April 4, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Rape Fantasy??

Spoiler, Spoiler, Spoiler…can’t say you weren’t warned….

I haven’t yet read Steig Larsson’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (titled Men Who Hate Women in Larsson’s homeland of Sweden), but I did go see the Swedish film that was released this weekend (the American remake is already in the works). I had prepared myself to write a pretty begnin, complimentary review, as I did enjoy the story and the main character Lisbeth Salander (played perfectly by Noomi Rapace).

I can understand why Feministing.com called her a “feminist avenger,” and why any woman (myself included) would see her as such. She is unaffected by her beauty (which is sometimes covered up in black, Goth make-up), androgynous, bisexual, and - unlike the character in the book - she has muscles that would make Madonna jealous. Unlike many female characters we see, one of  Lisbeth’s strongest assets is her tech-savvy research skills. We also see her rescue the hero of the story in what was truly a breath of fresh air. The girl wasn’t the one being strung up by her neck….she was the one heroically swinging the golf club at the very…last second. Lisbeth is on the whole a bad-ass, rockstar of a “sheroe. 

What is really gnawing at me about this film is whether or not it is okay to portray a supposedly feminist character and tell a feminist story through the vein of violence against women. Because when you take away all the bells and whistles, all of the things about the Lisbeth character that cause our knee-jerk reaction to be “Feminist!” the story itself is just more media-created violence against women. For example, Lisbeth is physically assaulted in the subway within the first 30 minutes of the film. Then graphically assaulted by her legal guardian/parole officer TWICE in what could arguably be one of the worst rape scenes since Leaving Las Vegas. These two scenes (plus, the revenge rape scene where she attacks her attacker) truly test the boundary of rape fantasy; it is very unclear to me when it starts to become something that is used for titillation as opposed to activism, and that cannot be good. Furthermore, the main plot mystery is driven by a sadist, misogynist, serial killing, rapist Nazi who has been murdering women for the better part of 40 years. Pictures & flash-backs of those gratuitously violent murders are scattered throughout the entire film (and, from what I understand described in all-too-much detail in the novel).

Larsson – the book’s author – founded the Expo-foundation, “a group intended on exposing neo-Nazi activity in Sweden.” He was known for his “pre-occupation” with misogyny and racism, and spent his life fighting against these things, as well as capitalism. I wish that I could say with his beliefs he created a character and a series of stories & films that are worthy of feminist praise and accolades. But, I am afraid all that exists in this story is rape fantasy and the kinds of violence that the feminist community is fighting to rid the media and, possibly more importantly, society as a whole of. Additionally, Larsson wrote our feminist heroin as having a great amount of disdain for her body, and the sequel to Dragon Tattoobegins with Lisbeth getting breast implants. I’m not sure what kind of feminist heroin Larsson was trying to create, but we can thank Niels Arden Oplev, the films director, for ditching those crappy & oh-so-feminist story-lines.

To sum it up….Lisbeth is a great, strong female character. We need more characters like her. We need them to inspire the ferocious, feral spirit that lives in all women. But, what we don’t need are more morally ambiguous, violent stories that are held on their axis by the portrayal of a form of violence against women that borders on sexualizing it.



  1. How about you forget about “supposedly feminist character” and “supposedly feminist story” and just take the book and – separately – the movie for what they are? Try to look at Salander as somebody who has attitudes due to her past experience, not because she joined a feminist club. I for one don’t remember that she ever tried to “preach” feminism.

    As for “sexualizing violence against women” I’m not sure the movie does it. From reading about others reactions, and judging from my own, the scenes rather tend to cause the viewers to look away or even leave the cinema than fantasizing about rape.

    Comment by Ewa — April 26, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

  2. I could do that. But, I never said that Salander was preaching feminism. However, her creator/author, Steig Larsson, was. He was “obssessed” with violence against women, and he has been compared on many occasions with Joss Whedon, who created, produced, and wrote “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” There are some pretty glaring differences between Buffy and Lisbeth. Namely, the fact that the Whedon’s Buffy ubiquitously made young women feel empowered and capable of walking into a dark alley and taking care of themselves. On the contrary, all Larsson’s Lisbeth makes us feel is capable of taking revenge, but only by default of having already become the victim. On many, many occasions.

