How Can I Like A Racist, Sexist, Piece Of Crap Movie?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The thing is, viewed through the lens of the humorless Social Justice Warrior credentials that conservatives say I am unable to shake off, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an awful movie. It’s about the intense supremacy of white people shooting evil not-white people, with the ultimate goal of becoming an upper-crust Gentleman Spy.
It’s also hellishly fun.
Part of the great enjoyment of Kingsman is that depending on how you look at it, Kingsman is either an affectionate parody of James Bond films, or an updated take on James Bond films.  So I expect the sexism and racism baked in, because frankly, that’s part and parcel of the whole schtick.
Part of it is that Kingsman exudes style.  Colin Firth is the perfect choice to be our young lead’s mentor: he carries an umbrella, dresses in impeccable suits, and lectures people on the propriety of their actions before, reluctantly, kicking ass seven ways to Sunday.  And when he kicks ass, he does so in audacious fight sequences that somehow manage to straddle that line between “videogame cut-scene” and “genuine heroism.”
Part of it is that Kingsman is, in the end, a pretty welcoming message.  Anyone can be a gentleman, even a lower-class lout, if they truly want to better themselves.  And part of the joy is, of course, watching Our Hero show all the other recruits up as his instincts help him do what is truly right.
And part of it is the sheer thrills of watching all the gadgets. It’s like Matthew Vaughan said, “Hey, James Bond has gotten so grim and hateful and left all these cool toys on the ground in an attempt to be realistic. Can we pick up all the best toys and run around in circles with them?”  And so they did.
Kingsman is flawed, of course. I’m not entirely sold on Samuel Jackson’s portrayal of a lisping, hand-flailing multimillionaire (even as I know that Jackson based that lisp on his own former speech problem).  All the good guys are sterling-white, while the major bad guys are handicapped or flawed.  The women are semi-heroic in that weird modern action hero way where they do some kick-ass things, but are relegated in the end to support roles and a sex joke.  (A pretty damned good sex joke, which I loved, but… a sex joke.)  And strangely, despite there being a squad of Kingsmen waiting in the wings, not a one of them shows up to help anyone in the final chapter.
Yet I still loved the hell out of it.
I can, despite the spluttering complaints of conservatives, enjoy the fuck out of a movie and still acknowledge it’s problematic.  I can even recommend it to my buddies, as I do Kingsman – I just give them warnings so they can know what bits about it may annoy them past the point of enjoyment.  (Just as I give warnings for movies that take a while to get moving, or movies with disappointing endings.)
I can see flaws and still be thrilled.  My joy is not dependent upon a movie being perfect, merely having strong enough qualities to supercede those flaws.  And Kingsman, despite the litany of dings I could give it, was still cool enough that I cheered at one particularly audacious sequence set to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a line of suits in the Kingsman mold. I have to go price them out, for I covet them.

2 Comments

  1. Rosemarie
    Feb 24, 2015

    I went to see Kingsman about a week ago, and I really loved the vast majority of the movie. But I found certain scenes deeply disturbing, to the point where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay in the theater. The violence of the scene in the church (trying not to be spoilery), specifically, had me shaking and fighting off nausea. It’s possible that I reacted more strongly than I should have, but I was not expecting such extreme violence from this kind of movie, and I was not prepared. When I left the theater, my head was wrong. It felt like I was talking from somewhere far away. I wanted to go somewhere to get back in myself, but I didn’t think I was safe to drive.
    I just thought it was worth mentioning that some of the violence was problematic (at least for me), as well as the racism and sexism.

  2. MM
    Apr 9, 2016

    You don’t have to ignore the problematic things in a movie to enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying Kingsman and acknowledging that it has problematic themes. I love 80s action movies but alot of them have racist token characters and sexist themes. I acknowledge that and I actively try to avoid tokenism and sexism in my own work.

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