which it kinda disturbing, actually — while other fanboys were merely annoyed (and continue to be annoyed to this day) that grownups were annoyed that the kiddies were able to subvert the redband restrictions and watch Moretz say “cock,” not to mention seeing her kick the shit out of a ton of bad guys.

Now, the film opens in the U.K. today (North American audiences will have to wait another two weeks). Reviews are mostly good, but some people are upset that not enough people are upset about Moretz’s potty mouth. Says ITN:

In an era when viewers lodge their objections about talent show judges and prank phone-ins, a child saying the ‘c’ word in a film seems likely to attract complaints. But most critics have turned a blind eye to the transgression which occurs in Kick-Ass.

Actress Chloe Moretz turns the air blue as the character Hit Girl. The 13-year-old, was just 11 when she shot the action comedy and admits she would be grounded for life if she uttered any of the rude words in the movie, which has a 15 rating in the UK.

Others are upset, but not, perhaps, for the reason you’d expect. Such as the hilariously appropriately monikered David Cox, who, at the Guardian’s Film blog, complains that now that the word cunt has been defanged by dint of an 11-year-old girl saying it onscreen, he’ll have to find a new vulgarity to sling when he’s really, really angry.

Is there any there there? Is the “controversy” over Kick-Ass worth getting bothered about? Or is the real controversy the fact that people are trying to make something controversial that no one seems to be worried about?

I’ll be curious to see what audiences say about the film’s violence, which is a far more insidious thing to be worried about — the film makes it look very cool, which I think is a far worse thing to expose children to than some naughty words.

What do you think? (There are no spoilers in any of the links provided, if you want to read further.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • This is a classic mountain out of a molehill.

    This is self-promoting kerfluffle over nothing. Who cares who says what word in a movie like Kick-Ass which is about being over-the-top?

    To those who would get upset I wave a dismissive hand and say, “Don’t watch”.

    To those who decry the purity of children who may watch I say “Be more concerned about children who hear worse in their own homes.”

    And to those who would seek to deprive me of the pleasure of watching this film over their own issues I say, “Get the fuck outta my way or I will punch you in the cock!”

  • Nathan

    In spite of all the animosity towards the MPAA ratings, they do serve a purpose. I would hope that the big bold R in the tv spots would give parents the hint that they shouldn’t let their kids see it. If they don’t heed that warning, it’s their own fault if their kids start cursing and beating people up.

  • It’s mainly a holdover from Victorian times, when the newly emerged middle-class wanted to shake off their filthy lower-class image and thought that that sort of language had to go. Of course the upper-class talked just as blue as the lower class, but that didn’t seem to matter. Heck, there used to be surnames and street names with the “C” word – even Shakespeare managed to sneak it in (I wonder if teachers go over the meaning of the line “country matters” in Hamlet) and let us not talk about that filthy bugger Chaucer…

    I personally find it offensive that people get offended at words. Were we not taught in schooll (or at least repeated ad nausem to bullies) “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” ? We should hold no word to be any more powerfull than any other word. Only then shall we be truely free. Truely. If we decriminalize the words, they will loose their power – their mystique, if you will – and their useage will stpo shocking people, and slowly fade…

  • LaSargenta

    NEWSFLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kids Hear GrownUps Use Obscenities And Start Using Them, Too!

    OMG! How could this happen?!? Kids are speshul snowflakes who live ina land of faeries and talking animals and none of them ever learn a nasty word! And if they do hear them, they have No. Clue. what they mean, of course!!!?!!

    So, that means, OF Course!, that to show any potty-mouthed child in a film is a Disgusting Travesy(tm) and must be incredibly perverted. As well, it just debases the vulgarity currency for us Adults who, Of Ccourse!!, get to use this language anytime we are angry and frustrated because, well, we’re adults, aren’t we? and get the privilege of telling people off and spewing expletives.

    Goddamn motherfucking cocksuckers!!!!!

  • LaSargenta

    *cough* But, to answer the question, nope, not worth getting bothered by the ‘controversy’.