    I will agree that I am not SURE that the film sexualized violence. However, it was my uneasy first impression, as well as that of several other people who have seen the film. I do not suppose that one would leave the theatre fantasizing about rape. But, the films content contributes to the larger cultural lanscape that definitely sexualizes violence against women, and by default – rape.

    Comment by Lani — April 26, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  3. Great exchange. Your response was well put, Lani.

    Comment by Melanie — April 26, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  4. I wrote about it also on the msmagasine portal, you might want to have a look there.

    I see it like that. Larsson had subjects that for one reason and another were close to his heart. What he created in the Millennium trilogy is a novel, a work of fiction. He certainly wants to make certain statements, and he chooses one perspective over another. Even if there might be feminist elements in his novel, it does not mean that what he wanted was to just “speak for feminism”. What he does, and he does it really well, he creates certain characters that do things their way due to a reason of their own – like in Lisabeth’s case she is, among other things, trying to avoid most of the world. And she has her logical and emotional reasons for it. She knows about abuse against women and fights it her own way. That’s the way Larsson created her. He did not create her as a representative for an ideological cause of feminism. He created her as a person acting out of her own life experience. I think also for Larsson Lisabeth is something coming more out of his own experience related to violence against women and his personal convictions than from feminism as ideology. I have no problem with that, and I don’t understand why others do. Ok, you can say that Lisabeth does not represent the feminist viewpoint due to this and that and question Larsson on his feminism. That’s ok, I would have not problem with this. But why question him on creating her the way he wanted to create her? He was not hired for the job by a feminist group, he makes no claim in the book that “here I want to expound the feminist ideas”. I hope you understand what I’m getting at. He does what he does and we might think it’s not feminist, but I don’t think we can get on his case for the choices he made. He wrote the books as a private person, an author, not as a mouthpiece for feminism. He didn’t need to be politically correct to fit every feminist’s dream. (Although some claim that the book is “every feminist’s wet dream” others consider it mysogynist. Go figure. ;))

    Saying this, we don’t know what kind of development he planned for Lisabeth in the seven books he never wrote and we will never know. Perhaps by the book ten she would be a world leader in fighting all kind of oppression? But as it is I take Lisabeth for what she is in the three books Larsson left us without trying to fit her in into some ideological square hole. And it’s not that I like everything about her either. But the way she is presented, I understand where she is coming from.

    At the risk of sounding strange, there is actually a feeling of pro-activity in Lisabeth when it comes to fighting men’s violence against women. Her expressed view is that she would kill every rotter who hates women (not that she really goes around doing it). She sees it as a pro-active action to ensure that they will not harm more women than they already have. Somebody on the other forum accuses her of “victim-blaming”. When she does blame Harriet, it’s actually on this point. If 40 years ago Harriet would act against Martin instead for just running then Martin would not have killed all the women he did kill during these 40 years. I don’t take it as a real criticism of Harriet on part of Lisabeth, but more as an expression of anger and frustration over the fate of all the women who suffered and died and Martin’s hand. And of course, in the book Mikael counterbalances such a stand.

    Comment by Ewa — April 27, 2010 @ 12:00 am

  5. I understand what you’re saying – basically – take the story holistically. But, why is it that so often writers and entertainment in general that attempt to tackle violence against women use it so egregiously?? You can’t deny that the violence against women portrayed in GWDT is gross and – for me – excessive. The same can be said of entertainment in general regarding the formation of masculinity and the expections that that creates for young men. But, specifically here it’s hard for me to accept GWDT as feminist – which it has been labeled by the public and its author. Is it more feminist than a lot of stories? Yes. But, it really the best we can do? I certainly hope not.

