jim carrey

Is Kick-Ass 2 Too Violent?

I don’t really plan on answering the question I’ve posed. It’s one that keeps resurfacing from time to time and my opinions always change depending on the time, place, and content. I’ve written papers about violence representing some kind of cleansing, growth, necessary change, shock, etc. I’ve also pondered that maybe violence in video games should be treated more seriously than violence in novels or film because in most video games, the player is actually performing the acts of violence through a character (and I’ve been surprised by how intense and gory some of these games can be) and maybe there’s more risk of impressionability.  I would never ever (ever never) watch films that depict graphic violence similar to depictions of pornographic sex (things like Saw or Hostel), but more so because they will give me nightmares than that I have some kind of moral objections. On the other hand, I love all the violence in Game of Thrones and the abundance of severed body parts and the appearance of Raul Esparza’s spleen in Hannibal. Can we give that spleen an Emmy or something?

Now, none of the above regularly depict gun violence, except the video games. Could we say there’s something more artistic in the way Saw and Hostel find brutal ways to harm oneself and others in the most terribly painful ways using everyday objects, as opposed, let’s say, just shooting each other off? Is cannibalism somehow a higher form of murder (cut to classical music melody playing in Hannibal’s kitchen as he puts his gorgeously plated meat on a serving platter) than the quick death a bullet to the head provides?

Some might argue yes. That gun violence is an easy murder of power, i.e. I have a gun and you don’t therefore you die. But we could also see it this way- when a film shows a crazy Nazi surgeon sewing together one man’s mouth to another man’s butthole, there’s absolutely no way a viewer goes home thinking “hmm, that looks like a lot of fun!” When Eddie Izzard makes his victim’s torso looks like an opened can of worms, we don’t think, “hey, Eddie Izzard’s character is so manly and powerful.” Nazi scientist and Eddie Izzard are bad people, crazy people, and perhaps more importantly, people with means. Not only do they need enough of the crazies to actually do what they’re doing, but their methods of violence necessitate lots of research, genius, and money.

Nobody needs a biomedical education or perverse genius to wield a gun. Nobody needs thousands of dollars of equipment and a secret lair to shoot someone. Hell, even a kid can do it!

Like this one?

Which finally brings me to Kick-Ass. Now, I really enjoy the Kick-Ass series. Both Kick-Ass movies specialize in over-the-top everything. Lots of violence, lots of cursing, lots of drama, huge plot twists, big comedy, and big characters. There’s an “I don’t give a shit about subtlety” attitude in both films that is exhilarating. You can’t expect to wander into a screening and analyze it for cultural relevance and dramatic structure the way you go into The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises (though I think you’d find your efforts mostly wasted in either of them to be honest, don’t hurt me).

Kick-Ass 2 has lots of fun characters, but doesn’t waste time on making them all complex and self-important. It establishes quick community, breaks that community, raises the stakes, and resolves its issues in a quick ninety minutes, all the while bringing character development and lots of humor, some of which is scatological. (Man, I thought I wasn’t supposed to analyze for dramatic structure…)

My good feelings about the film, however, do mean that I would take a ten-year old kid, like the one sitting a few seats away from me, to see the film. The opening scene of the film shows Hit Girl shooting Kick-Ass in the chest at close range while he is wearing a bullet-proof suit. No lies, it looked like a lot of fun. And if I were living in a community that glorified gun violence the way that many communities do, and I were a thousand times more impressionable, I might start contemplating becoming a gun-owner. Now, that’s nowhere near actually becoming a murderer, but it makes it one huge step easier.

But I still hesitate to denounce a scene like that as promoting gun violence. I’d be quicker to denounce photo-shopped magazine covers. In fact, I’d be quicker to denounce photo-shopping than a scene depicting bulimia in a film because a magazine cover tends to often ‘speak’ to consumers directly (‘YOU can lose 5 lbs. a week!) while a film locates the bulimia within a character’s storyline. I could also say that Kick-Ass 2‘s ending shows the consequences of violence, and perhaps a film might show the emotional and psychological effects of bulimia, but this is a case-by-case basis and I don’t think the film’s ending is didactic enough (nor should it be) to trump out all the scenes where shooting things looks like total fun.

