[In case you’re anti-spoilers - SPOILERS - but this is more important than that.]
I was hesitant to check out Neils Arden Oplev’s 2009 film adaptation of Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for several reasons. The first, perhaps most pressing of them all, is that anyone who is acquainted with the Millennium series knows that it was intended to be a decalogy, but only two more novels were completed, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, before Larsson inexplicably died in November of 2004, about a whole year before the first book was even published in Sweden.
The general story arc will most likely forever be incomplete, and even if his partner Eva Gabrielsson ever gets the rights to continue from his parents (who own his estate because for Gabrielsson’s own safety they never officially married), some fans may consider it sacrilegious to read her accounts of the story he was telling (in much the same way that I don’t know why Jeffrey Deaver is writing a 007 novel).That bothers me a bit - each novel is riveting in their own right, but it is because of a general overarching story that is just as compelling that would involve us following Blomkvist and Salander the whole
nine ten yards, which we can no longer do.
But I decided to put it off only a little bit longer in order to deal with the fact that MGM and BBC Films are tasking David Fincher (of Fight Club and Benjamin Button fame) to direct another adaptation, and while I do think Fincher’s an imaginative and capable director, I do believe that a lot of things will not come out the way they should. That being said, I can only put off my trepidation for so long, and in the midst of embracing the film series I will inevitably have to come face-to-face with the fact that we are reading an epic whose last pages have been all torn out.
But then I saw that the LTA Movie Club on YouTube did a review of the Oplev version and I heard perhaps the most disturbing thing you can tell a young male gender studies student (and perhaps the most entertaining thing you can tell a young female, especially one who has been raped in the past) and I find it terribly double-standard-ridden, even if written by a man - perhaps the most horrific part for me, since it means that institutionalized pseudosexism can happen both ways.
I’ve never read or seen anything yet, as I said before, but one reason I was so anxious to get into it is because of Larsson’s motivations for writing it. It’s a series of thrillers, but the suspense and action is not the focus.
Lisbeth Salander’s past is in fact, scratch that - sexual abuse is the focus. His witnessing the sexual abuse of a girl when he was a teenager is one of the major influences upon his writing the work to begin with; from the sounds of the critics who have analysed it, even his journalistic background and his criticism of surviving Nazism and racism in Sweden still pales in comparison to it, and that in part is why the book is so riveting and captures readers’ attention so briskly and roughly.
However, it often slips off the wagon and tells the wrong story.
So the review on LTAMC is going swimmingly, it’s reinforcing all the good reasons I should watch this movie and read this novel, and then, they tell me Lisbeth herself performs rape, albeit as a form of punishment to one of her past sexual abusers. And the other reviewers took a very important point - that women who have been victims of rape benefit most from fighting to move past that moment instead of letting it define them - and twist the fight to move forward into the sick tinge of vengeance, insisting that they are the same fight. To them, being a perpetrator of rape yourself is a better alternative.
ProTip: if you ever raise your hand in triumph and say ‘some people deserve to be raped’, then you are not anti-rape. You are pro-rape - you are in fact very, very fucking pro-rape. Your only anti-rape sentiment is against certain perpetrators and sympathetic toward certain victims, and that makes you no less pro-rape than being of only one denomination of Christian makes you less Christian, or only hating people of colour makes you less racist. If a man being raped or a rapist being raped somehow escapes your understanding, or for this one moment you consider villainy perfectly justified, then you are actually part of the problem.
Because it means, therefore, that just as we know that there are acts of violence in the media that do wonders for making viewers desensitized, there is a state of mind in the media, somewhat small but terribly influential, where a woman can experience the act of causing unbearable harm to a man and consider it justified, even subconsciously. If it is a bad precedent on one side, it is a double-standard on the other to insist for rape to be called out in the media except this once because that guy really deserved that shit, hurhurhur.
Remember when I showed you guys this?
This is no longer part of the problem. When it was just a matter of men being abused, it was part of the problem - part of the general problem of sexual abuse and domestic violence. But now we have a new problem - the hilarity, the deservedness, and therefore the propagation of sexual abuse and domestic violence against men, because domestic violence against women has been considered more important in the public eye than abuse, for really dangerous reasons that on one end is patriarchy’s fault for creating a framework in which it is personally disastrous for men to admit to being a victim of rape, sometimes even more so than the act itself; and on the other can be considered the fault of a mainstream feminist framework that does not respond to acts of violence toward men because it is not their purview, but then insists that as ‘the real humanism’ it has an obligation to answer for all gender issues, not just the ones they subjectively consider the most important.
We currently live in a society where women ramble about a man deserves to get his penis cut off for asking for a divorce; where women hear a story (allegedly false) of a man breaking into a hair salon in Russia and defend the female owner’s strength to tie him up, kidnap him and rape him; where we applaud a young woman’s decision to rape a past assailant. We are taking steps forward to address sexual abuse for only one constituency at the expense of another entire constituency; we are taking steps toward addressing sexual abuse by one kind of criminal at the expense of catching - or even considering to be in the wrong - an entire other criminal. This is not progress. This is not something to be proud of.
This is something to fear and loathe.
I am a man who stands for justice. That means that we need to understand and acknowledge the vast difference between justice and vengeance. Justice has both parties in mind, and vengeance is one-sided; justice seeks the truth, but vengeance seeks only to punish; justice corrects, but vengeance can never be rectified; justice is out of love, but vengeance is out of malice; justice painstakingly works to being as right as it can, admitting its failings, but vengeance is prideful even when it is wrong.
And more and more times I see people so negatively polarized that I believe that there are fundamentalists everywhere - fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist atheists, fundamentalist feminists - who speak too loudly, say too many wrongs and refuse to address ways to build and edify rather than self-seeking pleas. It’s as if we don’t want a world of peace - simply a world in which we win the wicked wars.