In my review for Kick-Ass, I only mentioned Chloe Moretz’s Hit-Girl briefly, though her role is getting the movie the most press. Roger Ebert called the film “morally reprehensible” and Kenneth Turan writes, “[Hit-Girl’s] language is so astonishingly crude that it has taken people’s attention away from all the killing she does, which is mind-boggling as well.” Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman mentions that Hit-Girl’s sadism isn’t much different from Bruce Willis’s in the Die Hard movies, and yet it is.
Because Hit-Girl is a little girl, played by an actress who was eleven years old when she filmed the movie. The movie is very, very R-rated, so I’m not concerned with her status as role model for other little girls (though thirteen-year-old Julia Rhodes would’ve loved her). What does concern me is the critical heat it’s taking because a little girl does most of the hardcore killing.
Hit-Girl is drawing fire because she’s multifaceted, and all her parts don’t seem to add up correctly. She’s a little blond girl who talks about Bratz dolls, makes hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, and should be attending fifth grade. She also calls men “c**ts” (this is the bit that really irks a lot of critics, while many of them seem to be ignoring all the, you know, killing she does), opens her storyline by getting shot in the chest, and wields swords and firearms with the best of the boys. She does need to be rescued at the end of the film, but sometimes we all do. For the most part, this little girl holds her own.
Would critics be as upset if Hit-Girl were Hit-Boy? I doubt it. Girls are supposed to be sugar, spice, and everything nice. Bratz and Barbies and Easy-Bake Ovens. Boys, on the other hand? Well, we all know they’re playing first-person-shooter games and fantasizing about gunplay before they’re five, right? My mother protested too much Barbie play and encouraged my sister and me to be as independent as possible, and I can appreciate a girl who knows what she wants and gets it. I still spent parts of the movie chuckling uncomfortably with widened eyes, but I have love for a girl who outperforms the boys. Even with all the blood and cussing (which, as Gleiberman points out, is par for the course with male protagonists) Hit-Girl is a feminist character.
My friends and I (who are, I assure you, well above the requisite age of seventeen) got ID’d at the theater door, and yet the row behind us at Kick-Ass was full of teenage boys. During a scene where Hit-Girl goes on a rampage, slicing, dicing, and shooting up a room full of goons, one of the boys blurted, “MARRY ME!” That was maybe the most disturbing part of the movie for me, even if it was a joke. It’s not surprising, considering the sexualization of badass female characters–Angelina Jolie understands this trope better than anyone, and Zoe Saldana is working her way there. But this one is eleven years old.
Vaughn doesn’t really fetishize Hit-Girl (I was more uncomfortable with Dakota Fanning’s exploitative sexy scenes in The Runaways), but it unnerved me to hear commentary from boys obviously a lot older than the character. When I saw Transformers 2: The Fallen, my teenage male row-mate sported an obvious erection and moaned audibly when sexyface queen Megan Fox appeared onscreen, but at least Fox is of legal age. (That wasn’t the only offensive thing about Transformers 2, but that’s a whole other story.) So on the one hand, I appreciate Hit-Girl’s character because of her independence and basic feminism. On the other hand, she is still a child.
Chloe Moretz, who played Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s smart, sassy sister in last year’s 500 Days of Summer and is slated to play the child-vampire role in the American redux of Let the Right One In, certainly won’t have to pull a Christina Aguilera-Dakota Fanning-Miley Cyrus-Britney Spears-style “LOOK AT ME I’M NOT A KID ANYMORE!” stunt. She’s got a few roles under her belt that aren’t all kittens and rainbows and unicorns, and it’s a good thing. In 500 Days of Summer, I noticed she performed laudably and seemed to possess a composure and bright intelligence most young actresses simply don’t. I have faith she can separate her character from real life–and to assume she can’t is to take away credit she deserves for a job well done.
What do you think: would Hit-Girl be as disturbing to critics if she sported a XY chromosome? If you’ve seen the movie, did you find the character unnecessarily violent or crude? Would you have changed anything?