Hollywood Gone Too Far: Is Tween Actress Exploited in New Action Film?
LOS ANGELES – New action flick "Kick-Ass" contains all the key ingredients for an R-rated comic-inspired action/comedy, from copious violence to jaw-dropping profanities. But shockingly, most of the mayhem is generated by a pretty blonde pre-teen. Chloe Moretz, now 13, plays an assassin aptly named Hit Girl, who is trained to seek revenge and kill by her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). Moretz was just 11 years old at the time of filming.
Sparing no witnesses, Hit Girl (real name Mindy) shoots people with a handgun (while donning pigtails and a school uniform), strangles and sends samurai swords spearing into the stomachs of her older opponents. Hit Girl slaughters while outfitted in a full super-hero costume complete with Clara Bow wig.
The movie has already been deemed inappropriate for young children, so why is it appropriate that a young girl star as the savage super-hero?
“Seeing an attractive young girl playing such a violent role gives the message that this type of behavior (and language) is not outrageous. It makes it harder for parents to declare such behavior out-of-bounds when popular movies glorify it or make it humorous,” said Joanne Cantor, Professor of Communication Arts at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “People may be able to understand that the movie is tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn't necessarily undo the desensitizing effect of the movie. Younger children may not be able to see it in theaters, but when it comes out on DVD, children of all ages will have access to it -- and young children have less capacity to discount what they see.”
Even co-star Cage recently expressed his concern for Mortez’s wellbeing.
"There were a lot of feelings about [the violence]," he told MTV News of Moretz's character. "I was concerned. I knew it was going to be something that was uncomfortable for me as an actor."
Possibly even more disturbing than the violence is Hit Girl’s use of language – not only does she drop the “F” bomb, but the “C” bomb as well.
“The script didn’t say the C-word, but it was in the comic,” said director Matthew Vaughn. “There had been some fanboy speculation and advance complaints that the film would shy away from reproducing that memorable line. Yet I still thought, ‘You know what? This is too far. I can't do it.’ But we did all these takes and it just wasn’t having any impact.”
Vaughn said that Moretz and her mom then agreed to do one take with the controversial word included, and Moretz has since come forth and said she would never use such a term outside of the role or else she’ll be “grounded for the rest of (her) life.”
"I set out to make this film for the fans that loved the comic. I would have caused more offense to them if I had changed the content of the film,” Vaughn told Pop Tarts in defense of using such a young executioner.
Interestingly, Dr. Susan Lipkins, Psychologist and CEO of Real Psychology, believes the film could actually have a positive impact on young ones.
“I thought that is was kind of cool that it looked like the person with the best abilities was really a girl—a young girl, and I think that it’s really a reflection on how our society’s changing and how youth are way more capable than the older people, especially in this digital age,” Lipkins explained. “If anything it can be empowering to kids, to girls, it’s not a boy again who’s saving the world, but a girl who has power.”
Still, according to Cantor, the role could potentially have a negative effect on the rising starlet.
“People are affected emotionally by what they see and they certainly are affected by the roles they play,” Cantor said. “One experience (either viewing or participating) does not poison a child's mind. But participation in violent activities, especially when they are rewarded, is not emotionally healthy.”
Emotional health aside,the film was also physically grueling for the young actress. In fact, getting in that powerful ‘killer’ shape for the role involved five months of hard-core training. Moretz spent her evenings doing endless amounts of crunches, push-ups and pull-ups as well as mastering Hit Girl’s death-dealing weapons.
“(The Butterfly Knife) is like third hand. That took me about a month-and-a-half to get down pat,” Moretz said. “And I can actually still do that – we have a fake one here and when I’m bored, I start flipping it around.”
Though Moretz had fun filming and the script is essentially light-hearted & humorous, has Hollywood gone too far with its ruthless vigilante child?
“Hollywood will go farther and farther as long as people are willing to pay to see what they produce,” Cantor said. “As people become used to seeing violence, it takes more and more taboo-breaking to excite them.”
Still, it's not all so grim, as some argue that the film may very well inspire us all to do some good in the world.
“Anyone can be super-hero, nobody has these powers, but they’re trying so very much. It’s a consistent message that an ordinary person can have power or wish they had super powers,” added Lipkins. “It’s a very common fantasy kids have and adults have it too. We wish for power and the ability to control over our lives. It’s about a regular person having control over their chaotic life in these chaotic times.”
Lionsgate, the independent studio behind the flick, declined to comment on the controversies."Kick-Ass" opens nationally next week.