Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Men who hate women

That’s the original title of the first of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster, world-wide top-selling novels and the subsequent film, both retitled The girl with the dragon tattoo for the English translation. The film came out on DVD yesterday, so we were able to watch it online on Netflix last night.

It struck me that this film treats violence against women -- including two scenes depicting brutal rapes of the title character by a man appointed to protect her -- in a very different way than is typical of Hollywood films. In Hollywood, violence against women tends to be depicted in a sensationalist, almost fetishistic, way that seems to communicate a very troubling underlying message -- that women a) need to be careful, and b) they must stay in the protection of men (ie, they are not capable of protecting themselves).

It was refreshing to watch a film with such a different approach -- an approach that felt so much more true to life. In life, it is a terrible truth that many, maybe even most, women are victims of sexual violence in their lifetimes. This violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any decent society. It has to be stopped, and it is women themselves who are capable of taking the lead to stop it (a lead that men surely need to follow). And, so, in this film, we are offered the character of a strong, exceptionally talented woman who is capable of her own defense. She, tragically, like so many women, is victimized. We watch the rape scenes with only revulsion -- with no titillation. It hurts to watch them. We want to stop them.

We have to stop them.

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