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December 23, 2011

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A

I haven't seen this movie and am thankful now that I haven't.

I agree with you, Artie. I also applaud you for walking out and for publicly writing about this. I am exhausted by the constant display of violence as entertainment--most of the time against women and very frequently sexual in nature. Let's remember that not only are mature, thoughtful adults watching this kind of violent entertainment, but also adults who are not mature and who are not thoughtful--as well as teenagers and often younger children.

This type of material (this movie we are discussing, CSI crime shows, the SAW series, the list goes on ad nauseam) is widely available and is backed by large sums of marketing dollars to appeal to us in ways that expert consumer psychologists have determined most impact us. Most of us of all ages are consuming far too much violence. And with only a few key Google search terms with the safe settings turned off we can see that sexualized violence appeals to a mass audience. It's not just the one or two creepy guys in the theater. This is a huge industry bringing in lots of cash. It is naive to think violent, sexual movie scenes are simply art. These movie producers know what they are doing and who they are appealing to.


I prefer to fill my mind with things that make me better and hopefully make the world a better place. And I think many women will feel a lot safer walking at night, going on blind dates, or in a whole host of other situations, if we all ratchet back the savagery and brutality we are consciously and (more important to note) subconsciously ingesting as forms of amusement, distraction, or enjoyment.

Let's become aware of the problem. Then let’s address it offering more positive alternatives. Join me (and Artie, I presume) in voting--with my time and my money--for more positive media. And let's get our adrenaline rushes other ways--rock climbing, symphonic blasts, or falling in love.

EER

I waited to respond to this post. I waited, and while I was waiting I wondered what Helen thought.

...and I say that because I recall having a conversation with my elders about the time I was Helen's age cautioning me against viewing, reading, or being witness to violence.

In that discussion with my folks, I remember there were two main points one of them made:

1) Why would you want to do that? (When your reflex is to look away and the aftermath is that it was not enjoyable...why would you bother? Both in the present and the reflective sense, that was not a good use of time.)

2) What you put in your head is what you'll get out. (You can only create by combining pieces of what you know - and why would you want something so horrible in your arsenal).

I *do* still think it's an artistic expression. Though, as I get older, I get really tired of artists who have evoking reactions regularly in this manner (realistic and highly representational graphic violence) as part of their artistic toolkit. I have lived an iridescent soap bubble-of-a-life, and still, I've seen all I want to see. In short, it's a choice, but it gets old.

There are other ways to get an artistic agendas accomplished, and I think they are harder for artists to pull off and successfully land on an audience. For example, if it were even more of an abstraction it would have put more burden on the viewer - and there is just as much happy-go-lucky art that does not challenge the viewer as there is not.


Jason

I agree about the hockey. I avoid (and disparage) hockey specifically because they abandon the sport in favor of fighting. It's either bad martial arts or a sport where the rules don't matter. Apply that also to hunting. People claim they are doing it for 'food' for for 'the hunt' but how many take pride and enjoyment in killing? Maybe none, but each hunter should consider their motivations.

Jason

I haven't seen the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I have seen "Dogville" (2003) (Lars Von Trier). Apply your analogy to this movie if you want art (the film is actually on a stage set with just outlines for buildings) with brutalization of women as a specific focus, this is it. At the same time, the film's main character shows stunning resolve and brutality of her own when it suited her needs. As you struggle with your own opinions on the matter, consider Dogville as a more stark case in point. I challenge you to sit through it. Remember, it's just a movie, right? Maybe the line between commercial entertainment and "art" is the ability to inspire profound emotion from fiction and fakery.


Helen Isaac

While I agree with you that watching such a horrendous act on screen and experiencing the natural reaction to it is disturbing, I have to express that this type of graphic violence can and does have artistic value.The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not a porno, it's a story containing events that could very likely take place in the real world. The purpose of the rape scene is not gratuitous; it isn't meant for the few creeps in the audience who will truly enjoy it. Without this scene in its entirety, Lisbeth's extreme anger as a woman who has been abused by a system that has crippled her independence is less relatable. Sure, we can all understand her frustration at being unable to control her finances, but this is nothing compared to the abuse that she suffers at the hands of her new guardian. When we first see Lisbeth, we see only a rebellious "punk," but when we understand her experiences, we understand her anger. I would go even further, and say that your personal discomfort at the scene has artistic value as well. The entire point of showing Lisbeth's rape is that the audience members finds themselves aroused and as a result are disgusted with their own uncontrollable instincts. Dragon Tattoo focuses on the darkness at the center of human nature. It examines our capacity to carry out heinous acts for selfish reasons (whether they're self-defense, sexual desire, or revenge). The recently-released American movie's tagline, "Evil shall with evil be expelled" cuts straight to the core of this focus. You can't buy a ticket for a movie about evil and expect to leave with a peaceful stomach.

Andy Havens

Everyone has a particular point where the dramatic expression of dark, troubling, violent and evil acts goes from being "art" to being "inappropriate titillation." I have a much higher tolerance, for example, than my wife. She feels more deeply; I tend to stand outside myself and examine whatever is happening onscreen from a reviewer/editor perspective. That is, I can distance my "natural" emotion in order to experience something not normally pleasant. I know other people whose tolerance is higher than mine, and who enjoy some entertainments that I find troubling. It's very personal.

I would strongly argue, though, that depicting "not nice things" -- in both direct and metaphoric ways -- is an incredibly important part of art, in general. Art holds up a mirror to not just our own, individual selves, but to our cultures and history. From "Oedipus" to "Schindler's List," we're watching something horrible... not to be simply entertained, amused or elevated or (god help us) aroused... but to understand. I know people who are on both sides of this issue with art/movies/lit related to subjects like death, rape, genocide, etc. Some say it shouldn't ever be "entertaining" to experience them vicariously. I think, if done to illuminate the subject, it can be appropriate. Again... different tolerance levels apply to different people and different subjects.

Sport is different, I think. Sport is meant to showcase physical prowess; there isn't a metaphorical, educational, artistic or philosophic meaning to be taken from people beating the crap out of each other. If it happens accidentally, as you say, we cringe. Skiers who crash, etc. But violence, in those cases, is a side-effect, not the main event.

kkreft

An argument - albeit flimsy and one with which I do not agree - could be made that the point of displaying such an act is a step toward admitting that this type of behavior does exist, to rouse us to want to step up to make change.
My counter to this argument is that one does not need to graphically display such an act in order to make this point. In fact, NOT displaying it, having the act appear offscreen for example, and showing the results would more likely make a greater impact, as the imagination can provide worse details than could be captured on screen.
I applaud you for leaving the theater, Artie.
And on a happier note, I have a movie recommendation for you: Franklyn. If you've not seen it, you might want to. It's fairly surreal and will keep you thinking long after the movie is done.

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