    Comment by Lani — April 27, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  6. I’m currently reading the third book in the Millennium series, and I am surprised at how much I am enjoying reading them because in general I am not a fan of bestsellers (as far as I’m concerned Dan Brown owes me some money for the ten minutes of my life I wasted trying to read the very crappily written Da Vinci Code). Also being a literary snob I tend to avoid movies based on books because I am invariably disappointed… (if I do see a move version of GWTDT it will be the swedish version because I have no doubt that the hollywood version will be crap).

    Yes, there is a lot of violence in the books but what I found refreshing was the way in which it wasn’t glorified it was ugly and meant to be ugly… While its probably not the best comparison I remember seeing the movie Showgirls when it came out, I walked away from the theatre feeling sick to the stomach after listening to the hoots and cheers of fellow patrons during the rape scene… what I’m trying to get at is that the violence in the Millennium series of books takes place in a context of social systemic violence against women, the violence to my mind is not there to entertain or titillate (as I would contend the violence in Showgirls is) it is meant to horrify the reader and to my mind hopefully get them to think about the myriad of ways in which women’s bodies and autonomy are violated almost as a matter of course.

    Comment by lissy — April 27, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  7. Regarding the violence in the movie being gross and excessive. I think it is good that it is gross. It should not be fine, nice, should not be for entertainment – and if you ask me, it isn’t. In so many movies violence is presented as entertaining or glorified. Here it isn’t. It makes us uncomfortable, we have hard time to watch it. In my case, it made me angry as well.

    We also see the results of it – especially Lisabeth after the second rape, but think also about Mikeal in Martin’s hands. There is NOTHING glorious about the violence as portrayed in this movie. That’s why it’s ok that it’s gross, it should be. And I don’t think it’s excessive in the sense that the director is showing lengthy violence scenes just for the hack of it. I would say that it is actually toned down in it’s length, but instead the brutality of it is shown. As Lisy wrote, “it’s ugly and meant to be ugly.” Perhaps we are too used to “violence shown as nice”, as fun or sport.

    So in my opinion, if violence is to be shown in movies, that’s the way it should be done.

    It’s not glorious;
    it’s not shown as fun;
    it’s brutal in a naturalistic way;
    the effects of it are shown;
    it does not encourage to emulate it;
    it discourages violence,
    it’s not excessive time-wise (as compare to the movie’s run time).

    Well, at least for the people who are not sick in their heads which, I hope, is most of us.

    As for the movie being feminist, somebody wrote elsewhere that in her opinion the movie is not feminist, it’s humanist. I like the way she put it, I agree with it, and I like the movie this way.

    Comment by Ewa — April 28, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

  8. Uhm… I’ve change the order in my list in the previous text and the comment under the list doesn’t make sense anymore. The comment refers to the line “it discourages violence”.

    Comment by Ewa — April 28, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  9. Ewa, thanks for your insightful comments, especially the list of parameters that distinguishes violent entertainment from images of violence used to inform. Your points are well-taken. In the end you and Lani may not agree but this disagreement created an ongoing dialogue that leaves other readers with plenty of food for thought. For myself, as an abuse survivor, I am re-traumatized by these images and don’t necessarily find them necessary and I understand it is my own history of trauma that leads me to feel that way.

    Comment by Melanie — April 29, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  10. @Melanie Sorry to hear that you’ve went through such a nightmare. Somebody somewhere wrote that rape offers should be warned before going and seeing the movie as some may opt out of seeing it. Some scenes are hard even on those who are lucky enough not to have gone through such a traumatic experience, like me.

