Kick Ass?: the red-band trailer starring Hit-Girl

Hit Girl from the upcoming film Kick Ass (image courtesy of empireonline.com)

Last week the NYT reported on the controversy surrounding a red-band trailer for the upcoming film Kick Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn and produced by Brad Pitt. Based on a comic book of the same name, written Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita, Jr., Kick Ass follows a teenage boy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who models himself after his favorite superheroes and decides to become a real-life superhero himself. Along the way he inspires others to become superheroes and encounters a father-daughter vigilante team, called Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and 11-year-old Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz). To get a better sense of the film, here is the official (non-redband) trailer below:

There’s nothing objectionable per se in the trailer above, and that’s because this is the trailer the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) approved. Trailers approved by the MPAA rarely include profanity, high levels of violence, or nudity. These things may be referred to, suggested, or hinted at. Yet for a trailer to receive a seal of approval from the MPAA, it usually has to refrain from showing anything deemed inappropriate for children, even in the case of Rated-R films. The logic behind this being that once a trailer is approved by the MPAA it can be shown on television and in theaters, where children’s innocent eyes might wander to the screen and catch of glimpse of something too adult at this fragile stage in their life (please feel free to read a little sarcasm in that sentence).

Red-band trailers are allowed to show some of what is missing from MPAA approved trailers – meaning they can show the cussing, the violence, and the nudity that exists in the film. Since most theaters will not play red-band trailers, these trailers exist (and thrive) online, where movie marketers rely on them to generate buzz around their films.

In the case of Kick Ass, the red-band trailer (which is linked here) causing such a stir involves the character Hit-Girl. For those of you who maybe don’t care to watch the red-band trailer, or for those of you unable to watch it at this moment (say you’re at work), I’ll recap what’s grabbing everyone’s attention. The red-band trailer introduces Hit-Girl at a diner sitting across from her father, Big Daddy. He asks what she wants for her birthday, to which Hit-Girl replies “a puppy.” Her father looks shocked for a second until Hit-Girl laughs and says “I’m just fucking with you Daddy” and then rattles some knife she wants instead. There’s your instance of profanity. Also later in the trailer she calls a group of men the “c” word (you know which one I mean). In terms of the level of violence shown in the red-band trailer, Hit-Girl chops off a man’s leg, puts a gun in the mouth of another man and pulls the trigger, and shoots several people in the head. In this red-band version you see blood spurt, gush, and splash all over the place.

Now part of the controversy surrounding red-band trailers, in general, is that kids can easily access them online. An an example, when I searched for the red-band trailer for Kick Ass I stumbled on the site Trailer Addict, which required only that I enter in my birthday to view the trailer. Obviously kids can lie about their age and watch these trailers anyway. Moreover, once a red-band trailer goes up online, other sites often link to it, or embed it on their own page, allowing a kid to come across the trailer and not even be required to enter in a (possibly falsified) birthday. I get the issues parents and others have with how easy it is for kids to access these trailers.

But that isn’t all that has people steaming about the red-band Hit-Girl trailer. People also seem riled up at the fact that this trailer showcases a 13-year-old white actress saying these things and committing these acts. And that’s where I have an issue. Now yes Hit-Girl’s language and actions are not typical movie fare, even in Rated-R films. But I feel that people are over-reacting a little. NYT reporter Brooks Barnes states that Hit-Girl “salts her conversation with language so graphic that it would make a biker blanch; it’s well beyond the kind of garden- variety profanity that has seeped into mainstream culture.” Really? . . . I’m not sure. Yes Hit-Girl uses the c-word in the trailer, a word that I do not care for as a feminist and wouldn’t even use when referring to someone I absolutely loathe. But is it really as graphic as Barnes makes it sound? There’s also this bit in the same article, in which Barnes speaks with Nell Minnow, a lawyer who reviews films for radio stations and writes reviews under the name Movie Mom, who is reportedly beyond “upset that the movie showcases a child engaging in such behavior in the first place” and further states, “’Isn’t there a limit to what we can ask children to do on screen?’”

