Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Reviewed by Alison Lanier, 18
Please be aware that this film is rated R and contains graphic, violent material, but we feel that it is an important subject to address because of its focus on women.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a thriller, a murder mystery, a revenge story, and simply a very well made movie directed by David Fincher. Dark, brooding, and shocking, Rooney Mara’s Oscar-nominated role as the troubled but fiercely independent Lisbeth Salander is a captivating and impressive performance. Despite the movie’s great storytelling and acting, however, it puts forward a disturbing and self-defeating vision of female power.
Based on the Swedish novel, the movie follows Lisbeth’s character, who from a young age has been victimized and isolated by authority figures. Even as a young woman in her twenties, she doesn’t have many ordinary legal freedoms. However, Lisbeth is continually defiant. She covers herself in tattoos and piercings and defies authority as a computer hacker of near-genius qualifications. When crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) approaches her with the opportunity to use her skills to catch a brutal serial killer targeting women, Lisbeth speeds into action.
Unfortunately, the movie ends up being more about female weakness than female power. Lisbeth is a continual victim. She is brutally, systematically attacked and generally made to feel less than human. Many of these abuses target her specifically because she is a woman and she appears physically small and weak. Lisbeth has a disturbing eye-for-an-eye philosophy that demands violence in return for violence. Her logic is that she has the right to punish her offenders because she’s their victim, and she blames victims who don’t retaliate. It’s a message of bitter and extreme retaliation that doesn’t say empowerment so much as it incites violence.
The film depicts Lisbeth to appear as minimally feminine as possible. Visually, Lisbeth is slim, boyish and distinctly unfeminine. So when she acts in vengeance in response to violence against women, she comes across not as a woman, but as a sort of brutal anti-woman. She rejects femininity as a sign of weakness and a bullseye for victimization, which is far from a positive message about women’s ability to act in their own defense.
Her masculinization does not stop Lisbeth from being overly sexualized. The movie’s repeated nudity and Lisbeth’s many sexual partners keep Lisbeth in a context of sex, especially sex dominated by violence. The movie’s introduction mixes nudity, sex, and extreme violence in the manner of a Bond-film sequence.
This well-made, very graphic film portrays an unhealthy image of what female power can be. The movie’s heavy focus on power and victimization is thought provoking, however, and while the message isn’t entirely positive for women, condemnation of those who abuse their authority over the less powerful is also a strong and more positive message throughout the film. It’s an interesting and powerful movie for mature audiences, but its images of power create a confusing and demeaning message that female viewers should be prepared for.
For more information on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, click here.
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