Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hollywood Works Its Mythic Magic on Lisbeth?

In a recent review of David Fincher's Hollywood version of Stig Larrson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in the popular culture online magazine PopMatters (http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/152527-alien-the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo/) critic Bill Gibron claims that Fincher's version is more bracing and brutal and more "ick[y]" (the last two not surprising given the director and his filmographic past) than the 2009 Swedish original directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Gibron goes on to claim that Fincher turns Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, into someone "literally not of this earth", into an "extraterrestrial "Alien".

I have to say, though I say this with some trepidation since commenting on something one has not seen--and I haven't seen Fincher's take on The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo--is problematic and potentially dangerous, that I am really not particularly interested in seeing Fincher's version of Stig Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or Fincher's version of Lisbeth Salander. I saw the original Swedish version with its superb performances by Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist as Lisbeth and Mikael and have no interest in seeing yet another Hollywood remake of a great "foreign" film.

Turning fact into "myth", reality into Hollywood unreality, if that is what is going on in Fincher's treatment of Larsson's work as Gibron claims, is exactly what one shouldn't do to Lisbeth since one of Larsson's motives in writing his trilogy was to foreground the real Sweden and its fascist past, which included eugenics, and its fascist present--the xenophobia Larsson the journalist explored and exposes in his book Extremhögern (Extreme Right)--with the Social Democratic Sweden and the broader world's mythic and utopian image of happy and neutral contemporary Sweden. In exploring Sweden's fascist past and somewhat fascist present, by the way, Larsson shares much with Swedish novelist Henning Mankell and Larsson's Mikael Blomkvist shares a bit with Mankell's Kurt Wallander. I guess we should be thankful for the small miracle that Fincher didn't transplant Lisbeth and Mikael from Sweden to say Venice, California thereby eliding any reference to Larsson's broader contexts in the process.

One thing that has really struck me as I have thought about the Hollywood version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is Hollywood's promotion of the film. In the PopMatters review of Fincher's film and at the top of this blog one can see one of the promos for the film. The promotion poster shows a naked above the waist Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) standing in front of what appears to be a fully clothed Mikael (Daniel Craig). Mikael has his arm around Lisbeth just above her naked and pierced breasts. So in Hollywood does there always have to be a man behind the woman shielding and protecting her?. It should not be surprising that Hollywood, in addition to turning fact into mythic fiction, appears also to be playing up the female sexual angle, Rooney Mara's naked body (Lisbeth the bisexual for the male gaze?). Given that Fincher usually works in the slasher/serial killer subgenre, making films that appeal more to male demographic than the female just like heavy metal music the use of female sexuality to promote Fincher's latest film should not, I suppose, be surprising. This is somewhat ironic since the book and the 2009 Swedish adaptation rightly, in my mind, plays down sex, sexy, and romance and portrays rape in all its ugly power and brutal reality. But hey this is Hollywood and Fincher is supposedly one of Hollywood's "literate" success stories.

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