The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Today featured epic productivity.  I sent well over 400 emails working on several global projects with TED.  I just wound down by watching a “great!” movie with friends.  It’s called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Have you seen this cult hit?  It has a knockout 8.0 rating on IMBD (putting it among the top rated 250 movies of all time).   It is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

I feel a little sick to my stomach right now.  This is a generally happy blog, and we will get there; first let’s process what I just saw.  Rape, murder, torture, lies, legal meltdown, alcoholics, embezzlement, infidelity and a general degree of psychopathy.  When did this become entertainment?  Perhaps I should ask when will society decide that this is not entertainment?

In the post-movie debate, friends were astonished that I did not not agree that this is a cinematic masterpiece.

“It’s art; it is the story of perseverence, of being strong in order to excel beyond the situation you find yourself in…”

No.  Michelangelo is art.  Voltaire is perseverance.  Socrates is strength.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the equivalent of Roman gladiator games: barbaric.  And it wasn’t even funny.

Let’s have a throwback.  What were you like as an undergrad?  I used to frequent bars.  I was in a sorority.  I still have a number of cowgirl and 80’s costumes in my closet from our socials.  I used to watch sitcoms and (embarrassing but true) “read” People magazine.   Sometime around 2005 I started to think about who I was and what I was doing with my life.  I started to realize that how I spend time – particularly free time – echoes what I find important and ultimately reflects who I am.  I say this of course because movies are a free time expenditure.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo impacts its viewers through the emotion cycles triggered by detrimental aspects of humanity.  Think about this: the film so derails our sense of normal that we (friends and I) actually experienced invigoration as a poor lost girl got revenge for being raped by tattooing “I am a rapist pig” across the chest of her attacker.    I, too, found myself thinking “yeah!” and then I realized..this is like cheering in a gladiator ring.  Romans in BC and movie viewers today build up hate for some despised character and together experience joy at his undoing.

Step back. Think. Is that cycle worth your precious time?  Do you feel good after watching it? I don’t.  I feel so ick that I’m blogging about it at 2 am.  Life is but a glimpse if it is spent cheering destruction.

Create.  Build something. I don’t watch cable TV but I do social networks.  If I replace 30 minutes each day with learning something new, at the end of a year I’ve spent just over 7 extra days benefitting my mind (which is, after all, who I am).

Focus on the curious. I love to immerse myself in experiences that invigorate and renew my confidence in our species.   Rather than solving hypothetical mysteries about a family of psychopaths, try laughing with friends over a lager while enjoying stealth mode history as seen in the delightful film How Beer Saved the World.  Or experience the jaw-dropping Pixar story which includes interviews with minds like Steve Jobs, James Cameron, Andrew Stanton and the team that revolutionized cinema by making computers a tool for creatives.  If you choose wisely, TV entertainment can compound the value of the time you spend watching it.

This is the final scene of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: (spoiler) the heroine 20-something woman who has been sleeping with the 40-something hero, who she also saved from the basement lair of a raging serial killer, throws away a present she bought him with money she embezzled from an embezzler as she watches him walk off hand in hand with his wife. Motorcycle off into the night.  Annnnnd cut.

If you like this film, think why and share in the comments.  Why do you like the movies that you like?  Why do you spend free time the way you do?  Think about how you perceive the things you enjoy relative to what your friends enjoy.  Are you an outlier?


2 thoughts on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

  1. I totally understand your take, and really respect your thoughts on this movie. I just finished the book and saw the movie. I agree with you in that this movie is ugly, and shows the ugly side of what our species is capable of. Now, I didn’t finish reading/watching this piece of work by saying “I like it” because I enjoy the horrid/awful themes that present themselves (hate, rape, murder, lies, etc)… I however, did like that it was willing to talk about the ugly things that go on in life. Most people go on ignoring or act unaware that bad things like these happen. I felt that this book/movie was trying to say, “hey, don’t ignore me… this stuff is real. Does/can happen.” Though, like you, I felt sick while watching some of the more horrid scenes. I mean I totally got the cringe factor.. I was not immune to the sick nauseaus feeling at the pit of my stomach. But I guess my point is, I apprecieated the fact that this story was able to talk about uncomfortable issues, that are often swept under the rug. But to make people aware and make changes in this world and society, we have to address the “uncomfortable”

  2. I will agree with the other commenter that the book more clearly expresses the theme of the story, a theme that you seem not to have found while watching the film. I read the book first, then watched both the US and the Swedish versions of the film. The literal translation of the title from Swedish is Men Who Hate Women and the book is divided into parts. Each part opens with a fact about crimes against women in Sweden.

