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Beating film cans into plowshares: Jim Carrey kicks ass

June 27, 2013
By
Carrey, pre-Newtown.

Carrey, pre-Newtown.

This phrase doesn’t roll off my tongue all that easily, but boy I hope Jim Carrey keeps doing that thing he’s doing.

Previously distinguished in my mind largely for his success at embodying most of the worst qualities of Jerry Lewis, Carrey has been on something of a redemption roll recently. It began when he starred in a Funny or Die music video that skewered the NRA’s lunatic intransigence on the issue of gun safety; when the Fox News Channel chastised him for it, he issued a statement  that was breathtaking in its insolent bravery. What he said, in part:

“[I]n my opinion Fux News is a last resort for kinda-sorta-almost-journalists whose options have been severely limited by their extreme and intolerant views; a media colostomy bag that has begun to burst at the seams and should be emptied before it becomes a public health issue.”

Moral: Never pick a fight with a comedian.

This week, Carrey announced that he would not help promote his upcoming film, Kick-Ass 2, which he had decided was too violent for a post-Newtown world. The tone of his announcement was far gentler than what he had visited upon Fox:

“I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence,” he tweeted. “My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”

A polite opting out, right? So it’s interesting that the response from Hollywood has been condemnation as panicked (and perhaps as coordinated) as the kind Roger Ailes trades in.

This one's for you, Ailes.

This one’s for you, Ailes.

Over at Deadline, Mike Fleming Jr. called Carrey’s decision a “cop out,” pulling out all the nonsensical arguments the money-minded make when they’ve been discomfited by a show of actual principle. Carrey had wanted to be in the movie, Fleming whined, and by bailing on it so publicly, he was simply (wait for it) giving the film even more publicity. “He probably did more to raise awareness for this movie by refusing to promote it than if he’d done a round of talk shows,” Fleming quoted a “knowledgeable observer” as saying.

Even sillier was Fleming’s assertion that, by declining to participate in such a campaign, Carrey had squandered the opportunity to disseminate his message to a larger audience. Apparently, no one in entertainment journalism knows where to seek out the big stars for a simple interview anymore, which is why they all have to come crawling to Ellen. And had Carrey done exactly as Fleming suggested, joining in the film’s promotional tour only to trash it, what would the likes of Deadline’s “knowledgeable” sources be saying about him? Probably not that he’s the kind of team player you really want to put up at the Chateau Marmont.

Fleming even made sure to toss in a gratuitous, boilerplate swipe at “an NRA lobby that has so co-opted federal lawmakers that that they would not in the wake of Newtown enact measures to simply require better background checks in gun sales.” See? We’re dealing with an honest-to-goodness Beverly Hills liberal here, so we can all feel safe taking his boardroom-oriented career kibitzing firmly to heart. Me, I call phooey.

It was more disappointing to hear Kick-Ass creator and executive producer Mark Millar tripping all over himself trying to take exception to Carrey’s genteel, highly personal “no thanks.” Millar, too, whimpered that Carrey had wanted to be in the movie, and had known up front just how violent it was going to be. That, of course, totally ignores the crucial epiphany element of Carrey’s announcement, in which he clearly opines that Newtown changed what he considers acceptable regarding the on-screen depiction of children and violence.

Indeed.

Indeed.

I’m down with that. In fact, it’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since the shooting, when it became clear that Universal was going to go ahead with releasing the film. Like Carrey, I had greatly enjoyed the original Kick-Ass, a film that I had approached with a mixture of hopefulness and trepidation. But some events are just transformative: They force us to look at things differently than before, and to alter our standards accordingly. Remember the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, when even Zoolander was considered a risky, potentially offensive release?

Newtown is one of those flashpoints. If, after it, you can look at a kid and a gun in the same way, you probably aren’t paying very close attention. By carping that Carrey should be just as enthusiastic about Kick-Ass 2 now as he was when he made it (before the tragedy), Millar and Fleming are echoing the Paula Deen lament: If something was appropriate once, why can’t it be excused forever? And look at the answer she’s getting.

Millar, though, isn’t just engaging in some self-serving damage control. In his effort to redeem the project, he contradicts himself left and right. First he claims that Kick-Ass 2 “isn’t a documentary” and should be given a pass as a fun fiction; then, just two sentences later, he declares that the whole franchise deserves credit for focusing on “the CONSEQUENCES of violence,” as if realism and responsibility are indeed the goals.

He’s deluded. The original Kick-Ass was a bracing but enjoyable bit of shock theater in which we got to hear a bunch of kids cuss like longshoremen while going all Kill Bill on adults (and each other). It was a parody of what a youngster might consider a “realistic superhero movie.” (The only moment of genuine realism is the very beginning of the film, in which a foreign-born would-be vigilante with a history of emotional problems dresses himself up in a birdlike costume, jumps off a tall building — and promptly dies.) After Newtown, I can’t imagine how any of that can still be considered useful, or even entertaining. I’d love to be proven wrong – but it looks as if even Carrey thinks I won’t be.

Commenters at Deadline and elsewhere, always quick to emulate the moguls they so envy, are mocking Carrey’s stand as risk-free. His cinematic career, they reason, is in the toilet anyway, so he isn’t sacrificing anything by biting the hand that now feeds him only sporadically.

Obviously, the truth is just the opposite. When your career is on a downslide, you have to make nice with everybody, and the only causes you embrace should be innocuous, ostensibly non-partisan ones like cancer research and “supporting the troops.” By continuing to denounce our gun culture, even at the expense of disowning his own work, Carrey transcends such hollow pragmatism. He proves himself as much of a hero as any character Mark Millar has ever created.

He kicks ass.

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Days without a response from the publication that plagiarized from me and won’t come clean: 10.

Follow me on Twitter: @Schneider_Stv

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