    Comment by Ewa — April 30, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  11. my personal thought on this, after just seeing the movie tonight and being so bothered about the rape scene that i searched the internet for feminist responses to it, is that the whole scene is unnecessary. i don’t think it’s necessary at all to establish a point of the plot, or to develop the character in this movie. (mind you, i have not read the books and i have no idea how the character further develops.) i think the character is sufficiently shown to be traumatized and withdrawn and having violent tendencies in the flashbacks of her father in the fire and the talk with her mother about the abuse she witnessed. it felt gratuitous to me because there was no point to it, it was unnecessary, and seemed to be present for the sole purpose of shock value.

    furthermore, i’m bothered by the revenge scene. it was very clear to me when i was watching the movie that that scene was written and directed by men. that was a particular kind of revenge fantasy that was very masculine/male in nature, and i’m troubled by this ongoing myth that women should feel a certain way — angry, enraged, vengeful — after being raped. i think tis an extension of the idea that “if she didn’t fight back, she wasn’t really raped” – here Lisbeth couldn’t fight back, so she did so afterward.

    this goes to a larger criticism that i have of movies and literature, which is that of the female characters as instrumental, flat, and present only in service of the development of the male characters or as expressions of the male author’s attitudes and ideals about women. i continually am disappointed by the way female characters are written and directed, and i am so sick to death of movies about men!

    however, i am of another mind wrt to the violence in this film. it is shocking and brutal, for sure. it involves the abuse of trust and power on part of the male characters in Lisbeth’s life. and this is how women experience violence in their lives. while i am sickened by the idea of male violence against women being used for titillation, i do think it’s important that depictions of male violence against women continue to be presented. it’s important to keep saying that women experience violence at the hands of men, over and over again, in as many mediums as possible and as truthfully as possible, until it isn’t true anymore. of course, i will always be concerned about the way in which that message is delivered, but the message itself is extremely important to keep on delivering.

    Comment by J — June 9, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

  12. Consider a story in which a man was abused in various ways by a woman or women. One fine day he revenge himself by going out and raping the women he was abused by. And men comment, “well its not like they didn’t have it coming,.” And if in his epidemic of vengence, he kills a few after torturing them, how many feminist would applaud the murders as proctive and empowering? Answer: NONE. The kind of empathy over the female character in the movie seems tantamount to the old feminist logic. Men torturing and killing women, bad. Women torturing and killing men, empowering. In the black and white world of feminists, only their perspective of the world makes sense. If men responded to being victims of women, feminists easily dismisses the reality that men are equally abused and sometimes murdered by women. The character simply becomes no better than those that abused her. Except for the window-dressing of justified vengence, she joins the soul destroying convention that allows an individual to be judge, jury and executioner, where her own sensibilities determine who has the right to live and die. (or should die)
    Of course I know in advance the dismissive response feminist will have to my opinion. But keep in mind, men are starting to become aware of the hypocrisy of feminist themes when violence is the topic. Its easy to configure a perception that men in general can only be humane so long as we surrender completely to feminist dogmatism. But don’t worry, since the convention now in cinema and media is to demonize male characters and promote female empowerment in female characters, feminist can enjoy a steady absence of strong virtuous men since there will be less role models of the sort for young boys to set a positive standard by.

    Comment by Lone Sloan Delirius — July 1, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

  13. Well J, obviously your too way too polarized in your beliefs. The rest of the comments on this page contained logical debate, while your’s was just a hater spewing about how much she hates men. Your not doing yourself a favor, or any feminist for that matter. But your so right, women are never vengeful, they are never spiteful (hope your seeing the hypocrisy of your posting now).

    Comment by Lela — July 2, 2010 @ 12:41 am

  14. I’m kind of unclear about what just happened with this exchange.

    To J – I absolutely acknowledged and was just as horrified by the rape revenge that was acted out in GWTDT. I also acknowledge that her so-called empowerment was only made so by way of her becoming a victim. I don’t condone violence against men anymore than I do violence against women (and, we know that it happens far more than statistics would have us believe). I do, however, disagree that men are abused equally as much as women are. There is a power differential there that is no easily ignored.

    So, given the fact that I agreed with and acknowledged your points….I’m not sure where the disagreement/contention is here.

    Comment by Lani — July 2, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  15. Is “Lone Star Delirious” actually trying to argue that movies in general are too feminist and that there aren’t enough positive male role models in films? I would like to live in his fantasy world.