    After all, seeing and hearing an 11 year old defend herself and stick up for others might be an awesome antidote for my soul after hearing about those half dozen or more guys in Trenton who gang raped a 7 year old.

  • Remy Michael

    Is the “controversy” over ‘Kick-Ass’ worth getting bothered about?

    No.

    In spite of all the animosity towards the MPAA ratings, they do serve a purpose.

    Would it be to provide an unsolicited set of values, determined via a clandestine process of people A) with different (and most times backwards – language is immoral but shotting people is okay – just don’t use the “c”-word) beliefs than my own and at least half of the rest of the country – and most likely more than half of the movie-going public, B)with the ticket-selling business’ best interests – not the artists’ – at heart, C)with a completely arbitrary set of guidelines – at best – for movie-makers to follow because they themselves do not have written guidelines, and D)who have grown completely past their mandate with next to no checks or balances?

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree that a group of people who keep themselves hidden from the world with no one to account to somehow should be making judgments for me about what movies are suitable for my, or anyone else’s, kids.

    The bottom line is that what we need in this country are for parents to become more responsible for what their kids are watching and eating and learning in schools. When parents hand over that responsibility to 10-year olds, you get exactly the results you would expect. Teachers can only do so much and the system is over-capacity. Parents simply have to become more involved, and this backwards rating system isn’t helping anyone – it lures parents into thinking somethings are alright. They need to see it for themselves.

  • Pollas

    Kids have pottymouths. They hear a bad word, know it’s “bad”, and find it quite fun and cool to say it themselves just because it is considered bad. A lot of parents would have been shocked to hear the things I heard other kids (especially boys) say on the bus when I was in elementary school.

    All parents can do is do their best to teach their kids the proper way to behave and hope as much of it as possible sinks in. Many kids’ mouths clean up as they grow older and mature.

  • It wouldn’t have hurt the profanity critics much if they read the source material (it’s in hardcover at your local comic book store!) and found out that, yeah, Hit-Girl is SUPPOSED to be a profane f-bomb, gun-wielding, sword-stabbing, balls-shooting muthahumper that would make Samuel L Jackson think “sh-t is she my daughter?”

    It’s been 11 years since South Park Bigger Longer and Uncut hit the big screens, and the Parental Concern Units are STILL thinking we ought to ban Canadian fart movies. /facepalm

    In the meantime, Hit-Girl leaves a body count higher than the Obama Beach landing and NO ONE bats an eye.

  • This reminds me of Harry Potter’s (or was it Dumbledore’s?) succinct analysis of “taboo” words: “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

    Basically, what LaSargenta and Pollas (and others) said.

  • PaulW: The “Obama Beach landing”? :-)

  • Nathan

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree that a group of people who keep themselves hidden from the world with no one to account to somehow should be making judgments for me about what movies are suitable for my, or anyone else’s, kids.

    I don’t want to get into a debate about the MPAA’s merits because I never denied it is very flawed. But I can’t imagine why anyone would give Kick-Ass anything but an R rating. If you think your kids can handle “strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children”, then fine. But obviously not everyone else does, which is the purpose the MPAA rating serves.

  • LaSargenta

    As someone who went to see Cousin Cousine with my mother when I was 9, I have to say that sometimes there are movies that might have ticks next to everything on the laundry list; yet, if the parent is prepared to have conversations with the child about everything that might come up, the movie is perfectly appropriate.

    Personally, I have taken my son to see Happy-Go-Lucky (rated R) and Invictus (PG-13) for example (among lots of other things) but considered GI Joe completely unsuitable even thought it was rated PG-13 just like Invictus. After I see the Runaways for myself, I’ll decide if it might be ok for him. He’s 8. Possibly not, but, seriously, cautionary tales about teen sex and drugs and being used by the music industry really can’t come too early.

  • DENNIS STEPHENS

    FUCK HELL PISS COCK SHIT

  • Nathan

    Trust me, Kick-Ass will be a lot closer to GI Joe than Happy-Go-Lucky.

