*SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT* *SPOILER ALERT*
Trigger warning! This post contains references to rape, incest, and other forms of assault.
The original title of this post was going to be, “How Do You Feel About Sodomy?” (You’re Welcome.) However, when I was reading the Wikipedia article about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I discovered that the original title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. I thought that was a really prosaic title. However, I quickly remembered a vignette I read in Vogue about Rooney Mara, the lead actress in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The article talked about how the author of the Millenium Series (which I have not read) saw a girl being gang raped when he was 15. The girl’s name was Lisbeth, the same name as the character in the books.
This got me to think more about the movie. Who, or what, is the movie about? If we go by the title in English, then the movie is about Lisbeth, a bisexual computer hacker who has been declared mentally incompetent and a permanent ward of the state, and has trouble relating to people. In a way, Lisbeth is probably the exact opposite of the girl that he saw raped as a teenager. When Lisbeth is attacked by her social worker and horrifically sodomized, she exacts a well plotted, and equally horiffic, revenge.
If we go by the title in Swedish, the author’s title, then book is about the men in the book who hate women, which is virtually all of them. The movie, true to Vogue’s description, contains some of the most horrific sexual violence against women imaginable. My younger brother and I both agreed it was way too much. The men in the movie are almost universally bad. Bad doesn’t go far enough. They are monsters. There is forced sodomy, incest (fathers raping daughters and brothers raping sisters) torture, murder, and dismemberment. It was beyond disturbing; it was numbing. In fact, after seeing the movie, I wondered what the value of the infamous rape scene was; it didn’t advance the plot, and it was so disturbing I found myself emotionally disengaging from the movie, unable to focus, too overwhelmed by what I had seen.
But the Swedish title makes perfect sense of both storylines; Lisbeth’s and the murder mystery. The movie depicts men who commit horrific acts of violence against women, including women in their own families. I choose the word depicts delibarately. I cannot say that the film explores the men who do this, and in a way that is a blessing. No explaination would seem plausible in light of such brutality, and might simply serve to exhonerate the men. In addition, the movie only presents two possible solutions to what it sees as the universal problem of male brutality: fight or flight. The movie portrays one character who flees from a horrific home life, and lives the rest of her life in hiding. The other character, Lisbeth, exacts a brutal revenge on her attacker. In the movie, only two characters seem to have any capacity for intimacy with another human being, and these are both very minor characters. The best the other characters can hope for is to use each other sexually, to kill or be killed.
The author of the books died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Small wonder