Ethics & Public Policy Center

Kiss the Girls

Published in EPPC Online on October 1, 1997



Kiss the Girls, directed by Gary Fleder to a screenplay by David Klass (based on the novel by James Patterson), begins with a voiceover narration, obviously by a scary sex-criminal, saying: “You want to know all about me. . .” Well, no, as a matter of fact I don’t. Why should he assume that I do when all that I know so far is that he’s a sex criminal? The answer, of course, is that he (or those who wrote those words for him to say) recognizes that people go to the movies these days not for artistic but for voyeuristic experiences. We want to know all about him in the same way we want to know all about Princess Diana or a wreck on the freeway—not as a mirror in which our own natures are reflected but as a cheap thrill.

It’s just as well in one sense, at least, and that is that anybody hoping for any kind of artistic experience from Kiss the Girls is way out of luck. It is full of clichés of the most ludicrous sort from beginning to end and implausible even against a background of general cinematic implausibility, born of the new Hollywood aesthetic that, if today’s sophisticated audiences know it’s all a con anyway, no one need bother with plausibility at all. It tells the story of a wonderfully competent black “forensic psychologist” from Washington, D.C. called Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) whose niece in college in Durham, N.C. is kidnapped and who, as a freelance, goes down to North Carolina gets between the local cops and the FBI and the investigation and solves the case single-handedly.

Whoops! I gave away the ending. I’m sure it will come as a surprise that this saintly man, who coaches ghetto kids and teaches them boxing and is full of compassion for battered women (all of which we learn about him in the first five minutes) is also an ace detective who sleuths rings around the local cops and the FBI to discover the first known “bicoastal serial killer” of immense cunning who calls himself Casanova. Of course Cross does have the help of his niece’s street-smart boyfriend and one of the killer’s would-be victims, a kickboxing internist called Kate McTiernan (Ashley Judd), who managed to escape by beating her captor up and who is nearly as smart as he is.

“It’s signed ‘Casanova’,” says a clueless cop.

“Casanova. Hm. The great lover,” says Alex.

And, if your overtaxed brain is still up to it, the film has a message too. It is that the impulse to sick and twisted and sadistic violence is in all men and is epidemic in society. The film begins with a battered wife who has killed her husband in self defense; Kate the Kickboxer took up the sport because of her memories of what her father did to her mother. Then, when brainy Alex starts winnowing through suspects in the state of California he notes that “there are six predators operating in California right now.” They’re everywhere! And why? Well, one clue might be, as the investigators note of Casanova, all his victims “share a trait that would have set off the control freak in the guy: they’re all strong-willed, defiant.”

In other words, this is feminist propaganda. Men are threatened by strong women; women are getting stronger; men respond with hatred and violence. Hence, the serial killer. QED. In fact, serial killers are almost entirely a movie phenomenon, but in the movies they are everywhere because they reinforce this vulgar feminist view of the world. In the final confrontation scene, the cornered killer waxes philosophical, telling Cross: “Truth is looking at a beautiful woman like our Kate here and saying: ‘I gotta have her, I gotta break her down. . .” Then he challenges Cross to deny that he himself such a person inside him. And what do you think? This saintly detective admits: “I’ve met him from time to time.” This is feminist paranoia to match the political and racial paranoia that Hollywood peddles elsewhere. And somebody out there is buying them all.

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