    I just finished watching the movie and was having mixed feelings about the violence and misogyny, and was glad to find this discussion. I think that within the framework of mainstream action/thriller films, Lisbeth is a refreshing heroine (for her unemotional personality, general competence, and unambiguously anti-misogynist agenda)…but in the end, she’s yet another sexy, black-clad, ass-kicking girl in an action film. I guess there’s no way around that. I must go read the books now.

    And I don’t want to feed into the argument here, but I don’t see what was so offensive about J’s post. It seemed to me she was just reacting emotionally to the film, not criticizing anyone on here.


    Comment by msquality — July 29, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

  16. […] are many other feminist criticisms of the Millennium Trilogy around the explicit rape scenes, which are definitely […]

    Pingback by Millenium Woman and The Man Who “Likes” Women | Ramblin' (Wo)man — August 30, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  17. I didn’t like the movie. I wanted to–really–but I thought it was just too much.

    I don’t really understand why either rape scene [there were two] was in the movie or–if it was decided that it had to be in there–why it was so graphically portrayed. It could have been implied, for example. I strongly feel that such depictions do much to normalize violent behavior.

    Also, besides the gratuitous sexual violence, this movie is nothing spectacular. It’s just another murder mystery where women are tortured and killed by a psycho. How many times has this sick plot been used? More than I care to count!

    Why are so many people saying this movie is great? It was mediocre at best. If the author had a point about Nazis and violence against women, he could have come up with a plot that wasn’t as overdone. This would have made the movie more powerful imo.

    @Lone Delirius

    I agree with you. Feminism is supposed to be about equality! When men are oppressed, women suffer. When women are oppressed, men suffer. Lisbeth Salander is *not* a feminist hero!

    Comment by M. — September 4, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

  18. Lone Sloan Delirius is perfectly correct.

    The logic of the revenge scenes should be clear to anyone based in the rules of debate. This is for all you feminists:

    Claim: Cause and effect are inextricably linked, and must be considered an unbroken unit.

    Cause: Woman raped.
    Effect: Woman exacts revenge.

    Fact. Revenge would not have occurred had raped not taken place (the rape created the revenge). This must mean that there is an unbroken connection between the cause and the effect.

    Fact. To support or otherwise approve of the the effect (revenge) is to tacitly support or approve of the cause (the rape). Since the revenge was the result of the rape, to approve of one and disappove of the other is to contradict oneself. Self-contradiction results in an unsustainable argument. i.e., no basis in rational logic.

    Conclusion. One must either approve of both the cause (rape) and the effect (revenge) or disapprove of both.

    Comment by Me — September 13, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  19. I authored the blog. And, am a feminist. And, it clearly condemns the rape AND revenge scenes equally for being unnecessarily violent, gratuitous and beyond disturbing. And, I responded to Sloan with the same. There are several comments here agreeing with me which clearly means we’re on the same page. So, clearly the feminist were already paying attention, but thanks.

    Comment by Lani — September 13, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

