Editor's note: We welcome thoughtful opinion submissions on contemporary issues. Not all opinions published here necessarily represent the views of the editorial staff at WORLD New York or WORLD Magazine. Wyatt Baker lives, works, and writes in New York City.
I heard that the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a fairly accurate representation of the original Swedish screenplay, so I went into this film expecting it to be typically Scandinavian in plot and execution --- cutting edge, ultra-contemporary, and, above all, outside of the normal train of thought of most of its American audience. It wasn't as Scandinavian as I expected, but that isn't my main critique of the film.
Here's a quick synopsis from WORLD: "A wealthy Swedish businessman asks disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to solve the 40-year-old disappearance of his niece. Blomkvist enlists the help of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an intelligent computer hacker who may or may not have Asperger's syndrome. Salander's life has been a long litany of abuse, which she has countered by becoming more powerful than those who would hurt her."
The story is placed in contemporary Stockholm, the capital of one of the most progressive countries in the world in regards to women's rights. Note, this is the same city that drew international attention last year for opening a state-sponsored, gender-neutral preschool.
Ironically, this "progressive" city is the setting for this violent story where it's the norm for men to beat and rape every woman they see. Not only does the film use an outdated portrait of gender roles, but it also exploits this environment to justify and even glorify equally brutal female-perpetrated violence against men.
The worst part? This story was written by a man, and that is my primary critique: Larsson chooses to portray masculinity as inherently evil when he knows, or should know, that it is an inaccurate stereotype. I felt like I was being asked to apologize for being a man while I was watching this film.
Supposedly Stieg Larsson wrote The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as a coping strategy after he witnessed a gang rape of a girl when he was 15. Tragically, his "coping" included internalizing hatred toward everything masculine in a desperate attempt to distance himself from those men.
The film seems to suggest that men can only be on good terms with women if they emasculate themselves or are apologetic about their masculinity. This is unhealthy and destructive toward men.
Ultimately, Larsson's worldview is fueled by hatred: the only means to peaceful coexistence between the sexes is either for men and women to physically beat each other into submission or for them to neuter themselves indistinguishable and "non-threatening," a solution that gives no possibility to a cooperative relationship between men and women and that is tragically void of redemption.