“Kick-Ass” a Libertarian Film? Sort of, I Guess


Over at Big Hollywood Leigh Scott has a piece weighing in on what he sees as the political themes in last week’s superhero satire “Kick-Ass”:

The individual is king in “Kick-Ass.” Each character makes their own decisions and lives by the consequences of their actions. They do not wait for others to help them. They help themselves. They react to the empirical, undeniable, reality of right and wrong. They do not act selfishly, for they understand that in helping themselves, they help those around them.

At one point, in a hilarious riff on the main theme of the “Spider-man” films, Kick-Ass states that “with no power, comes no responsibility.” Isn’t that the central tenant of modern leftist thought? Why should they help others when the government does that? Why should they donate to charity when they patriotically pay their taxes? Why should they risk themselves when someone is in trouble because the police or military do that. Of course, “Kick-Ass” doesn’t reinforce this notion. It goes against it. Every human being is responsible for making the world a better place. The best way to do that is by making yourself the best you can be. You can’t turn a blind eye to evil and injustice, wallowing in your status as a victim, you must be proactive to defeat injustice and evil in a personal, direct, and often risky way.

April and I saw “Kick-Ass” last Friday at the Sherman Oaks Galleria on the final day of our Californian apartment-hunting odyssey. It was a good way to relax after what had become an often stressful trip. Enjoying the ultra-violence and humorous dialogue of “Kick-Ass” politics was the last thing on my mind as far as what the film was doing. In fact I was more struck by just how odd it was to have a film that alternated so quickly between the comedic and the disturbing. It didn’t bother April but I felt tonally it was somewhat jarring to basically combine “Superbad” with “Watchmen.” I was reminded of one time when I’d foolishly ordered a double ice cream scoop of dark chocolate fudge and bubblegum — not the best combination.

I’ve written before about superhero politics. Last year I had this piece here at FrontPage about the conservative themes in “Iron Man,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” And there was also this FrontPage article I wrote about the politics of “Watchmen.” While I’m sympathetic to Scott’s desire to look for right-leaning politics in the genre, I don’t think “Kick-Ass” is the best example of Superhero Conservatism.

“Kick-Ass” is political only in the sense that about 90% of superhero narratives will be libertarian in some fashion. Any time you have a story about an individual who takes it upon himself to improve his community without government assistance then you’re becoming libertarian by default.

But it’s certainly clear that Mark Millar, the author of the original Kick-Ass graphic novel was not intending any kind of libertarian message. The popular comics scribe is quite open about his leftism. “Iron Man,” “Dark Knight,” and “Watchmen” on the other hand have more clear political roots leaning to the Right.

I don’t dispute Scott’s comments about libertarianism or what could be understood as the individualistic elements of “Kick-Ass.” But part 5 of my friend Chris Yogerst’s Generation South Park series comes to mind. I think I’ll give him the last word in this discussion:

There is a great deal of merit to studying film and literature, but we have all felt that some books and movies should not be analyzed and just left for escapist purposes. You won’t see any professors asking us to write an essay deconstructing any deep semiotic argument from a Michael Bay film anytime soon.

….

In South Park, readers of “McBoogerballs” got into heated arguments over the book’s stance on abortion as well as health care reform. It was written with no intention other than being gross, however, that didn’t stop people from pulling from it what they wanted. Readers were arguing that the book is either a metaphor for Right or Left wing causes they support. At one point Stan responds by yelling “it is not about liberals or conservatives!” While politics can be a large part of the arts, many times the political angle is not the correct way to read a film or a novel.