I don't like unintentionally ironic movies.
Ever heard of or seen the movie Funny Games? It's a movie about two psychos who invade a family's vacation home and proceed to torture and murder them. It's also a "statement" film, which means the filmmakers were trying to teach all us bad viewers about violence in entertainment. You see, the psychos in Funny Games aren't just torturing a family, they're teaching us lessons! Ham-fisted lessons!
Unfortunately, aside from the hit-you-over-the-head-obvious technique employed by the filmmakers, they also didn't address the elephant in the beach house: If we're all so awful for watching this violent movie, what adjective do we apply to the people who made and profited from this violent movie?
How about that good old Internet standby: AWKWARD.
And so we come to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a mildly entertaining book turned into an entertaining movie remade into what I can only assume will be a very entertaining movie, but which everyone will act is if it has Greater Meaning. It's about violence against women! Societal abuse of the underprivileged! Neo-Nazism! Freedom of the press! Hidden dangers of socialism! Financial sector corruption! (Ahh, Greater Meaning. It's such Oscar bait.)
Don't you all know that Lisbeth Salandar is a revolutionary character, a post-feminist icon?* Now watch her get brutally raped on screen to prove it! (Don't worry, in about twenty minutes she's going to do what all of us secretly wish we could do to rapists--rape him back.)
Stieg Larsson's Swedish title of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was Men Who Hate Women, which is an accurate, to-the-point descriptor of the book. Apparently in Sweden, you can't go to the grocery store without tripping over a half-dozen sociopath misogynists. (Lesson: Never visit Sweden.)
But while I can't find any fault with Larsson's goals--elimination of violence against women, children, the underprivileged, improved transparency in government and business--I must say it feels a bit icky to read a book about the condemnation of violence against women when it is chock full of excruciatingly detailed violence against women.**
Does this mean books and movies about BIG ISSUES shouldn't be written or made? Of course not.
But much like the "I know it when I see it" test for pornography,*** sometimes you just know when something has stayed on the right side of grim subject matter discussed respectfully and not crossed into exploitation territory.
I suspect The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will not only cross into exploitation territory, but apply for a business license and open a bed and breakfast there. And I don't imagine I'd like my stay.
* (To reach this conclusion, you must ignore the fact that she's essentially the polar opposite of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Archetype. Have you done that? Excellent.
REVOLUTIONARY CHARACTER! POST-FEMINIST ICON!)
** Spoiler alert: The sequel is about sex-trafficking and shopping at IKEA. Because even when it comes to Lisbeth Salandar, women be shopping. You can't stop a woman from shopping. (Name the movie!)
Also, Lisbeth gets a boob job. Feminism.
*** Little-known lawyer fact: the rest of the quote is, "and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." Fun, eh?