‘Dragon Tattoo,’ through a feminist perspective
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 00:04
As social media becomes more widespread and films are more readily available to people across the world, it is incredibly important to consider the many images that are constantly being thrown at us every second of the waking day. While many of the images we see on a day to day basis are harmless and tame, the majority of images circulating the web or mobile network have a message about whom or what they portray. This idea that every image tells a story and has a purpose was one of the main points of the discussion hosted by the Women’s Center on Tuesday evening. The discussion, entitled “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo: Film through a Feminist Gaze,” was led by 8th-semester political science and human rights double major Sandra Han, and was attended by about a dozen other students. The small group was well suited to the informal discussion that dealt with uncomfortable yet important topics about gender roles, sexuality and violence against women as portrayed in the movie.
“I’m here for Women’s Studies class, but I’m actually really interested in this,” said second semester French major Brigitte Cruz. “I saw the movie and thought it was really interesting.”
The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo took the world by surprise in 2009, when the Swedish movie industry released the first installment of the long awaited film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling trilogy. In December 2011, Hollywood introduced its version of the movie, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, shocking American audiences nationwide with its graphic content and disturbing story line. The movie’s success was a key reason the Han decided to discuss the themes in the movie, explaining that “originally we were going to show feminist films, but every film sends a message and because everyone knows this movie, it’s such a blockbuster hit, it’s interesting to take something everybody knows about and think about it critically. Think about what it says about feminism, sexuality, violence against women, and gender roles.”
The discussion opened with a viewing of the trailer of the popular movie and audience reactions to the content revealed in the short film clips. Several students had neither seen the movie nor read the book and were shocked by the content presented in the trailer, which included scenes of sexual intercourse, rape and violence against women. Of the students who had the seen the movie, 6th- semester English major, Krystle Doucette, expressed her shock at seeing the film for the first time.
“I haven’t seen anything this vivid ever and I watch Law and Order: SVU,” said Doucette. “I have guy friends who walked out during the rape scene.”
The discussion opened up after the viewing of the trailer, with students looking at a picture of protagonist Lisbeth Salander from the movie, hunched over lighting a cigarette. “What does this picture say about her?” asked Han. “Is she hot? Can you tell she’s a woman?” The general consensuses of the following comments were that Salander could not be identified as a woman, looked very masculine, and was most definitely not ‘hot.’
Students were then asked to examine the gender roles in the movie and look at who is the hero or heroine of the film. Students agreed that Salander’s intelligence, independence, and strength portrayed her as the heroine of the film, despite the fact that Blomkvist, the film’s other protagonist, played by Daniel Craig, is featured more predominantly on both movie posters.
Han encouraged students to look for example of sexuality through the film, such as how Salander is portrayed as bisexual and how Blomkvist sleeps with multiple women throughout the film. The audience decided that such behavior for a male was acceptable and almost expected and male members of the discussion expressed their approval at Blomkvist’s promiscuity. The discussion then turned to the presence of violence against women and how the main plot of the movie is to solve the murders of about a dozen women, who were all murdered brutally, and Salander’s own experience with abuse at the hands of her guardian.
Han questioned audience members about how beneficial such depiction of abuse is in the media, cautioning students that “there are positives and negatives about this situation.” Most students agreed that the portrayal of violent crimes against humanity can raise awareness and bring a cause that often gets dealt with under the table to the forefront, but many members expressed disproval about the glamorization of violence in the film and mainstream media.
The last question Han posed was whether students would consider it a feminist film, saying that she believes “it has many feminist themes, but no one would ever categorize it as a feminist film because the word feminist is such a turn off to most people.” Most students agreed with Han, expressing their approval for the message that violence against women is unacceptable and there is not just one type of female victim.
Of the discussion members only three people identified themselves as feminists, including Han.
“It took a long time, I didn’t understand what being a feminist meant,” said Han of her personal experience. “I started interning here for the fortieth anniversary [of the women’s center], we’re working on new programs, small ones like today’s discussion, and larger ones. I just want more opportunities for students in the Women’s Center; I think most people think it’s really closed off, but it’s a resource for anyone regardless of their gender, race, political party, it’s about equality for everyone.”