Kick-Ass, the movie based on the cult-favourite comic book, finally arrived last week and I loved it. After months of seeing trailers and teasers offering stylized glimpses of self-realized super heroes obliterating the bad guys, it’s here, delivering on everything it promised.
Adapted from a book of the same name, Kick-Ass is the naive alter-ego of a bullied 16-year-old comic book geek who happens to have some steel plates in his body and severed nerve endings that minimize his pain censors.
Big Daddy and Hit Girl are, in many ways, the most disturbing father-daughter duo ever, but there’s a sweetness to their interactions. Big Daddy must avenge the big bad drug dealer who framed him and put him behind bars, leading to his wife’s suicide, and Hit Girl is his 11-year-old daughter, a killing machine who longs for butterfly knives rather than Barbies.
Plenty of critics have already decried Kick-Ass for its bloodsport tendencies, and fair enough. It’s true that director Matthew Vaughn never wastes an opportunity to show a sword slicing through flesh or a dense arc of blood spraying through the air.
It’s true that upon leaving the theatre, I was so pumped up with tension and energy that I made phantom fight moves the entire three blocks to my car. But underneath all that glorified violence was another message that has stayed with me long after the initial adrenaline left my system: What does it mean to be brave?
A few weeks ago, my colleague at the newspaper where I work wrote a story on Vancouver’s homeless street soccer league. I was proofing the story, and when I got to the last few paragraphs I stumbled over a name that knocked the breath from my chest. The young man detailed his years of drug abuse, his lengthy, ongoing stay in a shelter, and how he was desperately trying to keep himself together after decades of hard times, finding solace in the simplest act of engagement: soccer.
He was the most tortured boy in my elementary school. I went to school with him from kindergarten through grade four, when he finally had to change schools because the torment was simply unrelenting. I’ve never forgotten him, but I never expected to see his name in our paper.
He was an incredibly cute kid, but, admittedly weird. Actively weird, and children are like wild animals who turn on the weakest in the pack. He wasn’t subject to much physical violence, from what I remember, but he was constantly picked on, isolated, and alone in his perceived freak-dom. I don’t remember ever actively bullying him, but I passively stood by, watching, refusing to step in even though I knew it was wrong.
The saddest thing I remember, the moment that makes my stomach turn to this day, was standing in a circle watching as some boys offered him brown M&Ms. He took them, grateful for the treat, the gift. Then everyone laughed because those M&Ms had been rolled in dirt, mud, and who knows what else for about a half hour before they made their way into his mouth.
He transferred soon after, and coming across his name in my co-worker’s story was the first time since high school that I had confirmation he was even alive. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of just standing there in a circle, watching something horrible happen to him. I take almost no comfort in the fact that I was nine, maybe ten, particularly nowadays when it’s become second nature in our society to watch horrible things happen to people and just video it for YouTube rather than intervene and help.
This passive compliance is prominent throughout Kick-Ass, and is at the heart of our superheroes’ motivations. Kick-Ass himself only springs into action after being repeatedly mugged by neighbourhood thugs.
Later, he fights off three gang-bangers to help a guy he doesn’t know while a crowd of restaurant patrons watch, cheer, and record the fracas with their cellphones. Big Daddy seeks revenge because corruption has poisoned the very people we pay to keep us safe.
But it’s Hit Girl who really made me wish this movie had come out when I was younger. Aside from her ninja-like assassin skills, she’s not afraid of being weird, has a clear sense of right and wrong, can stand up to any bully no matter what his weapon of choice, and has the guts to call people on their bad behaviour. She’s fictional, sure, but her fearlessness feels like a call to action, daring me to do the right thing. I can’t change the past, but I can atone for it. It’s never too late to discover your inner Hit Girl.
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