Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kick Ass #6 - When Has Something Gone Too Far

When have we gone too far with something? I got into a debate once before about Kick Ass and I found to my dismay that for some people their are no limits and that bothers me on a certain level.

What I'm talking about is the portrayal of violence. Even though this is in a mature reader comic (which I do not believe means a ten year old cannot buy it in many states) it is showing a young girl of perhaps 10 or 11 years old drapped in blood and enjoying hurting and killing people.

Now I have not read any issue other then number one, but I have seen enough pages to know that the story of Kick Ass seems to have a heavy focus on this little girl and she manages to use the "C" word and be covered in blood quite frequently. The cover image is really "nice".

Add to that image the one in this issue that has her father shooting at her and the other pages in this post and we get a clear picture of over the top and ridiculous level violence. That permeates this book.
Of course that is a point that someone can use against my saying this is wrong, because it is obviously an absurd level.

From my viewpoint this book goes to far and as a society we should have some limits. We have the term pornography and I think this books reaches that level.

The cover does not pass the simple coffee table test that I sometimes imagine all covers should have to pass. That test is would you leave this out on your coffee table and have a party at your house that included co-workers and family. This cover does not pass that test.

If pornography and as a sociey child pornography is defined as showing children in a sexual manner (and we have gone too far with that as some kids are facing child porn charges over sexting and 15 year olds exhanging naked pictures is not the same as the 40 year old man looking at naked 10-12 year old boys and girls) then is there not a level of violence that should be considered pornographic.

Thomm has made the point on occasion that we show violence with no qualms, but show a sex scene and many people get upset.

I'm no polyanna who wants everything sanatized, I enjoyed Preacher, read Ennis' Punisher and the level of violence in even a book like Flash Rebirth is all okay with me as it is between adults. Once you bring a minor into it and I'm sorry a small girl it makes it wrong in my viewpoint.

I'm not advocating censorship, but we do not allow everything to be printed and if this is violence raised to a pornographic level and therefore child pornography, then should it be published? I'm sure the comic stores are not selling their "X" rated comics on the main racks of their stores like this is sold.

What would be the reaction be if we found out the little girl was only killing gay people or if she was black and only killing white people. Would it be okay if she were to spout racial epithets and then gleefully go kill a roomful of black people as long as they are drug dealers?

We it be okay if we show her father making wild love to a sheep and she was getting it on with a german shepard?

If anything is okay, that we have no society. Freedom of speech is not unlimited, no yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Without limits we lose our ability to be a society.

How do you think we will be judged as advocates of our favorite artform if this is a book that you have to defend.

What is the point of this story and did it have to be made this way. Enough is enough, wrong is wrong and this book is wrong and if you are buying it I think you are wrong to support it.


  1. It's possible that your viewpoint on this could be viewed as naive, but I agree with you on this.

    It pains me to see JRJR doing this art. I wonder how his dad or kids feel about this.

    And remember, this is going to be made into a movie at some point. I would imagine that it would have to be toned down a bunch just to get an R rating.

  2. Ron - At this point a strict adaptation gets an NC-17 I would think.

    Nice "hearing" from you Ron.

  3. Leaving aside the merits of your objection to the contents of Kick Ass, what's your proposed solution? You don't want censorship. Good. Short of encouraging others not to buy it, what then?

    As to your hypotheticals, don't think things like them are not produced. There are extremist groups in this country who do such things. It's just that no one outside their own little circle much notices. For example, there's a singing group composed of two young (early teens or less) girls whose lyrics are all about the racial superiority of white people. The usual white supremacy tripe. They've had some small amounts of mass media attention because of the shock value of the lyrics coming out of these two pixies, but no one's trying to stop them, as a matter of law, from producing it. Condemning it as garbage, yes.

    It's a free society, especially when it comes to speech. More so than ever, actually. A lot of it's pure crap, whether in terms of objectionable content or just plain poor quality work. I wouldn't want to stop any of it by anything more than market forces, though. If it sucks, don't buy it.

    The question you have to ask yourself, now, is whether you're doing your own cause any good. If you condemn Kick Ass because the writing is crap and the art sucks, then a lot of people ignore it and don't buy it. If you condemn it for being something you object to in its content, you give it free advertising of the sort that attracts more buyers. I think you're better off condemning this book for being a crappy piece of writing that's not entertaining than going after it for being violent.

  4. No solution per say - just needs to be perhaps given an NC-17 rating or just asking people to not buy it is enough.

    As to your last point - if you disagree with something you have to talk about it and it would be unfair for me to complain about the writing and art as I'm not reading it. Finally I don't think it is too violent, I think it is wrong to have this young girl portrayed this way.

  5. Hmm... I have a problem, per se, with opposing something you haven't read or seen yet. How do you know it's not all tongue in cheek? How do you know it's not the best thing since sliced bread? A de facto opposition based solely on the situational arrangement of the characters in the story detracts from the basis of your opposition.

    At least the censor boards of old had to watch the movies to cut them into non-sensical pieces. Kind of a Catch-22, of course, if you have to buy it first. You'll have already supported it.

  6. Thomm - I read issue #1 and part of another issue and have read the preview pages. I'm sure it is meant as an over the top parody.

