Monday, December 26, 2011

Fiction Novel: The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, Author: Stieg Larsson, Movie: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Part 1

Three Dragons and the one and only Daniel Craig

In preparation for a long weekend in which I knew I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time with my gkids because they would have other holiday obligations and the need to play with their new stuff, I checked out books and grown-up movies from the library.

For some reason I decided to watch the first two movies in the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. This would not generally be my choice of entertainment but I can sometimes live in a created world long enough to watch a movie when I don't want to be in that world long enough to read a book.

The trilogy is out as movies made in Sweden. I was a little confused but I now realize that only the first is out in theaters as a Daniel Craig movie here in the states.


So I watched the Swedish made version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Then I thought, enough of that. I don't want to watch the second movie. No thanks.

Certain things my mind wouldn't let go of, though.

In the Swedish movie 24 year old Lisbeth is a psychological ward of the state due to things that happened when she was young. Her kindly guardian dies and the new one turns out to be sexually abusive. He has control over her money and his plan is to make her do what he wants whenever she needs money.

After he makes her give him a blow job, she decides to secretly video their next meeting so that she can catch him forcing her to give him another one for more money. Except he has something much worse in mind. He handcuffs and ties her to a bed and brutally, anally rapes her.

When she goes back the third time, she tasers him and ties him up. She anally rapes him and then shows him the video she made of him doing it to her. Then she tells him how it's going to be. He's going to leave her and her money alone and he's going to insure that she is declared competent. Then she tattoos 'I'm a sadistic pig and a rapist' on his stomach.

I am bothered by the fact that she only protects herself. The tattoo would only be discouraging to someone he plans to get naked for. He doesn't get naked for her either time. What about his other wards? Why doesn't she give thought to protecting them?

Eventually Lisbeth gets involved with journalist Mikael helping him to solve the 40 year old disappearance of  a 16 year old girl named Harriet. In the course of their search, they find out that first Harriet's father, then her brother have been serial killing young girls. Father has died a year before Harriet disappeared and brother is killed at the end of their search.

Harriet is still alive. Living in another country. Again I'm perturbed when no one addresses the fact that she knew about the killings and for forty years she never once tried to stop them. She was, in fact, researching them before she disappears. Are we expected to believe she just moved on to a happy life?

So then, of course, I have to see the American version to compare. Do they talk about this in the American version? Also, is it in the book? What other differences are there?

Looking up the movie times, I also looked up Stieg Larsson who died in 2004. He witnessed the gang rape of a young woman when he was only fifteen and was depressed all his life that he didn't or couldn't help her or stop it.

Really? And yet, he doesn't have either of the women in his book think about anyone but themselves? Or does he? I haven't read the book.

As far as the American version is concerned, there are lots of disturbing differences. One good thing, though. Lisbeth does force the guardian not to sexually abuse any other wards.

In both movies, she's strong against the guardian. But the American movie weakens her tremendously in other ways.

The way that most infuriates me takes some explaining. In the Swedish version when she goes to rescue Mikael from the basement of the serial killer brother, while she is freeing Mikael the killer takes off in his car. She makes sure Mikael is okay then goes after the killer. She forces him to drive his car off the road and roll it several times. He is upside down and begging her to help him because he can't get free and gas is leaking everywhere. She stands, watching, smoking a cigarette. The car blows and kills him.

She and Mikael later talk. He asks if it was an accident. She says yes. He asks if she could have saved the killer. She says yes. He tells her he would never have let him die that way but he understands why she did.

In the American version, she frees Mikael and asks him - "May I kill him?"

What? What? Why in the hell would she ask permission? She doesn't take suggestions let alone ask permission. That so pissed me off!

So now I know, I'm going to sift through the damn book and see how it was originally.

Also, at the end of the Swedish movie, you see Lisbeth in another country living it up on money she has taken from an evil financial empire. The head of that empire had tried to set up her friend, Mikael earlier in the movie. She and Mikael bonded sexually and otherwise but she wasn't invested in a conventional, monogamous, romantic relationship with him.

At the end of the American version, Lisbeth buys Mikael an expensive leather jacket and goes to drop it off at his apartment only to see him leaving with a woman he's been peripherally involved with all along. She throws the jacket in the dumpster and goes off into the night with a broken heart.

Again, what the fuck? No way. No. W ay.

I know this is getting long and I'll try to wrap it up but there are two other bothersome things.

One is that in the American version, they take bits of Lisbeth's genius and give them to Mikael. Okay, Daniel 100% gorgeous Craig, needs to be the hero but it really takes away from the dynamics and from the character of Lisbeth and why? It even screws up the almost cute meet between Lisbeth and Mikael from the Swedish movie.

Lastly, I want to say something about depravity. The state of being unnaturally or abnormally wicked, evil or perverse. Abnormal means it should be rare. And shocking. And it used to be both of those things in all media outlets, books, movies, television. Not so now. Now it's commonplace. And I don't like it. I want to be tolerant but I read for escape among other things and I don't want to escape into depravity. I really don't understand why anyone does. I know it exists in real life but in very rare instances, not commonplace.

Are you bothered by this?

I realize that this was only about 2 dragons. The third will come in next time when I compare to the book. Unfortunately there is no Daniel Craig to look at in the book. Maybe I need a poster.


  1. Okay, here's my take. I haven't seen the movies and don't plan to do so. I started the book (borrowed it from the library), but couldn't work my way through it. Part of it is that it's the unedited work of a dead author and it shows, part of it is that it's torture-porn (once you're past all the exquisitely boring crap that should have been cut from the beginning). Now, some will argue against that, saying it's bringing awareness or empowering the victim or some such nonsense. I don't think so. There's a difference between describing reality and describing fantasy, and I think this falls in the latter category. No work that is against rape or torture will describe either in such loving detail. Now, Mr. Larssen is not here to defend himself, so maybe I'm wrong, but I believe the work speaks for itself. Lisbeth is not being made into a "strong heroine" by becoming as depraved as her torturers, she is being made weak and animalistic. So, no, I'll not be giving any of my money to Mr. Larssen's estate or those who would exploit it. I'll be watching The Muppets.

  2. I started reading this book and couldn't get through it, but I can't tell you now why. When I saw they made a movie, part of me thought I should try reading it again. Now I'm thinking, NOT!

  3. We read the first book, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for Book Club. It would never have been a "by choice" book, but I persevered. I hated it.
    There was so much wrong with the book, the editing, the excessive unpronouncable names, the plot, the ending, the statistical quotes, and then going into great detail the horrific abuse of women. It didn't make sense to me, and I had so many unanswered questions. I'm with you Delia, I don't care how many people claim the story is amazing, I won't be buying the sequels, or seeing the movie.

  4. wow I feel a little vindicated in my dislike of the work - thanks cronies!

  5. Hi Judy, I really agree with your point about this sort of thing being entertainment these days. It doesn't seem to be too shocking any more. I think this sort of movie would have been rated X in the 70s or 80s. It's sort of scary that we are so used to this sort of thing.

    Interesting post, thanks. And I don't plan on seeing the movie (Daniel Craig or Swedish movie) or reading the books. It's just too much for me.

  6. Delia,
    Thanks for articulating what I felt. I read the first book and was so uncomfortable, but also felt like I "should" like it, because it was so popular. Got ten pages into the second one, and thought, "Why am I doing this to myself? There is nothing redeeming about reading this. All I felt was depressed.