Sunday, May 9, 2010

You are Kick-Ass

Warning- spoilers for both the movie and comic

One of the main criticisms on the Twilight series is that it's protagonist is nothing more than an empty shell so that a reader can project herself into the story and fantasize about actually being the main character: just an average girl mixed up with an emo vampire.

Mark Millar does this with Dave Lizewski in Kick-Ass. This remarkably unexceptional high school student, who sits around playing World of Warcraft and masturbating is meant to represent you and me. To be fair, if you were to look at me a little more than a year ago, you would see something eerily similar. Dave is an exaggeration of the stereotypes on people who read comic books. Chances are, if you picked up Kick-Ass at your local comic book store, or being unable to afford it like me, downloaded it (I'm sorry Mark Millar, I'll buy it one day, scouts honor) you found yourself seeing a lot of yourself in Dave. You and your friends sat around having the same discussion about how Peter Parker should have built his web shooters in the Spiderman movie, and you probably played a fair amount of video games, and made regular deposit in the "whack-off warehouse".

Makes us sound pretty awesome, doesn't it? A lot of readers were not too happy with how Millar portrayed the people who were buying his comics. However, the main thing we have in common with Dave is not a love for comic books or sexual frustration, but the desire to be a hero. We all have gone through that awkward phase where girls don't notice us and we just pray every night that a magic ring will fly into our window or our mutant powers will finally develop, because that will make everything better. Even now, when I have an awesome girlfriend and am substantially less of a screw-up I still want to wake up, bathed in green light, with some ring telling me I have the power to overcome great fear.

Now here is why Dave is awesome. Dave goes out and does something. Unlike us, he goes out and does something. He puts on a stupid costume and goes out to fight evil. Granted, he does not really get a lot done. He is still just a scrawny nerd in a scuba suit, but it's the fact that he at least tries.

It doesn't work out to well for him in the comic book. He got his genitals electrocuted, was nearly beaten to death multiple times, and at the end of it didn't get the girl. In the movie though, it was a different story. He actually got the girl, got to use a jetpack with attached chainguns, and got to beat the hell out of McLovin from Superbad. In short, he came out in the win column.
When I saw him on the jetpack, I thought two things. First was the normal "no way that would work/this wasn't in the comic" rage spike. Then I noticed how awesome it was. Then it was more of a "I want to do that" because let's be honest, that was pretty damn cool. Superheroes make all of the stuff they have to put up with look fun. They throw around some witty banter, beat up bad guys and then save the girl, All in a days work. While dealing with a psychotic clown or planet-devouring purple guy is a total pain, to be fair it sounds a lot better than doing homework or the everyday things we think are such a hassle. They make it look like the greatest time in the world, and we are swept in by it because we want to believe it'd be just like that if we were the one in the cape and tights.

I know when I imagine myself as a superhero (more often than I'd care to admit) I'm all kinds of clever. I throw one-liners out at my archenemy who curses my name and swears revenge upon me, but I still kick his ass and save the day. The crowd cheers, music plays, etc, and there is a happy ending and then the audience exits the theater. The ending to the comic is a little more realistic. Dave may win vs. the Mafia, and he and Hit-Girl hero it up and lay waste to John Genovise's mobster fortress, but he still got the hell beaten out of him. Big Daddy is shot right in front of him, and it turns out he was just another wannabe. In the movie, he is a hero ex-cop, betrayed because of his honesty. In the comic he is an accountant who makes up the story to give his daughter an exciting, atypical life. Then, after all of this Dave goes and tells Katie he isn't gay and that he loves her, and instead of her incredibly positive reaction in the movie, she has her boyfriend beats him up and then sends him an explicit text message of the two of him.
It sucks to be him. It sucks to be a superhero. If they don't try to have fun doing it then it will drag them down. Look at Batman. He is a bitter old man at the end because he doesn't have a lot of fun. Dave ends up being a cautionary tale of "Don't try this at home".

Of course we still hunt down this outlet for our hero instinct wherever we can, whether white-knighting on the internet or saving a virtual world we want to be heroes. We don't want to be the losers we are every day, but the savior of a planet or conqueror of evil. I know I do. I'd much rather be Kick-Ass then write about him, but I have exams to study for and I really don't want my testicles electrocuted.

The great thing about comic books is allowing for that moment of fantasy, where just for a second we can see ourselves in the shoes of our heroes and dream about fighting the forces of evil rather than working at a crappy job or sitting through a boring class. Just for one minute, you're kick-ass.

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