    I have seen enough to know that I find the portrayal wrong and mean spirited. The page in the post with the father shooting his daughter is wrong enough to me.

    Also I never said censor it (unless you think grading something is censorship).

    Bottom line - I think it is wrong and will not buy it and hope others may feel the same way. I know not everyone will.

  7. Good article. I have a feeling that a *great* article is hiding behind this one, and maybe you'd want to revise/expand/edit(/proofread) this one again after...maybe...reading all of the actual series released thus far. I think coming from a completely informed perspective would give your article more credence. Not that you NEED to do that in order to have any credence, though.

    What I find most important about your article is the "wrong is wrong" portion. This is refreshing to hear, especially coupled with your qualifying statement that you're not for censorship. The point is, we don't automatically become "Nazis" or screaming totalitarians just by making the statement that a certain piece of art (or even a certain point of view) is "wrong" or "bad", provided of course that we allow others to hold the opposing view. Too often in recent years I think we've been headed down a road where not only is "everything okay" but, further, that no one has the right to say that, in his opinion, something is not okay or not good. If you don't like something, you have the right to your opinion--yes, even if your opinion is racist or whatever. You just don't have the right to act on those beliefs of yours in a way that damages or discriminates another. Thought-crime isn't illegal.

    That's just the wider context, of course. Specifically with comic books, on the internet it seems the that majority mob of free-loading overgrown geekfratboys rules. "You don't like Kick-Ass? What is your problem, man? It's awesome! It's crazy!" And then the difference of opinion simply degenerates into a cowardly agreement that "Well you don't like it, that's your opinion." Yes, but it can also be someone's opinion that the comic under discuss is outright "bad" or "wrong", morally or in terms of the artistry behind it. People have the right to dislike things on more than a personal level. Do they have the right to go to someone's house and rip up their copies of Kick-Ass? No, but that's not what we're talking about. As with the argument above, we have the right to sweeping opinions, whether those opinions are well-informed or whether they're the product of complete prejudice--provided that we don't act on those opinions to harm others.

    No, I'm not equating a (legal, if awful) right to be racist in your mind with the right to say that Kick-Ass is "wrong". But you get my point. And I actually like (not love) Kick-Ass. The point is that I'm very pleased to see thoughtful argument that reaches toward the conjecture that, yes, we have the right to say that something is wrong for society.

  8. I'm sure you're not surprised that I'm not on the same page as you. Much at all. So a few points:

    * The word "censorship" has become so vile that we rush to assert that we ourselves couldn't possibly believe in it even when building a case for it. You say you're not for censorship, but then you compare this to child porn (?), the obvious implication being that, since one is outlawed, then the other can/should be too. So you don't get to use the "I'm not in favor of censorship" argument here. It's disingenuous, a knee-jerk reaction to make sure we know you're a red-blooded American.

    But even in this country, we DO censor things -- your child porn example, for instance. Just because society has a interest in censoring those works (in that case, to protect the children being photographed, and to eliminate the demand for said photographs), doesn't change the fact that it IS censorship. It's just censorship we've decided we can live with as a society.

    * You end with a question ("What is the point of this story and did it have to be made this way"). Wouldn't those be questions you learned by, oh, say, READING the book? It might have made things clearer. Fortunately for our country, the courts think such a reading is required before something can be labelled obscene.

    And "obscene" is the word you probably are meaning more so than pornography. In 1966, the Supreme Court, expanding on an earlier 1957 ruling, "concluded that to establish obscenity, the material must, aside from appealing to the prurient interest, be 'utterly without redeeming social value' and 'patently offensive because it affronts contemporary community standards relating to the description of sexual matters.' (1)

    "Utterly without redeeming social value." So you might find this book offensive to your community's standards, but does it have any social value? At all? And how can you judge that if you've not read it?

    * Your coffee table test is intriguing, in that it tells me more about the differences you and I have than anything about this book. Maybe I hang with a rougher crowd -- okay, I definitely hang with a rougher crowd -- but this wouldn't be a big deal at all on my coffee table. In fact, it's tame by comparison to what I've seen in some friends' homes.

    If you want your home sanitized for the PG crowd, by all means do so. Personally, the book I'd hate for someone to see on my coffee table is Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life." That "conservative chrsitianity dressed up as pop-psychology" is the kind of nonsense I think kids should really be protected from.

    * Finally, DUDE, did you not see Kill Bill? Because these panels could be from a comic adaptation of that. Hmmmm... and I guess there's really no hope in trying to convince you to watch John Waters' "Pink Flamigos," eh? :-)

    (1) --

  9. Bjooks - I did see Kill Bill and I enjoyed that movie, I think at least having a rating helps deflect my type of criticism.

    Also in my defense of this post I wrote it after reading the six page preview and I read all of issue #1 and most of issue #2. I also shot this post off right before I disappeared on vacation for a week.

    Coffee table test is more regarding your parents or co-workers and yes every crowd is different (and I actually have no coffee tables).

    Ultimately it comes down to my opinion and I think some things are wrongand this is one of them.

    I should as (Anon) says maybe do a more well thought out piece and read the whole thing as a trade, but I glad to have the debate. And you and Anon both make some great points. - Thanks for reading.