  • DENNIS STEPHENS

    CATHOLIC PRIESTS ARE DOING SHIT WAY WORSE THAN SAYING COCK.

  • LaSargenta

    Trust me, Kick-Ass will be a lot closer to GI Joe than Happy-Go-Lucky.

    No doubt. But, my point was that ratings seem awfully arbitrary and like the people doing the rating think violence and sexual tension subsumed into violence is just fine for our kids while seeing adult conversations, smoking, someone being an asshole and spewing racist remarks, and some rather loving and sweet heavy petting is a no-no. In that case, my home is r-rated.

    In other words, I don’t trust the MPAA and I just see the movies on my own first, then, if I think he’d get something out of it, I see it a second time. (And sometimes 3rd and 4th if we really like it, like Fantastic Mr. Fox.)

  • nyjm

    I’ll be curious to see what audiences say about the film’s violence, which is a far more insidious thing to be worried about — the film makes it look very cool, which I think is a far worse thing to expose children to than some naughty words.

    I think this is a far more interesting thing to be talking about. It reminds me of a (very brief) opinion forwarded in This Film is Not Yet Rated that the MPAA should reverse it policy towards violence. Let the kiddies sees the ultra-realistic blood and guts (such as that in the very graphic District 9 – which I’ve finally got around to seeing), but place tighter restrictions on the “PG-13” violence that seems to indicate that you can empty a whole clips of bullets into a pack of bad guys without nary a drop of blood – or any real moral consequences, for that matter.

    I’m interested in Kick-Ass because it has the potential to be a fun and witty satire of this violent hyberbole that flies under the mainstream radar.* Full frontal female nudity? Uh… ok, but just a bit. Senseless violence? Oh, sure what the hell. But realistic blood and guts? The horror! Male genitalia? Wash your eyes! Double standard? What standard?

    *And from MAJ’s quick comment quoted above, this looks unlikely. Oh well.

    More than just bashing on the MPAA, I’m really interested in hearing from parents. How do you contextualize violence in films, on TV and in video games?

  • Nathan

    In other words, I don’t trust the MPAA and I just see the movies on my own first, then, if I think he’d get something out of it, I see it a second time.

    That’s certainly a better way to gauge a film than a rating, but obviously not everyone has the free time to see a lot of movies on their own. At least they do provide those content descriptions along with the rating, and if parents read Kick-Ass’ I’m positive they’d think twice before letting their kids see it.

  • Nathan

    It reminds me of a (very brief) opinion forwarded in This Film is Not Yet Rated that the MPAA should reverse it policy towards violence. Let the kiddies sees the ultra-realistic blood and guts (such as that in the very graphic District 9 – which I’ve finally got around to seeing), but place tighter restrictions on the “PG-13” violence that seems to indicate that you can empty a whole clips of bullets into a pack of bad guys without nary a drop of blood – or any real moral consequences, for that matter.

    Eh… it’s a nice idea but that would also mean you’d have to give all the Bugs Bunny cartoons (and anything else that relies on slapstick comedy, which is true of most films aimed at kids) an R rating. Not going to happen.

  • Knightgee

    I look back and laugh at my parent’s attempts to shield me from movies and tv shows, as not only did I learn everything I needed to know about being a vulgar, foul-mouthed ruffian from the other kids at school, but I learned how to get around the parental controls about a week after they put them up. And this was before the internet was big.

  • Kathryn

    Ok, the fact that Hit Girl is a swearing, fighting 11 year old is supposed to be disturbing. I mean, she’s undeniably cool, but the film makes it clear that it is not a good thing that the kid has been trained to be this way, and definitely not good at all that the world of the film has made her that way.

    It’s also as funny as hell. I mean, it is realistically gory, not slapstick, but it is played for dark comedy.

    Defintiely not a kid’s film, though.

  • I look back and laugh at my parent’s attempts to shield me from movies and tv shows, as not only did I learn everything I needed to know about being a vulgar, foul-mouthed ruffian from the other kids at school, but I learned how to get around the parental controls about a week after they put them up. And this was before the internet was big.

