I only occasionally get my brother to write for HU. I did manage to annoy him sufficiently to get him to post two lengthy comments, though, so I thought I’d reproduce them here (with a few edits for coherenece.)
Eric started out with a response to my comment that the film Girl with the Dragon Tattoo “strongly suggests that [Lisbeth would] be healthier/happier/normalized if Mikael followed through and did save her.” To which Eric says:
Sure…and if my aunt had balls—
Just the opposite, I think, it suggests that Mikael can’t follow through and save her, because such salvation isn’t possible in those terms. Sure, “if” he saved her, she’d be saved…but he can’t, so she won’t be…
In general, I’m not sure where you get this notion that the film “strongly suggests” that she’ll be normalized if he sticks it out. Where? Are there other examples of damaged women being saved by older sensitive men? Lisbeth being saved by her previous ward? Hardly…eventually, circumstances intervene and she has to fend for herself…which is to say, there is no such thing as permanent salvation. In the serial killings? No sensitive man saves the daughter/rape victim. Rather, her SISTER saves her (and her sensitive uncle ignores her in her hour of need–suggesting perhaps that men, even sensitive men, can’t really be trusted)…and then she forges an independent life by herself. And who clears the way for her to return to “life” as herself?—Not a man, but Lisbeth, who kills the serial killer, etc.
Actually, insofar as any saving is done in the film, it’s by Lisbeth….both of herself and of Craig. She extricates herself from the abuse with the counsellor/parole guy and from whatever abuse was going on with her dad. She saves Craig from de rigeur serial killer and from Craig’s economic/journalistic enemy. She even has “normalized” herself to a great degree (got herself a job, leading an independent life, etc.). It’s only if you’re willing to read bisexuality, tattoos, etc. as abnormal that you can say that she isn’t a normal functioning member of society (I’m not willing to do that, for the record). In fact, she is the most competent, effective, efficient figure you’re going to find. If anything, she’s a “Mary Sue”–men (and women) want her, and women (and men) want to be like her (nobody wants to undergo what she does…but everyone would like to be able to react to such trauma with such resources, force, efficiency, resiliency, etc). She (at times, anyway) may feel like she needs to be saved….but the film doesn’t really give that indication. She’ll save herself (and does), thanks very much.
Maybe your claim is that’s it’s also a fantasy for older men to be saved by (and still sleep with) such figures? But more often isn’t being saved by a woman somewhat emasculating? Even in 2012?
Or maybe the only male fantasy being fulfilled in the film is the one revolving around younger attractive women being willing to have sex with (or throwing themselves at) older, less attractive men (though Craig is a sex symbol in his own right, right?).
I agree that the sex fantasy is a real and sexist one…but the notion that the movie suggests that Lisbeth needs saving by a man (or that such salvation is likely/possible) is much more tenuous—in fact, largely nonexistent.
And a second post here.
I think the movie’s fairly confused, basically. The book (as I understand it) is more complex on these issues and the movie tries to follow the book’s plot for the most part, without having the wherewithal to get us inside the possible complexity of Lisbeth’s (or Mikael’s) mind. Even basic things are unclear. Like when she set dad on fire…Was this an act of “madness” (as she at one point implies), or was it an act of self-defense and perfectly justified (as I think much of the movie implies).
I’m not trying to make this movie some kind of ideal treatment of women’s rights, consciousness, and liberation—I’m just pointing out that the claim that was made (that it’s a fantasy of man saving woman and curing her of homosexuality) doesn’t make sense in terms of what actually happens in the film.
I would also say that pointing out that something is a trope, “successful career woman unhappy in love” doesn’t tell you much…since those tropes can be played in a variety of ways.
Such a trope can mean, “Being successful at work will make you unhappy in love, ergo you should forego your career, and allow men to control the public sphere”–
the same trope can be played to blame a sexist/patriarchal society for putting too much of a burden on women… That is, it’s society that makes happiness both at work and at home a near impossibility for women…so society should change.
Admittedly, you see the latter far less in popular culture, but the same basic narrative can tell very different ideological stories.
I would say in “GWTDT”–there are lots of tropes, but what exactly they “mean” isn’t particularly consistent…as the movie itself isn’t consistent. Sometimes it’s empowering to women, sometimes exploitive.
Lisbeth’s “unhappiness in love” is clearly not because she’s a successful career woman, but because she’s been abused by men (including her own father) her whole life and is emotionally damaged. So…it’s not her public sphere efficiency that fucks up her private life….it’s men who fuck up her private life, from beginning (dad) to end (Mikael). It’s not Broadcast News (a much better movie, btw). The narratives of the two movies are far from identical up to the final shift…so the comparison doesn’t really work in any significant way. We might say that GWTDT gives the illusion that men have ultimate power over women…but we could also say that the film shows a very powerful woman capable of overcoming all of that patriarchal social hegemony. That is, it’s somewhat contradictory.[...]
Again, I don’t want to be the “defending GWTDT guy”— I actually don’t think it’s all that great, or liberating, or whatever…. It’s just not quite so clearly about the “guy saving girl” narrative that you (were) claim(ing). Now it seems that the claim is different?
My understanding is that in the books, the relationship between the two continues to be vexed, and that Lisbeth has a number of sexual encounters with both men and women, retaining her bisexuality. I don’t know enough about these to suggest whether or not the reader is meant to see her return to women as a symptom of her “failure” with Mikael, or whether she simply continues to be bisexual, as she always was, but it’s an interesting question. Of course, it tells us basically nothing about the meaning of the film.
Finally (I hope):
“It’s a reiteration that romance with a man is something she needs (as a woman) to be normal/happy/fulfilled, but can’t have.”
You’re free to read it that way, I guess, but since so much of the film revolves around the wrongs done to women by men–and especially the wrongs done to Lisbeth by men—and even the sins of omission made by otherwise nice guys—I think the notion that the story says: “All will be cured by the presence of a penis,” is far too simplistic. There may be currents of this in the film, but there are also strong countercurrents, which makes the film more interesting in this regard than you suggest (though not so interesting, really, as a murder mystery/serial killer story). The villains are all men here, and the male “protagonists/heroes” are basically impotent and accomplish nothing of value (Craig and Christopher Plummer). Only Lisbeth is an effective agent. Craig’s only real effective move is asking her for help. Plummer’s only effective move is asking Craig for his…and only because it leads to Lisbeth.
Perhaps all of the “feminist” elements come from the book’s plot and all of the “sexist” elements come from Hollywood, but I doubt it. My guess is that the book is similarly vexed and contradictory.[...]