Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lisbeth Salander - a few gender perspectives

Lisbeth Salander (played by Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon tattoo (2011)") is easily one of the most powerful and hence impressionable female protagonists I have ever witnessed on-screen. She displays a disrespectful attitude towards almost every man and woman she encounters. She doesn't really care about morals or conventions - thus outwardly anarchic in every activity she does. She doesn't crave for love and is utterly unfriendly. Her gothic physical appearance with rings, tattoos and extravagant eyelashes would mark her as a countercultural symbol (of the 60s/70s punk culture).

Lisbeth's sexuality (she does appear nude in many a sequences) is characterised with a specific macho-ness and hence is devoid of the "tickling" sensuality presented usually with eye-candy ladyleads on-screen. This aspect of Lisbeth's characterisation should be a feminist film theorist's delight - as Lisbeth, in my opinion, counters the "gaze", quite successfully.

The gruesome and detailed presentation of sexual assault on Lisbeth, in a way, prepares the viewer to take the "righteous" side, that of Lisbeth's, late in the movie. The stylised vengeance with which she bounces back was reminding of Uma Thurman of the "Kill Bill" series, but the uniqueness of Lisbeth's cult is there to stay. Her vicious stares and actual physical assaults on many a men present her as the agent of destruction but as viewers, we approve her action as we have been made aware of what she has endured.

In light of the blatant sexism with which a woman's intelligence is portrayed in general in movies (the hollywood "blonde stereotype" cinema, for example), this movie presents a refreshing take. As Lisbeth hacks into Blomkvist's computer and Blomkvist brags about his "encryption", Lisbeth spurts out a condescending "Please" - You get the dynamics there.

The film also presents a really interesting sexual politics with the woman-on-top lovemaking sequences. While her "controlling" of the activity is more demonstrative of the idea, her disinterest in romance would remove any last traces of the "usual" femininity associated with a woman.

Motorcycles and computers are a kind of modern phallic symbols - the former representing physical valour and the later, intellectual superiority. Lisbeth, not just simply masters them but approaches gadgets with a ridicule in her body language - it just looks as if she is too fast for them. Her intellectual dominance on Blomkvist (played by Daniel Craig) in solving the actual case presents another perspective. Daniel Craig has been playing James Bond 007, who is quite an alpha-male, both physically and intellectually. Though Craig's performance in this movie was not reminding of Bond, it was somehow interesting to have a female character which counters Mr.Bond himself.


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