Politics Archive for April, 2010

Q& A: A Reader's Thoughts on My Kick-Ass Column, and My Own Response

My Voynaristic column, “Why Kick-Ass Isn’t Reprehensible, Morally or Otherwise” has generated considerable response and discussion, thanks in large part to Roger Ebert re-tweeting it in spite of the column directly attacking his own review of the film (which just goes to show that Roger is and continues to be a prince among men). An email I received from a reader, Robert Hamer, was particularly thoughtful and merited, I felt, deeper consideration and discussion. Robert’s email to me is below; you will find my response to him after the jump.
SPOILER WARNING: This discussion does contain spoilers regarding the film, so if you’ve not seen it and don’t want to read spoilers, stop now or forever hold your bitching.
Hello, Kim. Long time reader, though this is my first message.
I wanted to express my disagreement with your assesment of the controversy surrounding Kick-Ass, as it sort of misses the point as to why her character is so distasteful. I have absolutely no fear for the well-being of Chloe Moretz or that any young person is going out to try and be a foul-mouthed superhero. But I am disheartened that someone as vicious, violent, and heartless as her is celebrated by audiences across the country. It’s a sad reminder – to me, at least – of how gleefully sadistic American movies have become to have a film show a child brutally killing people (one of them innocent, if my memory is correct) and expect me to think it’s “funny” or “cool” and to sneer at me if I don’t.
You cite in support of your “the controversy is unwarranted” argument Taxi Driver and Pretty Baby, but I don’t think those comparisons are appropriate. In both cases, the situations of those girls were portrayed with restraint and compassion. Scorsese didn’t cheer at Iris being a prostitute; Malle didn’t film Violet as an object of titillation or juvenile entertainment. Those controversial scenes were necessary and in service of larger ideas. Kick-Ass can’t claim any of that, and in fact has its initial themes (normal superheroes in the “real” world) suffer because of the absurdity of the Hit-Girl character. Certainly, Matthew Vaughn can’t claim “restraint” or “finesse” in portraying this character, as in many points of the film he breaks from the flow of his action scenes to focus, in gruesome detail, every single bloody death.
Does this mean that society should be up in arms over Kick-Ass? No, any more than parent’s groups shouldn’t be crusading against Grand Theft Auto III because it allows you to kill prostitutes. But it’s perfectly justified, as far as I’m concerned, to be disturbed and repelled by both.
My response after the jump …

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon