A friend invited me to see Kick Ass and I went knowing nothing about the movie besides it was a comedy. I love seeing movies that way.
I was drawn into the plot until the introduction of Hit Girl and the level of violence. This 13-year old girl single handedly kills numerous grown men using a variety of weapons, laughing much of the time.
On one hand, sure, it was pretty cute to have a super hero girl. On the other, it was too real. Unlike most of the people cheering in the audience, I have seen the destruction caused by child soldiers across Africa. I lived in Sierra Leone prior to its war. The two villages I lived in were sacked by rebel units, one unit was headed by a teenage boy named "Colonel Rambo." Some good friends died in those attacks, many others were abused in terrible ways.
There are currently an estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world today. Over two million children have been killed in armed conflict, six million disabled and thousands of young girls used as sex slaves. Child soldiers were and are trained in part by watching Rambo, Chuck Norris and other popular violent films. Children and youth have these film heroes as role models.
It may seem as a stretch to go from entertainment in the U.S. to child soldiers, but we have to remember the audiences are much broader than the movie theaters. DVDs are watched in small towns and homes across the world. The level of media literacy and ability to distinguish what is real and unreal varies around the world.
My friend who went to the movie with me is an assistant principle in a high school with gangs. She deals with conflicts on a daily basis, often violent ones. She did not know the movie would be so violent and apologized for suggesting it. Afterward she did comment that it was helpful to see the movie so she could better understand what her students are watching.
I do love movies, especially those with heroes that overcome major obstacles -- inner and outer. I know conflict is a natural part of life and that it makes for good story telling. Where to draw the line on violence is not an easy question. I guess what I come back to: is it something I would want in my life?
To learn more about the impact of armed conflict on children, go to:
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