  20. Art should provoke you with awe. Does a man portray a women of strength in the correct way according to feminism movement? I guess not because the feminine movement is too extreme and not well educated on the philosophical and psychological workings of the hero. If as a female I have no strong female chracters that point me to an authentic behavior then I have a dysfunctional point of view. A female trying to act like a male. I am talking about media providing me with heroines that I can relate to. Do women get raped in reality? Yes. Do women get sold into sex trade? Yes. So finally there is a movie with an authentic human female character in the context of the modern-serial killer and rape-ridden world- and she saves the guy, brings down the corrupt Capitalist-solves a stream of serial killer murders- all the while she is broken, and completely human. She is not Angelina Jolie or exagerrated version of a male hero. Now the revenge scene is not suppose to be literal but a metaphor a scene to meet you emotionally. Do women want to commit more violence after they have been violated against? I am not sure- I will not pretend that I know the answer to that, but to feel a release of anger and frustration this scene does do some kind of justice. When Jodi Foster got gang raped in Accused- there was only justice in a court room which does not meet the emotional anger that happens to a women. I think she did take a baseball bat to a car of one the men who raped her. So to say that a woman does not have anger enough to commit violence is another totally stereo typical quality that women give women. Oh woman are all about compassion and passive nature. Quote from The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest- Steig Larsson wrote “a historian Diodorus a Sicilian-considered unreliable source states the Amazon reign-2nd century BC a Gynaecocracy woman could only hold high office with a female army-30,000 north Africans who lay siege all the way to the Aegean- and won-Only a woman who had killed a man in battle was allowed to give up her virginity”
    I agree that we don’t want modern media advocating violence against women, but we don’t also want to sweep under the rug what is happening to women today. Our movies are our mythology and what did this heroine show us- that you could fight back- it could just be a metaphor. I don’t think there is an easy answer as to how balance the feminine and the masculine qualities. Do we need take away all media that gives you a harsh view of reality? As a women who loves men and my own gender I am an athlete- and always resented the male dominated world- so I am glad Larsson put so many strong female character in these books. Remember it was not just Salander- there was the Expo Magazine CEO- who had a lover and married- only in Sweden. The lawyer who defended Salander- who cut the off the head of the system and served up on a chopping block. Queen Elizabeth had to kill traitors to keep her kindom running smooth- and she did this in the real world- a human female doing it the best she could- and she was one of the greatest rulers of all time-entrenched in a male world.
    Ultimately we don’t want violence anyway or anyhow- anywhere- Both men and women have been violated too much in the big picture- We want to move up a level together- and we need both the masculine and feminine principles interacting and balanced to move on.

    Comment by Kori — October 3, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  21. I know this discussion is months old, but it is an important one to continue. I saw the film GWTDT early summer 2010. It still bothers me, and I still think about it. I think about it not because it was monumentally good as is the opinion of, it seems, many, but because of the disturbing combination of the overall praiseful reception of the film and the type of film this is. Of course, it is labeled a crime story for the basic storyline and plot mechanics. Many tout it a feminist empowerment film. What disturbs me most is that its popularity heralds the lack of awareness that pervades society still to this day. This film is little more than rape porn masquerading as a feminist outcry, while providing spectators with a safe distance to pleasurably view extremely violent and degrading images of abuse.

    Having not read the books, I cannot speak to its style and formatting and whether or not it creates the same problematic, but the film adaptation of the book is another beast; one I wish to confront. I understand that the underlying premise is that women live in a society of state-sanctioned misogyny and subversively active abuse towards women. To this at least I can say: Bravo for peeking behind the veil. Indeed, this has been and still is the case today, whether people are aware of it or ignorant of it due to the status quo. Exposing Sweden as a country like many others with a progressive façade hiding the sickness of misogyny behind its doors and in its foundation as a nation state is an act for which I, too, would praise the author.
    Unfortunately, Stieg Larsson fails the movement in his development of the female protagonist and IN THE WAY in which he and director Niels Arden Oplev focus on the dehumanizing acts his female characters suffer.

    What the viewer / reader should be asking is, why, out of all of the rape/incest/molestation victims on the planet, did he choose to develop his female protagonist into a person who is completely emotionally muted? I understand that she is supposed to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome, but why? Of the percentage of women who have been victims of such horrifying acts, how many of them have Asperger’s? What is the point in permanently, irreversibly muting the emotions of the victim? This is a major part of the story that deserves THOROUGH exploration.

    While we are exploring the relative safety we as viewers may feel in not being able to experience the true emotional impact these events would reap upon a person, an examination on the art of telling a story and filming a film must also be held. Decades ago film theorist, Laura Mulvey, exposed how films focus on women as spectacle (in this case, the spectacle of rape) to induce pleasure. I’m sure that no one here considers rape in anyway to be a pleasurable act. Yet, filmic presentations of rape can indeed create this effect. The manner in which Oplev filmed these scenes creates this exact type of spectacle. It is only when the viewer is denied any sense of pleasure and is in fact jolted into a state of uncomfortable awareness that the full emotional and psychological impact can be understood.

