It is no main feat to discover that the institutions of the state, the corporation and the family are institutionally masculinist especially in societies where the patriarch is of a dominant nature. This is certainly the case in the film, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The main character of Lisbeth Salander finds herself consistently on the fringe of society due to her queerness and the fact that she is troubled also makes her something of a misfit. The investigation which is undertaken by Salander also exposes the hypocrisy and blatant untruths used by those companies and businessmen to achieve their own means.
The rape as a thesis
Undoubtedly the most potent part of the film is the rape sequence where Salander is appointed a new guardian to her mental problems which are described as diagnosed mental incompetency. Her new guardian who is the lawyer Niels Bjurman attempts to rape her and here we have the classic abuse maxim where the male dominant character is abusing his authority to extort sexual favours from the vulnerable woman. The fact that Salander then marks him with a tattoo after stunning him with a taser gun demonstrates the power of the woman when she is free of her shackles and prejudices. This is the argument put forward by Sharon Marcus in her excellent article which dwells at length about the conflicts which women endure.
The film centres on the investigation by Millenium magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the doings of businessman Hans Erik Wennestrom. The entry of Lisbeth Salander who performs the background checks on the businessman’s shady past finally convinces Blomkvist to explore the mysterious disappearance of business magnate Henrik Vanger’s grandniece that was supposedly abducted and murdered on Wennerstrom’s orders. Here we once again enter the darker echelons of the business world as well as the state which is covert in Wennerstrom’s doings and the superiority of men over women is consistently enhanced.
Salander’s eventual blackmailing of her guardian also shows that she is not a woman like all others who will take the punishment of rape in silence. Rather she turns this to her own advantage and demonstrates that she can access her own life without having to be controlled by others. Here the feminist nature of the film continues to slowly unravel itself.
The film also seems to create assertion that rape can be countered by tackling it with wisdom and cunning.
“This assertion actually contradicts one of feminism's most powerful contentions about rape—that rape is a question of language, interpretation, and subjectivity. Feminist thinkers have asked: Whose words count in a rape and a rape trial? Whose "no" can never mean "no"? How do rape trials condone men's misinterpretations of women's words? How do rape trials consolidate men's subjective accounts into objective "norms of truth" and deprive women's subjective accounts of cognitive value?” (Marcus, 2011).
Intriguingly Marcus also states that feminists have insisted on the importance of naming rape as violence and of using the collective narration of stories as a tool against rape. In this case, the main character Salander uses rape as a tool to extort her own ends and manages to extort money out of her rapist who is supposedly controlling her thus turning society’s wheel on a full circle.
Wendy Brown is perhaps more circumspect in her article ‘Finding the Man in the State’.
She quotes Ehrenreich and Piven who “are sanguine about precisely what I want to place in question, that U.S. women's "expanding relationships to state institutions" unambiguously opens and enriches the domain of feminist political possibilities” (Brown, 1992).
But do these expanding relationships produce only "active political subjects," or do they also produce regulated, subordinated, and disciplined state subjects? Does the late-twentieth-century configuration of the welfare state help to emancipate women from compulsory motherhood or help to ad-minister it? Is the state eroding or intensifying the isolation of women in reproductive work and the ghettoization of women in service work? Do female staff and clients of state bureaucracies –a critical population in Ehrenreich's and Piven's vision of a militant worker-client coalition-transform the masculinism of bureau- cracy or do they become servants of it, disciplined and produced by it? These are just some of the questions that the film ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ asks.
The manner in which Salander saves Blomkvist when the journalist breaks into Martin’s house to look for clues about the disappearance of the businessman’s grandniece also confirms that the woman has conquered her demons and can actively act on her own behalf. However she is eventually disappointed as although he has fallen in love with Blomqvist, the journalist eventually elopes with a former lover after she saved her life. The resurgence of the figure of Anita who is actually Harriet and who had been sexually abused for years is a potent part of the narrative. The twist in the film continues to expose the dark secrets of the family which aided and abetted sexual abuse on a large scale. The eventual exposure of wennerstrom is also a powerful part of the film which continues to reaffirm the importance of feminist arguments throughout.
Brown W; ‘Finding the Man in the State’; Feminist Studies Vol 18 Nr 1 1992, web
Sharon Marcus; “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention,” , 1991, Print
Rubin Gayle; Thinking Sex, Notes for a radical Theory, 1989, Print