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.


Webseries Talk: EastSiders (2012-2013)

Spoilers, blah blah blah - EastSiders is also ongoing, but I have seen the first 6 episodes (everything that's been released so far) -- All episodes on LogoTV - sorry but I think it's location locked. 

EastSiders is about morality, emotions, relationships and is a fantastic drama. I'd call it a soap opera, but it's big, expansive and over played, it's small and about emotional hurt and pain. Gay couple Cal and Thom start having trouble after Cal learns that Thom has been cheating on him. Cal's best female friend Kathy is in a relationship with Ian and they’re having rocky times because Cathy seems to be reticent to depend on Ian, but Ian seems to be the type to lasso the moon for her.

The show starts the morning after an End of the World party that friends of Cal and Thom were throwing December 2012.  Cal has learned that Thom had been cheating and confronted him about it. As an audience we're dropped right into drama as Cal and Thom decide to stay together after Thom's deception has been found out and he breaks it off with Jeremy, his piece on the side. 

At first, you're rooting for Cal who is the one who was wronged in this relationship, but it becomes more than that as the show progresses and these characters become more than Cheater/Cheated-on/Cheated-With. Little is known as of episode 6 of Jeremy other than he can't give up either Cal or Thom.

But wait, Cal was cheated on by Thom with Jeremy but they now know one another. When deciding to meet the man he hates, Cal ends up drinking with Jeremy as they discuss Thom and while inebriated they fool around together. This makes things more complex then Cal being the wronged party, he has not wronged Thom and admits to hating himself and Jeremy.

Cal is conflicted, he’s now not a victim of cheating, but now a cheater with the same man he was his lover cheated on him with. Cal wants to see himself as being the morally correct party and holds himself to that standard of the hurt party in the relationship. Cal wants to stay with Thom out of spite, they’ve both been wrong and wronged so he feels justified that he and Thom ought to stay together with their personal injuries. Not too long later, while at work in an art space, while having a celebratory drink with his boss, Cal kisses him which leads to them sleeping together. This is after Cal has expressed immense joy over someone buying one of his prints and exclaiming “Someone on the Internet likes me.” This shows how little Cal likes himself as he seeks out men other than his boyfriend for validation. He’s conflicted and he falls from being a ‘good person’ to being a more complex and wrong person as the series progresses. He seems to sleep with people then push them out of his mind, as if thinking that if they don’t acknowledge what happened then it didn’t happen and there’s nothing to be responsible for.  After sleeping with Jeremy instead of addressing the ramifications of his actions, Cal runs away. After sleeping with his boss, who Cal only just learns is married, Cal runs away instead of facing the reality that he cheated on Thom again. Cal seems to have issues with engaging and actively fixing problems that are his fault. When Thom is the one who is wrong Cal is very gung-ho about making Thom feel bad about cheating on him, and feeling bad about his place in life. When Cal is the one who wrongs Thom he does what he can to avoid addressing the problems either by drinking or helping Kathy with her problems. Cal seems to be open to cheating on Thom when drinking, but also seems embarrassed and likes to pretend he's done nothing wrong. He's already expressed a dislike of himself, so maybe he's just trying to feel like someone wants, or needs him. As Cal explores and questions Thom’s commitment to their relationship, Kathy, Cal's best friend plays out long dramas in her head, reaching conclusions without all the facts and doesn't take her boyfriend's feelings to heart as much as she should.

The night of the End of the World party is near Kathy and Ian’s anniversary, he tries to be a good boyfriend by giving her a gift, which happens to be a ring. In Cathy’s inebriation she believes he’s proposing to her and spends the next day (or so) thinking she’s engaged to be married. She plays out the drama, the risks and rewards of being married in her head and to Cal instead of talking to Ian and getting a straight answer. This is cleared up and not long later Kathy realizes she’s pregnant and does the same thing of going to Cal instead of Ian to discuss her future plans. Ian as far as he’s be characterized, is a good guy. He seems to be kind, compassionate, a good friend, he tries to be a good boyfriend, so it’s difficult to see why Cathy is to reticent to go to him when she has a problem.

I’m thinking Kathy is afraid of a lot more than they ever lets on to, at least to Ian if not all of her friends. She expresses fear about she can’t be getting married and why she shouldn’t be having a baby, but she never seems to discuss this with Ian. I think she’s afraid of losing him so she wants to keep him at a steady distance, either to keep from getting to attached so she can cut and run, or she’s afraid he’s going to break it off and she’ll be subjected to more pain. What she does makes me feel really bad for Ian, he hasn’t been shown to be anything other than devoted and honest, so her dishonesty and how she jumps to conclusions in her fear is really unfair. Kathy decides to abort the baby she would have had with Ian and never tells him, he finds out in the worst way they he could have been a father, but the joy he expressed for a hot minute at this thought seems to crash that much harder after he learns that there was never a discussion with him. She might have still come to the same conclusion, but at least he could have known.

 I think her choice to get an abortion is handled in a respectful manner. She's reticent before the procedure and unlike her cavalier to introspective emotional arc when she's drinking and making the decision with Cal, then she's despondent after the procedure. Seeing another woman say she's keeping her baby, Kathy seems like she regrets the decision, and this is something I like about the show. I like how the show plays out how the decision weighs on Kathy and her uncertainty after it's all over. It's not an easy decision and I'm sure many women think long and hard about it, either way after getting one and if they decide not to get one. It's not played as if after the procedure that Kathy feels at peace with everything and confident, she's still uncertain and afraid of the adult world facing her. She's afraid of seeing Ian and then telling him what she decided to so.  She acts like she's always confident and competent, but she's afraid. This by no means makes her a weak character, but it shows how conflicted she is and how difficult life is. She dives head first into her mistakes then fearfully addressing the problems of her actions while recovering after (literally in this instance).

With Cal having started kind of morally as a protagonist in the show not much is currently known about Thom. He's a bartender, he cheated on Cal but regrets it. He's called a bad guy and characterized in the series by mutual acquaintances as a 'bad guy' but so far he's tried to be upstanding. After breaking things off with Jeremy he avoids his calls and texts, spending more time at work or with Cal to prove that he's a changed man. Jeremy is still acting very much the interloper, by going to both Cal and Jeremy's workplaces to try to maintain contact with two people who have decided they want nothing to do with him. Jeremy seems to be obsessed with this, maybe because they were his most recent partners, or their life drama is that alluring that Jeremy can't quit them, he keeps trying to make a place in their story. I'm not sure what Jeremy's MO is, he has expressed enjoyment of both Cal and Thom, when talking with a friend about it Jeremy doesn't know what he wants or what he expects by attempting to continue any sort of relationship with either. 

I look forward to the new episodes every Tuesday, posted at 3pm EST. I like that I can't really predict how the characters are going to act, I can kind of guess what's going to happen but it doesn't feel like I  can see the dots ahead while connecting them to get to the conclusion. I have a few possible conclusions, but nothing feels set in stone, I look forward to seeing how everything either comes together or falls apart. The entire show is about shifting morality and how characters actions change who they are and what their worth is. I don't know what I want to have happen, I don't know who I want to end up happy in the end and who deserves to get their comeuppance.

 I like how realistic things are being handled, that these stories are plausible, have probably happened (maybe not all at once in the same friend circle), but I like how the connections and how people interact is the important thing. How and why people hurt each other, it's greater than sexuality. This is a story about people and failure, and possibly redemption, it depends on how open ended it is. 

Correction: I spelled 'Kathy' incorrectly and have fixed it