Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kick-Ass

On a Spearhead recommendation, I saw the movie Kick-Ass on DVD last night.  Based on the trailers, I had expected a family movie in the same genre as, say, Sky High, and invited the family to watch it with me.

Bad idea.

While Kick-Ass does, in fact, have the moral aesthetic of Sky High in the sense of being a campy story about child super-heroes, the visual aesthetic is much closer to The Matrix.  But even The Matrix comparison doesn’t quite capture Kick-Ass’ absolute level of sex and violence; for that, maybe Scarface would be the better.

Yet somehow, the contradictions work, which says a lot about the way well-executed movies can use context to desensitize us to murder and mayhem.  In Kick-Ass, we get to watch, among 50+ other deaths, the 11-year-old heroine use a katana to impale a young woman begging for her life.  I’m disturbed that I wasn’t disturbed.

On Peter’s recommendation, I read the Neal Stephenson novel The Diamond Age and thought, “I so want to see this movie!”  (The SyFy miniseries is still in development hell.)  But I also thought that we would need to make the Chinese girl army a little older.  Really, twelve-year-olds?  Who would believe that?  But perhaps Kick-Ass shows us how it could be done.

5 comments:

Justin said...

This is how our moral compasses are constantly demagnetized.

My almost-five year old daughter, we don't let her watch TV, just Barbie movies and Care Bears and stuff like that. While on vacation at grandma's, she saw Looney Toons for the first time (grandpa put it on, thinking they kids would like it).

She was disgusted, and confused. "Daddy, why did they just shoot that man? Daddy, why did that man just get blown up?" She felt bad for Yosemite Sam. I agreed with her, and we turned it off.

We are under a constant barage of filth and bile, which I find to be little less that the face and method of the Evil One.

Is there not a connection between our hyper-violent media/entertainment culture, and our casual acceptance of real military violence and imperialism, for example? Or police brutality, or our acceptance of crime, etc.?

Our natural instinct is to be horrified at these crimes against nature. If you truly aren't feeling the revulsion any more, you desperately need to unplug, for the good of your own soul.

samsonsjawbone said...

Absolutely, Justin. My wife and I have no TV channels and only infrequently watch movies (and even then we often aim for older stuff that we know is tame). When we catch glimpses of "mainstream" television in public, or at friends' houses, it's often shocking to us. And we love it that way.

trumwill said...

When it comes to manipulation (in this case, desensitization from violence and sex), it's always the really well done stuff you have to worry about the most. I notice it with shows with a political agenda. The really preachy stuff with a sermon at the end with music playing is not nearly as successful as shows that more thoroughly investigate issues and then gently guide you to the conclusion, being interesting and entertaining the whole way.

Φ said...

My two lengthy stretches overseas were basically TV-free. Coming back to the U.S. involved some degree of culture shock, not so much because of the programming as the commercials. I watch enough TV now that I don't notice it anymore, but I can recall thinking, Wow, TV commercials are awash in sexual suggestiveness.

Trumwill: I know exactly what you mean, but I'm mulling over whether "worry" is the right word. It depends. I'll have to do a post . . .

samsonsjawbone said...

Coming back to the U.S. involved some degree of culture shock, not so much because of the programming as the commercials. I watch enough TV now that I don't notice it anymore, but I can recall thinking, Wow, TV commercials are awash in sexual suggestiveness.

Yep, my wife and I say exactly that.

And with respect to commercials, it's not only the sexuality, either. Once you become "re-sensitized" through abstention, you realize that commercials are not only sexually charged, but they're offensively manipulative, too. I mean, yes, everyone knows they're supposed to be manipulative, but it's worse than you understand if you've become de-sensitized. I can't see more than a few commercials without really feeling like my intelligence is being insulted.

In my view advertising is one of the banes of modern existence, an opinion that I might write more about in future.