The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Niels Arden Oplev (2009)

“All the idealizations of the female from the earliest days of courtly love have been in fact devices to deprive her of freedom and self-determination.” — Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel

This movie is repulsive. It’s hard to know where to start. How about this: Does that woman over there look like a “girl” to you? Me neither. But it’s important to call her a girl, since she represents the ideal of feminine innocence, sullied by masculine perversion, but strong enough to exact revenge when the man she loves is in danger. Like Lara Croft, Nikita, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, etc. etc. etc., Lisbeth Salander is both a totally vulnerable innocent child and a self-contained, self-sufficient, heartless killing machine. She provides everything men want, but asks for nothing in return. (Perhaps the most emblematic sequence here is the one where Salander uses Blomkvist as a human dildo to get herself off. He is of course delighted, but he’s even more delighted the next morning, when he gears up for playful post-coital banter, and then realizes that Salander won’t require that of him.) The men around Salander decide when, where, and under what circumstances to flip her switch, depending on their needs. (Maggie Cheung’s Irma Vep is a rare and useful instance: a self-conscious version of this madonna/murderer type).

Oh, there’s so much more. For example: The mindless assignment of every possible outlandish and unlikely depravity to the family of capitalists has the effect of cloaking rather than revealing the actual evils the family business likely perpetrates. The Nazi/rapist/murderer/monster is here defeated, but the conglomerate not only chugs merrily along, it gains a scion which will help ensure its continued existence.

Ugh, it’s making me tired to think about. Would someone else please write the term paper on this? I’d recommend starting with the horrific rape/reverse-rape sequence, and Angela Carter’s The Sadeian Woman.

Anyone thinking right now that I need to lighten up, it’s just a movie, should ask themselves this simple question: What would happen to this story if the journalist was a 45 year old woman and the hacker a 25 year old “boy”? For starters, it would never have seen the light of day. Why do you suppose that is?

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