The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Hate Porn for Feminists

by W.F. Price on December 29, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, known in Swedish as Män som hatar kvinnor, or “men who hate women,” was recently released in an English language version, starring renowned drag queen and James Bond actor Daniel Craig. So far, despite the success of the original in Sweden, the film has been doing poorly in the US, perhaps because most Americans don’t care much about Sweden.

However, it is possible that the theme has been overplayed in recent years, and people are no longer willing to buy into the conspiratorial premise. A Steve Sailer review in Takimag calls it “The Da Vinci Code of the 2010s, only with more anal rape,” and in describing the heroine suggests the film is a bit dated:

The second is his young research assistant, Lisbeth Salander, who comes equipped with every add-on that turned on geeky former sci-fi fanzine editors such as Larsson in female fantasy figures back in the 1990s.

Think Trinity in The Matrix, but with even more attitude. Lisbeth has genius computer-hacking skills, a black wardrobe and a black motorcycle, hand-to-hand combat techniques that let her deal out cruel vengeance upon men twice her 100 pounds, piercings, a mohawk, and lesbianism (until she’s exposed to the journalist hero’s recessive charm).

But this isn’t the 1990s anymore, so the appeal of such dusty clichés has drifted up the age range.

Due to the hubbub over the movie, I watched the original (Swedish) version to see what it was all about, and found it even worse than I’d anticipated.

Although Swedish professionalism is evident in the execution, the story itself is such pure fantasy that it’s difficult to suspend disbelief, and it quickly degenerates into a Nazi exploitation porn flick, in which monstrous Swedish, Christian, white-supremacist, racist, capitalist, billionaire Nazi misogynists murder and rape with impunity for some seven decades, mainly targeting religious and ethnic minority females.

The book the film is based on was written by Stieg Larsson, a Communist graphic designer with a persecution complex who devoted much of his life to attacking the Swedish right wing, hence the obsession with the postwar left’s usual bogeymen. But Larsson takes it to a new level, reviving the Bolshevik propaganda he thrived on as a young man, when he spent time arming and training African female soldiers (i.e. cannon fodder) for the Marxist-feminist Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.

In Larsson’s fantasy, Sweden is a dangerous place, especially for women. Heroine Lisbeth Salander, a techno-punk type who could have come straight out of The Matrix, is attacked in the beginning of the film by right-wing hooligans in a subway station, and despite being outnumbered and underweight, fights them off. She is then sexually abused by her “guardian” (she is apparently under state supervision for being a head case), who forces her to perform oral sex in return for access to her own money, and then anally rapes her when she comes back for more. In addition to being tough and sexy (and lesbian!), Lisbeth is a genius computer hacker. Her character, as Sailer pointed out, is essentially a cliché of the typical computer geek fantasy girl.

The hero, Mikael Blomqvist, is a left-wing journalist (a stand-in for Stieg Larsson himself) who has been set up by a wealthy capitalist pig and subsequently convicted of libel. Following his conviction, he is hired by Henrik Vanger, a wealthy, elderly man, to solve the 40-year-old murder of his niece. Lisbeth, who was tasked with checking out Blomqvist for Vanger, hacks into his computer. When she sees what he is doing she helps him with the case, and soon the two are both working and sleeping together.

Together, the duo uncover a serial murder spree stretching over decades. The murders are tied together by a Christian theme, which is uncovered by Lisbeth, who has a phenomenal memory and recognizes the Bible verses jotted down by the victim they are investigating. Soon, they learn that the Vanger family has Nazi connections, and that some of the victims were Jewish, and were sacrificed according to Deuteronomy’s codes. The film goes on along these lines until the end, portraying Sweden as a dark, bigoted place, plagued with incest, drunkenness, rape and murder.

Despite the Nazi background, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is above all a feminist work. The original Swedish title – Men who hate women – makes that clear, and the overriding concern is with victimization, penetration, power — all the usual feminist tropes. There is plenty of symbolism, as well as a bit of gender-bending; the sex scene when Lisbeth first sleeps with Blomqvist has her on top, and she is the tough, confident partner in the relationship. Lisbeth also lacks Blomqvist’s compassion, and has little compunction about despatching villainous men. In one scene, which may have inspired Tiger Woods’ ex Elin Nordegren, she smashes the windows of a fleeing villain’s car with a golf club. Her tattoo, from which the English title is derived, is a grotesque, hideous affair that covers her entire back, and her face is festooned with metal hoops and trinkets in the techno savage chic that was popular until some ten years ago. She looks, to put it bluntly, like the kind of dyke junkie one might have found in some basement punk club on the West Coast circa 1997.

One might ask why, given the fact that Sweden may well be under the most feminist regime on the planet, a lefty author would go to such great lengths to depict the place as a hotbed of rape and misogyny. You’d think that since gender equality is the law of the land in Sweden, and women have become the more equal of the two sexes there, there would be little need to frighten people with fairy tales about sadistic Nazi misogynists. But this would be to assume that feminists are rational, reasonable people rather than paranoid, power-hungry zealots. Without a burning hatred for and fear of men, feminism would burn out in short order. The only way to keep the movement alive is to stoke the fires of this hatred, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is meant to do exactly that. With its blend of pornography, vengeance and victimization, it stirs the passions that have long fueled feminism in the West.

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