Here's what I knew walking into "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Hot A-list actresses were clawing themselves trying to get into the lead role of the remake of this Swedish film. David Fincher, whose "Social Network" movie, about Facebook, is already drawing raves, is going to be directing this remake. And this Swedish movie seemed to come and go without much fanfare, and was now playing at a second-run theatre. One of my friends, who had already seen it, said it was "brilliant."
That was the sum total of what I knew about it. I assumed there was a girl in it who had a dragon tattoo. That's pretty much it.
Now, I realize that most people really know a lot about a movie before they watch it. But this is Hollywood, and I had lived through screener season with this same friend last year, where we saw countless movies without knowing any part of the plot. Most of these were great experiences.
So, at first, as I settled in to this Swedish movie, it seemed like a stylish caper movie. Don't get me wrong, it's exceedingly well done: great writing, great direction, great acting.
But here's the thing. When did it become ok to show violent rapes in movies? Or brutal sadism? Or torture? (In the latter, I'm thinking of the TV show "24" which brought up these same issues with me this season. It has always walked a fine line with exhibiting torture, but this season went especially far. Luckily, with TV I can fast forward through these scenes. In "24," they were trying to extract information, and of course, the only way to do this is through torture. In one scene, one character CUTS OFF another man's hand to get him to talk. Later, one bad guy is attaching electrodes to our hero, Jack Bauer's body. Of course, Jack, being the hero, escapes before he dies from this, but not before serious pain is inflicted. Later in the season, I'm told, Jack comes back to exact revenge and does so by torturing his torturer the same way, but worse.)
When did this become an acceptable mode of dealing with problems? Is it just that we've seen it all, as jaded moviegoers, that we must up the ante by inflicting pain on each other? "No, this guy is REALLY REALLY bad. See how brutally he's raping this woman?"
CAN WE STOP NOW?
Can we please just stop the incessant rape-torture-violence-revenge schematic we seem to be all embroiled in, and perhaps examine an alternate route?
One of the reasons I was (and am) pissed about seeing most of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (I walked out in one of the many "victim is tied up and about to have horrible things done to them" scenes.) is that I consciously and vigorously try to keep this negativity and brutality out of my consciousness. I studiously avoid "serial killer" movies and TV shows, even if that means missing, for example, one of the Best Drama contenders of the year, "Dexter." I don't care how ingeniously some character devises a way to kill someone. The fact is: they are KILLING SOMEONE.
It's not nice, it's not pretty, it's not even humane. I don't care what nice lighting you use to stylize it.
Also, in the case of "24," thankfully finished with its run, the fact of the matter is: Torture doesn't work. People will say anything when they're being tortured. It rarely extracts any kind of useful information.
Worst of all, and back to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," I really think that spiritually, as a nation, as a world, we need to really, whatever we have to do to get there, walk back from the concept of Revenge as a viable option. The premise being that when someone hurts you, and you come back and hurt them WORSE, the audience cheers.
How about this? How about starting to inform our books and our TV shows and our movies with some humanity?
One of the reasons I continued to watch "24" was that (most of the time anyway, except for that little 'torture' thing) Jack Bauer was a man firmly grounded in morals. He did what was right, for the country, for the world. He might've had to break a few rules along the way, but he was seeing the big picture, so you could look the other way.
What is most disturbing to me, this on the heels of a report that I spoke about in my latest "Whispered Pearls" (WP162*), about the pervasiveness of violence toward women in porn, is that the violence quotient that I'm seeing out there does seem to be increasing. The two men I was seeing "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" with also had no problem at all with the violence exhibited on screen. Images of which I'm still having trouble exorcising from my brain, now days later.
Are men and women different on this? Are men developing an increasingly sadistic, brutal image of their sexuality? Is this really the way men see the world? That revenge and hurting others is the best way out of a bad situation? That is really what's most disturbing to me. Your feedback on this issue would be appreciated. Thanks.
*Whispered Pearls back episodes
PS--One of my readers/viewers just alerted me to the fact that the Swedish book series by Steig Larsson, is actually called: "Milennium: Part 1 - Men Who Hate Women." Boy, is it ever!
Thank you for that update.