    The film is just portraying what happens in the book (more or less), but you cannot hear what is going on in Lisbeth’s head like you can in the book. I think this really alters how her character is perceived based on how she reacts to the circumstances in her life. Because of that, it alters the true themes of the book in both the adaptations. The film also essentially cuts three other female characters out of the story. They’re peripheral to the plot’s movement, but I think important to the overall theme and pacing.

    What I find most interesting in the novel is that the two heroes are most clearly shown as coming from entirely different worlds towards the end of the novel when they are discussing Harriet Vanger. Mikel thinks is amazing that she’s alive and has survived such an ordeal and sees her entirely as a victim, whereas Lisbeth sees Harriet as a perpetrator of her brother’s crimes because she fled in silence instead of reporting him. Had she reported him to the police, she could have prevented scores of rapes and murders. Seeing Lisbeth’s point of view through the novel is almost refreshing because it is a different look at the world. She is a glaring reminder that a system doesn’t fit all because some humans are terrible and cause terrible things to happen to others. Lisbeth’s anger at Harriet is hypocritical in some ways, since she does not report her rapist, but in the novel she explains why (because the system wouldn’t believe that she was coerced). She views Harriet as someone who would’ve been believed — and if Henrik had talked to her right before she decided to take advantage of the accident’s distraction, then it probably would have worked out in her favor. But you can understand why she wouldn’t chance it (Henrik believing her). These two situations (Lisbeth and Harriet not reporting the crimes against them because they don’t think the system will believe them / be willing to help them) is the author’s statement that systemically nothing has changed for women in Sweden in 40 years.

    I really believe the author was trying to call attention to the terrible reality of how much crime against women is committed in Sweden (which is disproportionate compared to other crimes and other countries). I think he succeeded, especially since the second book focuses on the crimes of sex slavery and human trafficking of women in Sweden.

    Another interesting (and I think positive) aspect of the novel that isn’t really featured in either film–and is very obvious that you didn’t pick up on it since you think that Mikel is married to Erika Berger, which he is not–is the idea of the story’s successful, enterprising, and “normal” female character (Erika) being able to own, run, and turn a profit with her company due entirely to her business savvy while also having two simultaneous and complementary relationships. The fact that she is successful and smart and awesome (according to the books) and then explains why she has both a husband and a lover (Mikel) in such a logical way is intriguing and powerful to me. Rarely do any fictional works reflect a world where a woman can have an affair and not suffer for it. I think the practicality of monogamy is something society should start asking itself about again now that we can control pregnancy and test for paternity.

    Anyway, I won’t recommend you to read the book since there is still rape scenes in it (obviously) and they’re actually much more disturbing in the novel than in either film. Though perhaps you will understand those scenes better if you do read the novel, since you will get to hear what Lisbeth is thinking before, during, and after. The novel’s “revenge” scene is not so much a revenge as it is Lisbeth’s way of regaining her freedom. Since she’s attacking the man, even though he’s a sadistic rapist, I really didn’t read it with anything but ick, like you said. So, that gladiator cheer really isn’t present in the book. You’re glad she’s able to get out of an oppressive situation and you’re glad that she’s stopped the man from having any freedom (i.e. she basically is imprisoning him how she feels will be more effective than actually sending him to prison, since rape doesn’t really rack up much of a sentence…about 10 years in the US) because he’s a horrible human being who shouldn’t exist, but you’re not like YEAH! TATTOO HIM, LISBETH! It’s not like that in the book.

    To answer your final questions, I watched the films because I wanted to see them in comparison to the novel. I was disappointed with both films, actually. The novel is much more captivating, tells the story more clearly, and threads its themes more effectively. I also found myself wondering about the translation (which is into British English) at points and asking my Swedish friend for comparison in her Swedish copy of the book. I love language and looking at how translations affect meaning, both in actual words and in cultural interpretation. Writing is such a personal event and word choice is always so intentional, I find translated works to be fascinating items.

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