I’ve already written in a more general way about The Girl Who Played With Fire on my own blog, but I had a lot of thoughts rattling in my head about it–more than I put into that review. There’s also been a lot of discussion of these movies in on the feminist blogs I read, so I thought I’d make some comments here, too. This movie is built around the rape scene and general abuse of women in its predecessor, so sensitive readers are hereby admonished that this may contain triggers. I also need to note that I haven’t read the books on which these movies are based. I’m ONLY writing about the movies. I understand that there are some major differences.
For the most part, I don’t approach movies with any particular ax to grind, so I don’t default to a feminist or a queer reading of most movies. Usually, individual movies will suggest the critical tools that are most useful to understanding their value (or lack thereof). For example: my main cinematic drug of choice is horror movies. By their very nature, horror movies suggest psychoanalytic readings. Freud works. So does Lacan. I tend to use Jung when I approach horror movies, because I think he best explains the enduring appeal of horror movies even after they’ve lost their power to actually scare the viewer. You could use a feminist scalpel to dissect horror movies, or a sociological scalpel (especially given the interesting tendency of horror movies to mirror the social climate of their milieu), but these are secondarily useful, given that horror movies are specifically attempting to manipulate psychological effects in more radical ways than other kinds of movies. I also think that the greatest movies reward multiple approaches.
I don’t know that the Millennium trilogy is composed of “great” movies. Almost certainly not. But I do know that they are specifically tailored to a feminist viewpoint. And when they are subjected to a feminist critique, they are a serious muddle. On the one hand, they cast Lisabeth Salander, their title character, “the girl”, as a defiantly queer heroine who spits in the face of the patriarchy. On the other, they cater to the fantasies of middle-aged white men by providing them with a secondary protagonist to act as a surrogate. This is most obnoxiously played out in the first film when, seemingly out of character, Lisabeth, decides to become sexually involved with Blomqvist, the male protagonist. Given the systematic abuse of the character both in the text of the first film and in the revealed back-story in the second, this stands as a stroke fantasy for Blomqvist’s middle-aged het male identifiers. Blomqvist is a necessary character from one other point of view, too, given that most of the men in these movies are such monstrous avatars of misogyny that he functions as a kind of apologia. At least these films are smart enough to let Lisabeth Salander stand as the heroine of the story, though she tends to vanish from this role from time to time in the second movie. I note on my own blog that Lisabeth strikes me as Holmes to Blomqvist’s Watson, and Holmes sometimes vanished from his stories, too, all the while remaining as the driving presence. Continue reading →