    My disgust in the film stems primarily (though certainly not exclusively) from Larsson’s choice in character development and Oplev’s filmic spectacle of rape. Larsson’s attempt to bolster feminist, indeed humanist, voices in the world failed miserably. Contrary to his alleged intent, it fosters the continuation of depraved abuse. Its popularity should set off alarms not praise.

    Comment by Kayla — December 28, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  22. I have to seriously, seriously disagree with you. the rape portrayed in this movie was some of the most disturbing I’ve ever seen in any movie, despite the minimal level of nudity. when Lisbeth took her revenge, I was practically quivering with furious satisfaction.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with graphically showing sexual violence in the media. If you show it as it really looks, in all its gut-wrenching, cold-sweat, icy-blooded terror, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. if anything, you’re showing the people who normally might not see it as a big deal that IT IS A BIG FUCKING DEAL. the people who drew pleasure from this already drew pleasure from similar things, and this movie is not, I think, making them like it more than they already did. I think it is more hysteria than anything else to say that this emotional tornado of a movie is somehow advocating violence against women.

    Comment by blarp — April 29, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

  23. I have to seriously, seriously disagree with you. the rape portrayed in this movie was some of the most disturbing I’ve ever seen in any movie, despite the minimal level of nudity. when Lisbeth took her revenge, I was practically quivering with furious satisfaction.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with graphically showing sexual violence in the media. If you show it as it really looks, in all its gut-wrenching, cold-sweat, icy-blooded terror, I don’t see what’s wrong with that. if anything, you’re showing the people who normally might not see it as a big deal that IT IS A BIG FUCKING DEAL. the people who drew pleasure from this already drew pleasure from similar things, and this movie is not, I think, making them like it more than they already did. I think it is more hysteria than anything else to say that this emotional tornado of a movie is somehow advocating violence against women.

    regarding the whole ‘feminist hero or not’ debate people are having:
    first of all, I think it’s completely ridiculous to have to either condemn or support both acts. if I support the revenge, it is PRECISELY BECAUSE I don’t support the rape. I support the revenge as a very situation-specific response. this asshole of a man would never have gotten in trouble for the rape whatsoever if it hadn’t been for the protagonist taking her revenge. I’m not saying that in all cases, vengeance is a good or healthy strategy. but in this one particular case, I think it was justified because of all the other factors of the situation.

    and in response to Lone: I personally feel a movie that showed this situation in reverse (that is, man gets brutally raped and takes revenge) would be satisfying as well. I think the reason that is usually seems more horrific against women is, perhaps, because women really are more frequently victims of rape. and they usually are broken by it, which is why the proactive revenge in this movie was so satisfying. but if you had some slimy bitch beat the shit out of and victimize a man this way, who would never get her comeuppance because of her good reputation, I would cheer for the man if he did the same thing that Lisbeth did.

    Comment by blarp — April 29, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  24. This is very interesting dialogue! I have yet to see either version of the film, or read the book (though I’m currently addicted to Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s score for Fincher’s version), but I definitely love that this discussion is happening. It makes me feel like, regardless of what one feels about the movie, or the book, their existence is ultimately good, because this dialogue is being had as a result. I think we would all agree that these issues are worth discussing. Violence against women is not a problem that will disappear without awareness. I plan to see Fincher’s version, simply because I’m a fan of his in general, and I look forward to making up my own mind. I’m sure I’ll have things to say after seeing it, one way or another.

