Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Girl With The Inappropriate Scenes

I didn't think I'd wind up writing anything about David Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) but here I am, spurred on by several other reviews if nothing else. In a few reviews I kept coming across writers talking about the film as a mystery (which indeed it is) with horror supplied by a handful of graphic rape scenes. And I thought that was very interesting. Physical aggression becoming horror becoming titillating.

Before I get all too ahead of myself here's the basic plot. Daniel Craig is trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Christopher Plummer's niece 40 years ago. He eventually seeks help from Lisbeth Salander (that chick from the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, Rooney Mara) and they solve the mystery 2 hours and 40 minutes later. The rape scenes come about before Lisbeth joins the mystery plot. She's a ward of the state and falls into financial dependency of a loathsome man.

I knew next to nothing about the plot. I haven't read the books or seen the original Swedish film. What I did know going in was there are going to be some rape scenes. And there were going to be graphic. But daring. And there was going to be sex. And boobs. Also, there were going to be rape scenes.

My feelings about the scenes are that Mara is an impressive and brave actress, just as Fincher is an impressive and brave director. But really, the scenes and that whole subplot is a big red herring in the middle of story that doesn't fully support it. Lisbeth being a feminist hero, exacts her revenge on the perpetrator, follows up with it briefly later on in the movie but other than that, no one talks about it. It is never mentioned. Lisbeth chooses not to tell anyone and that's fine. No other characters need to know and that trait adds a lonely hearbreaking quality to the character.

But why, oh why, was I only informed about the rape scenes in the publicity. I feel like I didn't know anything about the story other than that. It doesn't help that the character and actress were fetishized to the hilt in practically every image that came out before the movie.

Hey friend, do you have an extra cardigan I could borrow? Oh, you need both of them? Oh. Okay.
What's interesting is that her (Lisabeth and Mara's) portrayal is as a sexual other. She's "different" from our other forms of beauty and sexuality. She is aggressive. For some people, unattractive. How do you combat this? By putting the actress on a real purdy cover of a magazine.

Unfortunately I couldn't find a bigger image of the cover but it says "Rooney Mara: The Girl With the Pierced Nipple".

They couldn't have come up with anything else? A woman's magazine that one would think is vaguely progressive thought/knew that people would be curious enough about a nipple ring to buy something about a relatively unknown actress. That's just lazy and insulting in my books.

Is this harsh? No. I don't think so. A feminist hero can have all the nipple rings and tattoos that she wants. My problem is that I think these images go against everything we learn about the character. I saw her as fully sexual woman but deeply protective of that sexuality. Why did the movie studio have to sell her out?


  1. The English versions of the book and movie definately fetishize Salander's image/sexuality far more than I think the author intended. Even making her the title character, I think the Swedish version was called "Men Who Hate Women". I don't even think the tattoo works into the plot, but tattooed chicks can sell stuff books in airports. The whole series is strangely over-insistent on feminism and against mysogony for something written by a guy, but then for some reason he gets her a boob job in the second book and you're like "really?"

  2. That's what threw me while watching the movie. The insistence that this movie was feminist in any sense came off as insincere. And I didn't even know about the boob job in the second book...