Child Abuse in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Author Note: This is a repost of an essay I had on my movie blogger. I liked it enough that I wanted it over here too. 

So this blog is movie analysis and review. Shut up.

I've said time and time again that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, written and directed by Shane Black and starring Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan is my favorite movie. My best friend's nickname is a weird reference to the movie and I watch it a few times a year, especially when I'm working on things for class. I've listened to the commentary multiple times, I still yell at the screen and I laugh at the movie. Every time. I know the jokes, the beats a lot. I don't have the audacity to say 'everything' but a lot of things. I mean, I watched that movie every day for a week when I first got it. I wrote a paper on the function of guns and sexual prowess so I mean, I've seen this movie a fair few times.

The other day I was thinking about the fact that a catalyst of the the main action of the movie is child abuse.

It's somewhat glossed over, Shane Black mentions that in the commentary that he wishes in the edit that that beat had stood a bit longer before the movie jumped into it's next joke. It's a black comedy there's terrible and amusing wrapped together in a fucked up fashion for the audience's entertainment.

Harmony Faith Lane left her childhood home as a young adult knowing that her father was molesting her younger sister. There is a short insert showing the father taking the daughter from her bed while the other just lays there pretending she doesn't know this is going on. So, Harmony leaves as a response to running away from something she knew she should have stepped in to stop or affect in some way so that can be seen as psychological abuse. The mother was ill, I believe, and possibly didn't know any of the sexual abuse was going on and didn't stop it. Instigating the action of the movie, Harmony's sister has shown up and taken Harmony's ID and credit card in search of Harlan Dexter the man she thought washer real father because Harmony lied as a child and said that her sister's real father was an actor from Hollywood, hence her seeking Harlan Dexter.

Harlan has recently murdered his daughter and has hired a girl to pretend she's his daughter, the problem is he has some sexual relationship with her that Harmony's sister sees. As Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) says, the shiny new father is just as fucked up as her original father, which leads Harmony's sister to kill herself.  which jumpstarts the investigation.

This brings me to a functional response to child abuse, the children are fucked up. Harmony first running away and not doing anything to take care of her sister is a drastic response to the knowledge that her sister is being molested. The sister running away a few years later and trying to find a new father because her first one is a realistic response. The fact that she kills her self is also believable in that she doesn't want to live ina world where fathers hurt and abuse their children.

Looking at the very common trope in media to have a character become a badass warrior after being abused, raped or in any other way sexually attacked as a young girl, it'd generally female characters, I don't want to say it's refreshing that she kills herself in response to having lived a fucked up life, but it can be seen as a more believable response than lashing out in the controlled ways that other fictional women do. The movies doesn't shy away from the fact that sexual abuse leads to people being fucked up which is a strength to it. It is a bit quiet about it and tastefully doesn't go into details about what happens but seeing how these characters react shows how people can respond to being abused. Seeing how the other characters respond as the information is revealed is also great, it's a quiet fury that things are not all right in the world as a character's chance at happiness with a new father figure are dashed on the rocks of assumed abuse before anything more than a fantasy can be considered. 

The clever writing and the jokes are what made this movie my favorite. How the characters react in unique ways makes it that much stronger as a movie and a fictional version of the real world. The abuse is key tot he movie but seeing how it works on different levels makes it that much stronger as a film in my eyes.