Diversity Aboveground: Folly of the Kingsman

Feb 27, 2015

Colin Firth as Galahad

SPOILERS BELOW

 

Advertised as being from the same creative team that gave theatres “X-Men: First Class”, audiences discovered that “Kingsman: The Secret Service” had much more in common with their earlier film, “Kickass”. It was filled with both irreverence and enough blood to make one wonder if it was based off an anime rather than The Secret Service, a comic book from one of Marvel’s imprints. However, it makes perfect sense that the original source material was created and written by Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons. Now, how did it do with its treatment of women and people of color?

The Kingsman was changed from the comic into a very wealthy group of independent contractors, more like a good version of Millar’s Fraternity from Wanted. Started over a century ago by a group of British tailors, the group of secret agents continue to be secretive about who is able to join their ranks and will only nominate new applicants that they know well. Thus, the new recruits are always Caucasian and typically male. In other words, the Kingsman also double as Oscar voters. Galahad (Colin Firth) did admonish this system although his complaint appeared to be more about the classism involved instead of the racism and sexism.

Galahad’s most popular scene in the film is one of the most problematic. There have been reports of audiences cheering as he helps kill a whole church of extremely bigoted parishioners. The problem with cheering him on is that Galahad is not in control of his own actions at that point. His situation is not much different from Clint Barton taking down the Helicarrier in the first Avengers film or, in a much more realistic scenario, a woman who’s been drugged and taken advantage of. As soon as he regained his faculties, Galahad expressed remorse and disgust over what he had done. There’s a visible struggle to continue to complete his job. It’s an interesting improvement over the original plot lines it replaced, involving an innocent wedding and the idea that all good looking girlfriends of nerds invariably cheat. However, his subsequent death prevented further exploration into his psyche. Then again, Barton hasn’t been seen in any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe almost three years either. Victims of physical or mental rape in Marvel films and television are more likely to be ignored or turned into comedic moments like Erik Selvig or Grant Ward yet since they cast the Purple Man for the Jessica Jones series, there is hope for a change in policy.

Galahad’s protégé is Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton). Unwin’s mother has been broken by grief of losing his father or the pressures of being a single mother. Either way, her new husband is abusive and she’s become the passive partner. It’s realistic but is it helpful? Which is the worse portrayal in media: the mother who’s abused by everyone and has to be rescued by a male hero or the Disney mother who’s never there at all? In order to up the number of female characters, Unwin’s kid brother has been turned into a baby sister. Little touches like that are possibly the work of director Matthew Vaughn’s frequent collaborator, Jane Goldman, who co-wrote the script with Vaughn.

Gazelle in The Kingsman

Unwin trained alongside Roxy (Sophie Cookson)who is blond, poised, intelligent and the consummate agent in just about every way. This original character for the film was a great addition and it’s impressive that she is allowed to be Unwin’s equal without being a love interest. Roxy’s perfect antithesis is Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). As the main henchman, she takes out any obstacle standing in her employer’s way. Her most unique feature is being a double amputee with prosthetic feet that also feature deadly blades which slice through flesh as she flies through the air. Whether this is her way of coping with her disability or she chose to have her feet cut off in order to have this unique advantage, the viewers never found out. There wasn’t a lot done in the way of character revelation or development, but Gazelle is a positive example of how disability can be made into an advantage. However, her employer also has speech impediment. Considering that she and her employer are the only ones with disabilities and impediments surrounded by able-bodied agents ready to kill them, it undoes some of the positive examples about disability. In the comic, Gazelle was a Black male and her employer was a Caucasian male similar to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. For the film, her employer was changed into Richmond Valentine and played by Samuel L. Jackson. This also means that the entirety of other races portrayed in the film are found in Gazelle, Valentine, the unnamed terrorists in the first scene, Barack Obama and Unwin’s friend. Jamal. Aside from Jamal, they all either end up evil and/or dead.

While “Kingsman: The Secret Service” did improve on the original; The Secret Service, there were still issues with treatment of minorities. Time will tell whether it brings us a sequel and whether that will further fix matters. Maybe Roxy will even be included in a fight scene.

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Is everyone ready for the Spring Premiere for “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”?

Next week’s column will be about The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence, Selina Kyle’s sexuality and more…

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