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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: the Domestication of Lisbeth

Saturday night I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had been looking forward to this since I first saw the Swedish original in the summer of 2010. I would give the original a 9 out of 10. The American version gets a 7. I have a couple of minor quibbles witht the film, but I don't want to focus on those. I want to focus on a bigger issue. To be clear, I have not read the book, so I'm only comparing it to the original Swedish adaptation.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, you will see a fair number of posts on this blog on topics related to sexuality and gender. I think that I want to use some of that to explore out own (American) cultural values. Periodically movies will come along that give interesting insight into how we view women and sex. This is definitely one of those movies. What gives us an even better opportunity here is that we have a Sweadish version of the same movie to compare against.

Part of what I liked about the Swedish original so much was the character of Lisbeth. She was completely crazy, unpredictable, and totally independent. She was rough, wild, and unattractive. No one was going to tame her. Mikael needed her more than she needed him.   Lisabeth was other. Saturday night I saw that Lisbeth get flipped on her head to my disappointment.

I think the problem was us the American audience. A film this high profile needs to be profitable, so Lisabeth had to be appealing, likable, and relateable. So what happens? Lisabeth undergoes a transformation throughout the movie. She's taimed by Mikael. Watch how her hairstyle changes by the end of the movie. It progressively becomes more and more normal, not only in her attempt to become more attractive to Mikael, but also to us. You also can't help but notice how stunningly beautiful she is in the sex scenes (and that there's an additional sex scene as well). Rooney Mara is too pretty for the role. In the Sweadish original, Noomi Rapace looks like a boy. Why the difference?

I have to imagine that it's because they know that they have to make Lisbeth fit our American conceptions of normal and attractiveness. Normal includes wanting to be possessed by a guy and attractive means having a nice body and normal hair. A different presentation of Lisbeth would have driven people away from this film and the two that follow.


  1. Oh dear. That does not sound good. Thanks for your thoughts.


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