Sunday, January 8, 2012
“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”: I Might Have Known Better
As the creepy quicksilver credits rolled for the new Hollywood adaptation starring Daniel Craig, I experienced a visceral memory of that earlier film—and had the sinking premonition that “The Artist” or even “War Horse” would have made a sweeter date movie for a couple of medium-old folks.
“Dragon Tattoo” is the film adaptation of the first volume in Stieg Larsson’s phenomenally successful “Millennium” trilogy, about an investigative journalist (Craig) and a female surveillance expert and computer hacker who is not only tattooed but also pierced and very pissed (Rooney Mara).
Larsson, who died before the series was published, witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was fifteen years old and said he always felt guilty he had not intervened. This presumably explains why Millennium’s mainspring—and its sick obsession—is violence against women.
Here’s the plot summary, in case you’re still tempted: A woman (Mara) sexually abused in childhood (by her father) is driven to help a journalist (Craig) find a serial murderer of women by her own further victimization as an adult (by her attorney, who uses his control over her finances to extort sexual favors that soon turn very, very violent).
Oh, and it’s a thriller.
In other words, the filmmakers use sexual violence against women to get our blood running just high enough that we will overlook further violence against women (and at least two men) in order to cheer on our revenge-driven heroine.
I am not the only one feeling unsettled. Feminist columnist Laurie Penny, writing in The New Statesman, vividly describes Mara’s “immensely powerful character, a misandrist vigilante with a penchant for black fetish wear and ersatz technology, like the terrifying offspring of Batman and Valerie Solanos.”
Then, just when you might expect Penny to cheer, she does not:
“It is clear that the author of the Millennium franchise did not intend to glamorise violence against women. Unfortunately, it’s rather hard to stop the heart racing when rapes and murders are taking place in gorgeous high-definition over a slick soundtrack: part of the purpose of thrillers, after all, is to thrill. Decorating a punchy pseudo-feminist revenge fantasy in the gaudy packaging of crime drama rather muddles Larsson’s message. ‘Misogynist violence is appalling,’ the series seems to whisper; ‘now here's some more.’”
Eighty years before Larsson was writing his trilogy about a courageous woman confronting sex and violence, another Scandinavian author was doing the same. I can’t help wondering what Norwegian Nobelist Sigrid Undset (Kristin Lavaransdatter) would make of this “Girl”—or how much she would think our humanity has slipped in less than a century.