    And I remember rolling my eyes at a friend’s mother who took the lyrics of an old Jim Stafford song “Wildwood Flower” (an obvious marijuana reference) a lot more seriously than he did and who even questioned him to make sure that his interest in the song did not mean an interest in illegal drugs. In retrospect, her attention seemed laughable since the friend never seemed to be in any danger of turning into a stoner during the time that I knew him.

    And yet when I grew up and saw what happened in households in which none of the alleged parents bothered to question what the kids saw or listened to as long as they weren’t too much in the way, I had to wonder if my friend’s mother–who, after all, genuinely cared for her son–was really that bad a person.

    I’m not saying we should encourage all parents to wall their kids up in an ivory tower a la Rapunzel. A true parent, after all, has an obligation to help prepare his or her children to deal with how things are in the real world.

    But, unfortunately, the other side of the coin–i.e. the notion that anything goes as far as what the children are allowed to experience–doesn’t exactly make for model citizens either.

    Almost anything that is available on video or DVD will be watched by a child if that child grows up in the wrong kind of household. And indeed, I’ve seen parents let their children or grandchildren watch stuff like The Boogeyman and other slasher films that were never intended to be watched by children.

    If you believe that’s too minor a thing to make a fuss about, consider this: the same people who are careless about exposing their kids to slasher films also tend to be careless about exposing their kids to pornography, drug paraphernalia, sharp objects and many other items that aren’t exactly child-friendly. It would be nice to pretend that such families are just a product of Michael Medved’s imagination and that real families are more like my family, MaryAnn’s family or LaSargenta’s family. And in an ideal world, they would be.

    But we don’t live in an ideal world.

    And while I understand the temptation to roll one’s eyes at all the church lady wannabes who are making a fuss about a 11-year-old’s use of the word “cock” at a time when all too many children witness Mommy getting smacked around by Daddy, I also understand the need to draw a line somewhere. If not at Kickass, then at Twilight. If not at Twilight, then elsewhere.

    But where to actually draw that line and how to sort out the various disagreements among otherwise good people about where to draw it…aye, there’s the rub…

  • But here comes the question: if parents aren’t paying attention to their kids and the kids watch violent, sexualized movies with lots of foul language, which is worse for the kid, the movie or the parents who don’t care?

    And then comes the question, would you let your child star in a movie like “Kick Ass”?

  • K8

    This controversy is definitely not worth the bother. Are you wanting to draw the line with censorship of the industry or within the family unit? Censorship of the industry is a big can of worms and one only has control (somewhat–depending on the age and independence of the members) of your own personal family unit.

    The film makers and industry have rated this for high judgement. Use it as a guide and either choose to see it or not. Protect your children as you see fit.

    I personally have seen the movie and LOVED IT and will see it again. I certainly do not fit the target audience. I don’t want anyone standing in my way of being able to watch it. And I most likely would have allowed my older teens to watch it back in the day. It’s entertaining and fun and there’s movies out there that will bend minds much more than this film will ever have a chance to. But then that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.

    Oh.. And you have the wrong C-word in mind! Think female anatomy.

  • AlsoKT

    My mind keeps circling back to these two posts:

    http://tinyurl.com/yh7daov

    http://tinyurl.com/ykcvl99

    Which I guess is to say that I think there’s merit in discussion of child actors in mature roles, but the “shocked grownup” perspective is less than helpful.

    As far as whether kids should see it? I A) haven’t seen the movie (and don’t plan to – doesn’t appeal) and B) don’t know any kids currently under the age of 14, so I’m not really in a position to judge. But it’s brightly coloured and amusingly titled and red-band trailered all over the internet and otherwise memorable, so a lot of kids are going to see it on a friend’s laptop with or without their parents’ blessing. And if banning something closes a channel that would otherwise be open, then I think that’s a bigger problem than one movie.