Did everyone completely forget about the character Ronnie from Role Models – the 2008 Apatow-esque film starring Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott? You know the African American child who swore up and down talked almost non-stop about “boobies” throughout the entire film (here’s an example of what I’m talking about – I apologize for the poor quality, but it best exemplifies the point I’m trying to make). Or what about the language and antics showcased in Superbad (thank you youtube for making it so easy to find examples). I’m just saying that if you’ve seen some of the more popular and successful comedies in the last 4 years or so, you’ve seen plenty of kids cussing. But what we haven’t seen is plenty of white girls uttering this type of language and engaging in this type of behavior. Therein lies the aspect of this controversy that rubs me the wrong way. People accept, even condone, this type of behavior from white boys (filmic or otherwise), and who knows due to racial stereotypes regarding black hyper-masculinity, these same people may expect the same behavior and language from African American boys. What people won’t stand for is the same language to come from the mouth of a white (read innocent, protected, and treasured) girl. Hmmm . . .

One of Hit Girl's many disguises? This school-girl look makes me queasy (image courtesy of splitscreen-blog)

I’ll tell you what does trouble me about Hit-Girl – the weird sexual tension present in the trailers and images from the film. I mean look at the school-girl outfit above and you’ll know what I mean. Also the fact that Cage’s character is called Big Daddy brings up icky father-daughter incestuous tones in the trailer, especially when Big Daddy refers to Hit-Girl as “honey-bunny.” I’m also unsure how to read the line featured in the red-band trailer (and shown in the first image of Hit-Girl above): “I can’t see through walls, but I can kick your ass.” Part of me reads this as a dig against X-Men, perhaps referencing the girl characters Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) in X-Men: The Last Stand. While Kick Ass features superheroes who do not have super powers, the film trades in a similar fantastical universe, in which girls can take matters into their own hands and administer justice in Matrix-esque hyper-stylized fashion. A mode no more removed from the reality of girls’ lives and daily experiences of oppression than any girl character in X-Men.

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~ by actyourage09 on March 1, 2010.

5 Responses to “Kick Ass?: the red-band trailer starring Hit-Girl”

  1. Your review on Red band trailer and Hit-Girl character is very different than most I read. I liked your review a lot. I watched the movie yesterday and I enjoyed it a lot I think it was very fresh specially Hit-Girl character since we dont see many white very young innocent girls acting like this in movies. In most super hero movies when we walk out the theater we wanna be that superhero in this movie its kinda opposite It shows actually being a superhero can get you killed very easily 🙂

    Thank You

    • Thank you for your comment and for sharing your thoughts on Hit Girl and Kick Ass. Your last comment – where you talk about Kick Ass showing how “being a superhero can get you killed” – is interesting. In that case would you say that Kick Ass doesn’t glorify violence? I ask because I haven’t seen the film yet, but several critics (Ebert & Dana Stevens) were hard on the film’s depiction of violence.

  2. […] been following the controversy surrounding the character Hit Girl since the fuss over the red-band trailer. Several critics have voiced their unease with the hyper stylized depictions of violence in Kick […]

  3. Dakota Fanning caught controversy when she starred on Push, getting drunk and saying a swearword in almost every scene, and everyone had forgotten about it. And don’t forget about Natalie Portman in that late 1990s movie The Professionals. Although both films were not as anticipated or successful like Kick Ass, I do think that people would forget about Chloe’s cussing but remember her name and her acting skills. 😉

    • Great observations! I haven’t seen Push, but I did follow the controversy surrounding Fanning’s portrayal in Hounddog (the controversy involved the fact that she plays a 12 year-old-girl who is raped and people couldn’t understand why Fanning’s parents would let her star in such a film). Your comments about how neither The Professionals or Push generated as much buzz or created as much panic makes me wonder if the producers behind Kick Ass didn’t intentionally focus on Hit Girl in the red-band trailer to simply do that . . . generate publicity.

      My only concern is that the actresses and characters we’ve been talking about are all white, suggesting that these types of portrayals (which are being lauded as subversive and undoing representations of girlhood innocence) are off limits to girls of color, further suggesting that we (society) do not read girls of color as innocent. Personally, I cannot get behind celebrating Hit Girl until people are willing to have a discussion about whiteness in relation to her character.

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