There’s also the big gun-toting, ball-blasting, camouflage-wearing elephant (?) in the room and that’s… Jim Carrey. (I stand by my elephant image because Horton Hears a Who is a great movie.)

Das Tweets

Something had always troubled me about Jim Carrey’s refusal to promote the film, and this Flavorwire article hits it right on the nail. The key point of the article is that by denouncing the film, gun-control activist Jim Carrey is actually feeding into the pro-gun lobbies’ message that violent video games and films, NOT guns themselves, are the root of mass killings and gun violence.

This is bad, you guys. What’s worse is that he’s amazing in the film and, I believe, genuine about his activism. After watching the film, I thought that maybe Jim Carrey realized he’d have to defend playing a character who shoots up a mafia boss to interviewers who can’t function on a high-school critical thinking level, let alone do research on their topic. I’m guessing he couldn’t figure out what he to say when Piers Morgan asks him how he could criticize Charlton Heston and play Stars and Stripes at the same time without getting into theories of genre and entertainment mediums and alienating his audience. Maybe he needed a spokesperson like moi to beat off the angry crowds.

Whether Carrey believes in the film or not, the discussion on gun-control and gun violence depictions should continue.



That’s right, folks. My experience with Priscilla Shay at BEA 2013 was so epic I have to break it up into separate posts. Let’s do this:

So I went to Book Expo America for the first time as a member of the general public. This is the second year BEA has opened its doors to the public, saving one day of its four-day book industry fest for its “Power Readers.”

What is a Power Reader, anyway?

According to BEA, power readers are “book lovers, fans, and avid readers.” They are also aspiring authors, bloggers, and book club members. They are the people who use (and abuse) their bookstores, local libraries, and Amazon Prime accounts. The “Power Readers,” nebulous term as it is, are the members of the public who are willing to travel to the Javits Center and pay the affordable but definitive price of admission to scope out what publishing has to offer them in the coming year.

And snag as many books and advance reader copies as their tote bags can carry.

The early bird gets the book worm.

Macmillan offered a tote bag filled with their titles to the first 1,000 Power Readers who checked-in at BEA. The Javits Center opened its doors at seven in the morning, which meant I was there not too long after to win my prize.

My precious.

The Macmillan giveaway was great encouragement to come early, and even though I had to wait in line until 9 for the floor to open, I could squee over my new books. I’m most excited to read the ARC for Havisham: A Novel. Also, since we were early, I got to meet other book lovers, get familiar with the day’s events, and spot Neil Gaiman on his way to his author event scheduled for later that morning.

And lo, the fan girls saw him walk by–and it was good.

Pets are welcome–the inflatable kind, that is.

One of the first things we noticed from our entrance point was a bunch of people with animal balloons. Really cute ones. So we found the source: a children’s picture book series published by AMO Publishing. The series follows a different animal in each book, and in the back of every book there is a helium balloon that can be filled (and refilled) in the shape of the book’s featured animal. I thought it was a brilliant book/toy combination.

We both got balloons in the shape of dogs. Priscilla got a white Pointer and named him Spot. I named mine, a brown and black Dachshund, Spartacus. We both asked the baloon-maker to autograph them. It was our first “signing” of the day.

The dogs on a blog.

So. Many. Celebrities.

It wasn’t my main focus for BEA, but I couldn’t help but notice all the noticeable people that were a part of Power Reader day this year. The news quickly spread that Jim Carrey was signing copies of his new children’s book. I learned from different exhibitors about how crazy it was when he’d been there the day before, with his bodyguards being more prominent than he was. Another comedian, Jim Gaffigan, spoke about his new book and did a signing (with a line that wrapped around the booth). At another point, I saw a sizable group of people surrounding Chris Matthews, who was also doing a signing. While the celebrities who do books can get on the cloying side, it’s great to have Power Readers excited about their projects, which leads to excitement about books in general, which is what all readers want in the first place.

Except for Ann Romney. Go home, and take your cookbook with you.

So that’s it for today. Check back soon, where I pick up the Ellora’s Cavemen, sample some rugelach, and meet more authors!

Other BEA 2013 posts: Part 2 | Part 3

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