  • Blip

    Mark Millar’s strongest skill as a writer is shock for shock’s sake. That is not a good thing. He slathers on the jolts to cover the gaps in his plots and the fact that he can’t write dialogue to save his life. Those who live on Red Bull will love this; those who are liberal will yammer on about freedom of speech; the parents, rightly, will panic and feel queasy. Me, I’m not going to see it. I can smell it from here. And, since I read court cases for a living, if I want a gratuitous dose of violence-shock-talk-porn, I can go to work and get paid for it.

  • Nathan

    I see MAJ has given Kick-Ass a red light. Hoo hoo hoo, things are going to get interesting around here.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I like Blip and Nathan’s posts here. Shall we all just start writing outraged fanboy posts now, to save everyone else the trouble when the review is written? “OMG dis kritic is sum mad Xristian Republican who wants everythin to be the 50s an duznt get Mark Millars satires!!!!11!

    I think Millar’s a pretty terrible writer too, representative of a generation of comic writers who read Alan Moore’s work and could only see the sex and violence. His protestations that his comics are satires of adolescent entitlement rings terribly false; aside from anything else, it’s a bad sign when people can’t tell the difference between a writer being ironic and a writer being earnest. He might tell himself he’s a modern-day Swift, but you can’t tell me he isn’t getting off on all the gore, rape and bigotry.

    Still, this whole controversy is so much hot air. When I was Chloe’s age, I’d already played hundreds of games in the playground where I fought with my friends and shot them with pretend guns and suchlike. Didn’t have any lasting effect on me.

  • Lisa

    not so much the language but I do have a few concerns about the apparent sexualisation of an 11 year girl. They’ll be settled one way or the other when I see the film.

  • But here comes the question: if parents aren’t paying attention to their kids and the kids watch violent, sexualized movies with lots of foul language, which is worse for the kid, the movie or the parents who don’t care?

    Fair enough. Based on the stories my parents have told me about life in the 1950s, I suspect there has always been such parents. But for some reason, there seem to be more of them nowadays–perhaps because we’re more open now about the various dysfunctions in our society–and more eager to accommodate them–especially when there’s a profit to be made.

    Then again life always seems to be going downhill and people on both sides of the tracks always seem to have major issues with their kids.

    Then again, it seems like the cultural commentators of the day used to care about such dysfunctions back in the day. Nowadays, a “I’m all right, Jack” attitude towards such problems seems more fashionable.

    Maybe I’m just watching the wrong movies…

    I think Millar’s a pretty terrible writer too, representative of a generation of comic writers who read Alan Moore’s work and could only see the sex and violence. His protestations that his comics are satires of adolescent entitlement rings terribly false; aside from anything else, it’s a bad sign when people can’t tell the difference between a writer being ironic and a writer being earnest. He might tell himself he’s a modern-day Swift, but you can’t tell me he isn’t getting off on all the gore, rape and bigotry.

    I always wondered why Millar’s work on Swamp Thing back in the 1990s wasn’t as moving as Alan Moore’s work on the same title. Now I know.

    Then again–yes, I use that phrase too much–the same Max Allen Collins who created the critically hated Ms. Tree, a comic book series about a female vigilante which was much criticized by comic book critics back in the day for its violence, also went on to create the critically acclaimed The Road to Perdition, which went on to become a much-praised movie.

    So maybe there’s hope for Millar.

    Maybe.

  • misterb

    Do you vaccinate your kids or do you keep them isolated from disease? Disturbing topics in movies can help prepare kids for disturbing actions in real life without exposing them to real dangers, but the inoculation has to be done responsibly. I’ve raised 2 children to adulthood, and my primary philosophy was censor only when necessary. When my son was under 7 or 8, movies had the capacity to frighten the wits out of him. We were careful not to expose him to anything but bunny cartoons at that age. By his teens, he was eager to see much darker fare. Kids age at their own pace, what my son could handle at 10-12, my mother can’t handle in her 70’s. Forget the MPAA, learn how your own children deal with shock, and help them get stronger.

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