    Comment by Caleb Straus — December 18, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  25. I haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but know enough about them and about Stieg Larsson to know that the whole series was inspired by the fact that Larsson witnessed a brutal rape when he was young, and this was his way of dealing with it. I don’t know how different the violence in the book is in comparison to the movies, obviously, but I believe that the background to the story counts for something. also, the books were a way of showing the very real situation in Sweden that usually gets covered up by the portrayal of a nice country where things like this don’t happen, where only immigrants rape women, and swedish men treats them like equals. Larsson’s story was meant to show the other side of sweden. I believe that with the background of Salander’s story, it’s not about rape fantasy, but about the horrible things that happen to women, and what that in turn can do to us

    Comment by Frida — December 23, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  26. She is not particularly attractive, not at all. Why is it that the male characters, her father, her guardian, and Harriet’s father and brother, are sadistic, rapist, murderous creeps? Why doesn’t Harriet inform the police on her brother from a safe distance away instead of allowing him to carry on decades long murderous spree? Why is it that a journalist / author portrays hacking computers and hacking phones as a nifty trick to pull off in the name of justice? Is this in the name of the liberal dream of a surveillance society so that we can all feel so much safer knowing that big brother is watching over our shoulder in a nanny state? Did the Murdochs help fund this film? Why is it that the heroine is more masculine than the hero, who is clearly in touch with his feminine side?

    Comment by Harry — December 30, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

  27. If the author witnessed a brutal rape at the tender age of 15, then clearly it left an impression on him. Now, just why anyone would want to depict violence of that kind in a film, that’s another thing all together; that is exploiting the original incident and exploiting violence against women. In fact, the film exploits violence against women as a plot device and for the audience’s prurient interests. Why anyone would want to watch this kind of dreck or read about it is beyond me. It is pure rubbish. It portrays women as victims, men as villians, capitalist as scum and the liberal press, feminine men and masculine women as heroic. For those who believe that Hollywood is homosexual and femininist, this film is a smoking gun, even if it was made in Sweden.

    Comment by Harry — December 30, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

  28. Where the film really fell apart was when the murderer ran out of the room and didn’t close the door behind him and lock it but ran out to his SUV and tried to run away instead. I guess he forgot about the door having a lock on it?

    The King’s Speech was sad, as well. Given that the man had access to the phonograph, given that he made his speech in the privacy of a radio transmission station, clearly he could have recorded his speech in his leisure and the phonograph could have been replayed whenever. Oh, the movie industry. Oh, the gullible, unthinking public.

    Comment by Harry — December 30, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

  29. […] did to her.  There’s a great post at polytical about the non-monogamy in the film.  Also Feminist Fatale (writing about the Swedish version of the film) brings up an important point: ‘What is really […]

    Pingback by Men who hate women (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) « FeministActionCambridge — January 1, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

  30. […] http://www.feministfatale.com/2010/04/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-rape-fantasy/ – A different perspective on TGWTDT, arguing that it sensationalises sexual abuse. […]

    Pingback by Rape & Revenge in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo « Feed Me Films — January 7, 2012 @ 9:40 am

  31. I only just saw the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and I have something to say about the so-called “revenge fantasy”. I am disappointed that no one has seen that this is about much more important things than revenge. Lisbeth is protecting herself, other women, and trying to free herself. The reason she doesn’t go to the police or other authorities is because she does not trust them from her past interactions. Thus, she must take matters into her own hands in order to ensure that this man will never victimize her again, and to try to free herself from his authority and other authority. But how can she protect herself from him and yet not protect other girls/young women? He is in a position of power. Let’s notice, too, that there is nothing to say that a man like this would not also rape and abuse boys/young men. Sure Lisbeth wants to give him a taste of his own medicine so he understands what he has put her through, but she also wants to ensure the safety of others and her safety. In a sense what she puts him through is also to make him believe that she will do even worse things if he does not leave her alone, work at getting her free from the system, and leave other girls/young women alone. Given her life experience, there is ample reason for Lisbeth to believe that this rapist will receive a pass if she goes to authorities. As that is the situation, the actions she choose certainly do make ethical sense within the world she lives in.

    Comment by Betti — April 11, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

  32. […] The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Rape Fantasy??   If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it! […]

    Pingback by I haven’t yet read Steig Larsson’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (titled Men Who Hate Women in Larsson’s homeland of Sweden), but I did go see the Swedish film that was released this weekend (the American remake is alrea — June 21, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment