Feminism / Films

I Don’t Give a Damn About My Reputation: Is Hit-Girl from ‘Kick-Ass’ a Feminist’s Friend or Foe?

This past Saturday night, I went on a date to see Kick-Ass, the new film based on Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.‘s comic books about superheroes with no superhero powers.  As a self-proclaimed nerd and comic-book lover, I chose the film (much to my date’s delight) as I’ve been itching to see it ever since I saw the trailer.  I had also read the controversy swarming around the character Hit-Girl, the 11-year-old female assassin, on Jezebel, due to her flagrant use of the word “cunt” and her violent ways.

I loved Kick-Ass.  A funny and quirky movie with fantastic fight scenes and great visuals, accompanied by an interesting soundtrack.  As someone who loves fearless, independent women and girls, I also adored Hit-Girl.  Actress Chloe Moretz ((500) Days of Summer) imbues the sweetly precocious character with the right mix of cynicism and naiveté, brutal vengeance and honor.  Personally, I was not offended by her dropping the C-bomb.  Although if a young boy had uttered the word, I probably would have found it sexist and offensive.  While viewing the young girl shooting, punching, hacking and slashing villains to pieces with her sword was a bit disconcerting, it was also incredibly exhilarating to see such a fierce female character.

Blogger Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood told CNN,

I don’t think there’s a really simplistic answer to hit girl. On the one hand, this film is extremely violent, and her flippant use of the C-word is unacceptable. But, on the other hand, the fact that this character is able to break out of the box, the norm of what we see for girls and women on screen, I find that quite empowering and refreshing.

The media constantly tells us what girls and women how we should look and how we should behave, forever pitting us in a virgin/whore dichotomy.  So perhaps people feel uncomfortable and shocked when characters step outside the boundaries of where society believes they should reside.  Comic books put characters in extreme situations, at times for allegorical purposes, at other times, for pure escapist fantasy.  Hit-Girl may not convey the idealized form of girlhood, but I agree with Silverstein that she is empowering nonetheless.  Taking charge of her life, she avenges wrongs, not waiting around to be rescued.  Watching Hit-Girl on the big screen made me want to don my own purple wig and mask and kick (metaphorical) ass.

10 thoughts on “I Don’t Give a Damn About My Reputation: Is Hit-Girl from ‘Kick-Ass’ a Feminist’s Friend or Foe?

  1. I can’t wait to see this movie and am jealous you got the opportunity to see it first! You’re definitely right about how certain things can be offensive when some people say them and not nearly so when others do. I think it’s kind of cool that an 11-year old is busting out those words… but then again I’m hardly the most mature person out there!

    Great post, can’t wait for the next one!

  2. Women are definitely boxed into the virgin/whore dichotomy. One way to address that is to have blogs like this to make you think about how unreasonable that dichotomy is. I love this post…and may actually go see the movie.

  3. On the other hand, just because we *can* embrace the more vulgar and violent characteristics of men, doesn’t mean *should*. I find discretion an essential element of empowerment.

  4. Great post, although I completely disagree! Hit Girl is 100 percent MALE empowerment – an illicit little fantasy brought to life for every sexist man in the audience. She’s no Eowyn!

  5. For real female empowerment, check out the story of “The Runaways,” a band that spawned the formidable talents of Joan Jett, Lita Ford & Cherie “Cherry Bomb” Currie.
    These girls, along with Sandy West (R.I.P.), paved the way for future groups lke Girlschool & the Donnas, combining genres like Glam, punk & metal (Lita).

    Despite in-band turmoil, these girls (all teenagers), faced off with a predominantly male audience (the majority of them denim-clad burnouts, basking in the glory of mid-seventies rock ‘n roll), and never wavered in their cause.

    Superheroes and Heroines are one thing.
    “The Runaways” were the real deal, flesh & blood, which makes their story all the more compelling, at least in my book.

    As for the “C” word, i have a horrible asociation with it.
    When i was 8 or 9, i called my sister that very word, ignorant as to it’s meaning (i’d probablly heard an older kid say it).
    We were in the car, and my father reached around with one hand, and smacked me hard, right in the face.
    I had no idea what i had done, there was no further explanation.
    It still irritates me, to this day.

  6. I don’t know if I agree that Hit-Girl is necessarily female empowering. I mean, sure she’s “outside of the box” but at the end of the day she’s still a conscience-less killer whose only motivation (until something near the end that I won’t spoil) is “Daddy told me to”. Hell, she even murders some people (including another female) in cold blood. Yeah, I realize it’s a comic book movie but maybe a more consistent tone (instead of veering wildly from comic book fantasy to gritty realism) would have addressed this problem.

    Having said all this, I still enjoyed the hell out of the movie.

  7. Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments and thoughts!

    @Ruth and Steve, It’s interesting that you mentioned Hit-Girl exhibiting male traits. For me, gender is a social construct; we are socialized from birth to exhibit feminine or masculine traits based on our biological sex. So I don’t think that cursing or acting violent equates masculinity, any more than liking fashion or talking softly equates femininity. Girls can be just as vulgar as boys. I found it refreshing that Hit-Girl runs counter to the princess archetype that so many girls are told they must reside. For me, it’s all about choice. So it would be wonderful if we embraced a variety of roles for women and girls.

    Keep up the lively debate!

  8. No, no! I didn’t mean she exhibited male traits – I meant she’s very much intended to be the focus of male objectification – and ultimately belittlement. She’s an oddity, like a circus freak – and it’s explicitly in that context that she’s ‘kick ass.’ Compare the weird, hinky, condescending vibe you get off her character all through the movie to the mature, intelligent, and flat-out exciting way ALL female characters (‘kick-ass’ and otherwise) are treated on the great, lamented ‘Buffy’ and you’ll see how INSANE it is that Hit Girl is spawning quasi-debates about being an ’empowering’ figure!

  9. @Steve, ahhh…thanks for the clarification. But I’m not sure why you think she automatically will be objectified by men any more than any other girl or woman, real or imaginary. And yes, she may be odd for her juxtaposition of youth and lethal actions. But she’s not a sexualized character and she’s certainly not the first young girl to dabble in murder for hire. So did Natalie Portman as Mathilda in ‘Leon’ and O-Ren Ishii in ‘Kill Bill’ (although when she was a child, that was anime).

    While I was never a Buffy fan, I appreciate the focus of strong female characters on that show. And I agree with you that Hit-Girl is not a warrior like Eowyn from ‘Lord of the Rings.’ But that’s the point…there’s variety within real women…so there should be variety in female characters as well.

    Staying on the sci-fi theme for a moment, let’s look at the women of ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ All very different, all incredibly empowering. But the character that seems to create the biggest debate is Kara Thrace/Starbuck: a hot-headed, boozing, gambling, cigar smoking, bed hopping fighter pilot. I found her to be the most exhilarating and empowering female character on the show. She was who she was and damn everybody else if they didn’t like it. Yet many men I know lamented that Kara Thrace was too butch, not feminine enough. Perhaps people consider her odd too for her bending the definition of a proper feminine woman.

    Women don’t all fit into one box. Love her or hate her, Hit-Girl gets us all talking and shatters the notion of the proper girlhood.

  10. I find this way of thinking of whether hit-girl is a feminist friend or foe. I personally believe that people should think of her as a friend or a foe, because by labelling her as a friend or a foe, we would only contributing towards these stereotypes and those established rules of behaviour. I love hit-girl because she’s a unique character and overall, although I might be contradicting myself by saying this, I believe she’s a friend of the “feminist movement”, quite simply because she’s not what we would normally expect from a 13 girl. By breaking the mould, she shows that women should be whatever they want to be and even more. She’s a symbol, a symbol that action are only degrading if the person who’s performing those actions, be that a man or a woman, is not comfortable with what they are doing because after all we live our lives to ourselves not to the others so nobody has the right to judge someone else unless they are being directly affected by those actions and that we should break free from those stereotypes and realise that each person is different and they deserve to be looked at by who they are and not by what group they would fit in.

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