Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In the best of all possible worlds

Jay Stone writes an unbelievably lazy piece in the Post's "Arts" section today:
In the new movie Kick-Ass, a young actor named Chloe Moretz, who is 13, dresses up as a superheroine named Hit-Girl and shocks a roomful of adults with her martial-arts chops and, more to the point, by using the last bastion of obscenity, the c-word.

Why that word became the final unutterable profanity is a question for gender-studies classes, if not Sigmund Freud, but the scene has turned Moretz into something of the star of the moment. (For the record, it appears that her mother, who was on the set at the time, suggested she say it.) It has resulted, oddly, in only mild protests, which tells us something about the level of public discourse these days, and lots about the way we have come to view young people.
And how is it, then, that we have come to view young people, Pangloss Jay?

Why, as "human beings" at last! As opposed, that is, to the "barely watchable" historical performances of such "abused" child actors as Judy Garland and Shirley Temple; the Oh Goshs on their lips the obvious evidence of their cinematic slavery, just as the cunts on young Ms Moretz's are the evidence of her emancipation.

And how did we come to this wonderful pass, Jay?
Younger people [in earlier films] became human beings only at the extremes of behaviour. In 1976, 14-year-old Jodie Foster played a hooker in Taxi Driver. In 1978, 12-year-old Brooke Shields appeared naked in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby, a drama set in a bordello. Pretty Baby was banned in some parts of Canada, but by then, the change was on the way.
Ah, I see. Through the explicit sexualization of children. That's your angle. Well, that makes a little more sense. Because, you know, I was thinking there were a whole lot of films made before 1976 that didn't have either Judy Garland or Shirley Temple in them that could be pretty brutal--or, sorry, that gave "pre-pubescent performers" a "real life". Hell, even that bit in It's a Wonderful Life where young George Bailey gets his head beaten off by poor old Mr Gower ... That's pretty rough for a kid, eh? But maybe that's just me. How about then, oh I don't know, Blackboard Jungle? Or, hey, how about Lolita or Au Hazard Balthazar--just the sort of thing you're looking for there, daddy-o.

But, I take your point. No 13 year old girls in knee socks and mini-kilts,* brandishing small arms (w/silencer) and saying "cunt". "Real life" stuff like that. Yeah, that's true.

Still, it would've been nice if Jay had given his article a little, 'ow you say, focus by discussing where he thinks all this transgression will lead. Like--even if he was just to shoot such an absurd notion down--some discussion of the idea that when there are no more of the little taboos for adolescents to concern themselves with, they tend to find other, less innocent ones; or just a little acknowledgment maybe of what many have observed about this sort of transgression-for-transgression's-sake stuff: that all such 'progress' has a nasty habit of leading us away from the simple truth that there is nothing new under the sun; that perhaps we've been in this place before, and there was a reason why we left it.


*Interesting cropping, you'll notice, of the above photo at the Post's site.