You got room in there for another opinion on everyone’s favourite topic of last month? Open a thought-valve and make some space for an explanation of why, like the slasher flick genre, it was as challenging as a pull-cap tin o’ beans.

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A few weeks [pop culture months – Ed] ago, Kill Screen’s Michael Thomsen leapt to the defence of Hitman’s much-discussed pre-E3 trailer, noting that “it is possible to depict an act in art without endorsing it”:-

“While the women in the trailer are certainly meant to evoke sexuality, they are not necessarily meant to be arousing to the viewer… the point of the nun’s sexual depiction seems to me to be primarily a matter of contrast with the stark asexuality of 47.”

But already, we’ve given IO Interactive too much credit. Stuff the rest of it back in your pocket, and join me in counting this argument to bed.



In art, depiction is not necessarily the bell that rings endorsement – true enough. Lets explore that possibility for a moment – that this universe is the one in which IO considered a pre-E3 trailer a fitting format for a subtext in which sexy nuns were but the vapour trail of a more ambitious message.

Perhaps, like a feminist lost among Duke Nukem 3D’s bosomed babes, Agent 47 is tearing down the archetypal imagery of objectification in the only way he is able – with a gun and a grimace. Or maybe, as Thomsen argues, the juxtaposition of pornographic cliché with our hitman’s cold killing serves to heighten his asexuality; as though a lesser professional might come over all howling wolf at the sight of the heels and latex and leave himself at a tactical disadvantage.


But if that’s so, why then in the trailer’s first minute does the camera return again and again to the busts and groins of its naughty nuns? If those shots are to lure us into objectification with the aim of showing us the error of our ways, where are those key reflections in the glass a la Silence of the Lambs, where director Demme shows us to be sharing a seat with the cannibal?

Instead, an explosive rocket-propelled climax gently buys us a familiar cocktail of sex and death. The heavens open, and frames of rain-slicked guns alternate with soaked latex until they become one and the same; 47 does his business, and leaves.


That’s because Hitman is employing the same thematic sleight of hand performed so regularly by the slasher flick: dressing hyper-conservative values in the gore-stained costume of ‘provocative’ art.

Like the gruesome punishment of the sexually active teen couple that has become a horror staple, the trailer makes a skin-deep stab at edginess, while reaffirming a patriarchal fantasy – that the chaste are really just dying for a good fuck.


We’re supposed to enjoy the titillation – What’s the line in Cabin in the Woods? “Let’s see some boobies. Got to keep the customers satisfied.” – before a violent reaffirmation of male superiority allows us to return to our lives satisfied that nothing has changed.

The action – crushed noses and all – might be shocking, even alienating, yet there is nothing challenging about it. Its surface level nastiness doesn’t signify a willingness to tackle the status quo, rather just that – nastiness, Hitman’s stock in trade.


Can art be provocative? It certainly can. But if it’s provoking the vulnerable, it better have a bloody good reason for doing so. Hitman’s trailer challenges nothing, and as a result its upset serves no purpose at all.