why ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ is hurting woman: a response.

The following is a response I wrote to Karen Swallow Prior’s piece titled “Why ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Is Hurting Woman“.  It is not an exhaustive review of the books (which I have read) or the American version of the movie (which I have not seen).  Please read her original article to gain context in my post.  If you respond to this post, please do so respectfully and please distinguish between commenting on the books or movies (either Swedish or American versions). 

Karen,

After reading your article I’m confused.  In the same sentence you disclaim “This isn’t a film review and…I offer analysis based only on the film.”  From that, I can’t really discern what you’re driving at so I’ll try to figure it in this response.

Character study has rightly informed the way we see ourselves for as long as characters have been created.  It’s part of the beauty of literature, film and all media.  In your case, being introduced to a character through a Facebook status is a rather recent phenomenon however.  Facebook and Twitter have afforded us the privilege to form quick uninformed opinions about things for which we previously were forced to seriously chew on and investigate.  This is true in your owns words, “My immediate reaction, though I knew nothing at that point about the book or the character, was ‘uh oh'”.

My main critique of your article isn’t whether Lisbeth Salander should or shouldn’t be regarded as a heroine.  For the rest of the world that doesn’t read first-world evangelical posts like these, Lisbeth Salander is and will be regarded as a hero for better or for worse and in some cases should be.  While your (and mine) hero, the one “placed upon…a mere plank and crossbeam” is the greatest character study of all, his story has yet to be discovered by many a victim of sexual injustice and Salander will have to suffice for standing up against said injustice.

Don’t take me wrong, I’m not nihilistic or cynical enough to say if Stieg Larsson is all you’ve got, that’s all you’ll get.  However, I’m realistic enough to know that my definition of sexual injustice or my fight against gender prejudice can’t be informed by someone’s facebook status, clothing line or even David Fincher‘s Hollwood star-crossed vision of Larsson’s book.

You say that Lisbeth Salander is hurting women yet you don’t provide any statistical or even anecdotal evidence of such.  Your credibility to make such claims stems from “watch[ing] [a] friend undergo self-injury, sexual victimization, sexual deviancy, drug addiction, institutionalization, and the occasional come-to-Jesus moment”?   I hate to break it to you but I have those friends too.  They are guys, fully masculine and fully devoted to a spiritual struggle that extends well past the publication of a swedish mystery novel.

Going back to my initial confusion at what you were driving at with this article…are you trying to rescue women from stereotypical chains that Hollywood places on them?  If so, I would contend that you are using this platform to perpetuate chains that are placed on men as well.  You write, “She has the smarts and independence men increasingly expect in a post-feminist world, makes a great work partner, stitches up a bullet hole with vodka and dental floss, rides a motorcycle, initiates sex (and does girls, too), makes breakfast the morning after, brings herself to orgasm while her partner lies back and thinks about work—all the while staying (largely) emotionally unattached. She’s essentially a breasted boy.”

So…that means all boys are just great work partners, stitch bullet holes with vodka and dental floss, ride motorcycles and initiate sex?  All boys bring ourselves to orgasm while staying emotionally unattached?  Karen, are you married, do you have a boyfriend or have a son?  Do you assign these stereotypical cliche’s to them as well?  Hopefully, the other men who are reading this post and sincerely following Christ the best way they know how won’t be offended by the same unjust prejudices that you herein propagate.  I’ll clue you in…not all men get off on these movies, their imagery and feel the need to beat their chest when movies like these are made.

I get it.  You went and watched a movie that has some seriously disturbing themes and you had an emotional response.  Did you apply the same Facebook-litmus test to last years sordid tale of female sexual deviancy, Black Swan?  Darn it, Hollywood why do you continue to define my view of all women as sexually repressed, catty, snobby, closet-ballerinas, jealous with low self-esteem.  Geez, those male directors and their need to compensate.

Well, hats off to the Stiegster for accomplishing his goals: awareness of sexual deviancy, injustice and *gasp* swedish culture.  It’s too bad he’s not around to chat with Darren Arrenovsky or the execs at MGM and Columbia.  All we have of Larsson are three books from which to derive a character that should and will be studied, admired and hated.  The joy of film is that it can be watched but the lasting beauty of literature is that it can be read, again and again.  From the pages of books we continue to peel back the “layers of our own facade”.  I’m so glad the Lord reveals our facade’s in more than one Book.

With Respect,
Jonathan Simmons

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how are you using your voice?

Continuing my thoughts from yesterday, here is one of my favorite TED talks.  Eric Whitacre is a composer who used the medium of the internet to conduct a choir of 2,000 voices from around the world.  This project and its resulting song is one of the most moving I’ve ever heard.  Listen to what he learned from it:

“So two things struck me deeply about this. The first is that human beings will go to any lengths necessary to find and connect with each other. It doesn’t matter the technology. And the second is that people seem to be experiencing an actual connection. It wasn’t a virtual choir. There are people now online that are friends; they’ve never met. But, I know myself too, I feel this virtual esprit de corps, if you will, with all of them. I feel a closeness to this choir — almost like a family.”

The beauty of a choir is in its celebration of each unique voice.  A great question to ask is, “How are you using your voice?”  Are you using it to give to and build something greater than you?

finding your voice in the new year.

Although it’s probably just my ambitious ego, I like to think I have a third ear for music.  I was sitting in a friends living room recently while his iTune’s Genius was mixing us some tunes.  There were some songs playing that I had never heard before and the occasional beat would steal my attention from the conversation.  Although some of the music was unfamiliar, I was able to pin the artist(s) within just a few seconds once they started singing.

Michael Stipe, REM, Voice, Spit and Mud, New Years

Michael Stipe - Image Courtesy Wikimedia

Whether his Genius mix played Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, The Avett Brothers, U2 or REM, I really didn’t need to know their whole catalog to identify who the band was.  It’s because their lead singer uses an instrument unlike any other: their voice.

It’s been about 3 months since the news first broke on their website, that REM is calling it quits.   Even for the non-fan, this group has been prolific enough to have several recognizable (if commercial) hits, from “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” to “Losing My Religion”.  However, more than just the tune itself, their songs are lent that same unclear, (some say mumbling) yet distinguishable voice of Michael Stipe.

Be it Bono, Robert Plant, Joe Cocker or John Fogerty, Janis Joplin, Annie Lenox and Karin Bergquist the voices of each define a unique experience for the song.

It’s been said that cover bands don’t change the world.  There’s a lot of things about a song that can be imitated, from the guitar solo to the cadence of the snare drum.  The one element that will never be completely duplicated are the voices.  There is just too much nuance, too much subtlety embedded in their vocal chords.  Their isn’t a voice like it in the past and their will not be one in the future.

Maybe singing isn’t your thing.  Simon Cowell has helped a lot of people discover that about themselves.  He’s also done a favor to many by encouraging them to find their own voice.  If someone was trying to sound too much like Britney, he would let them know.  Who would want to anyway?

In your context or vocation, there may not be a Cowell to steer you in another direction if you’re trying to sound too much like someone else.

No, you may never paint a masterpiece, write a bestseller or compete in the Olympics.  Maybe you teach kids to swim.  Maybe you direct social media for a small start-up.  Perhaps you preach every weekend to a congregation or write blog posts as a hobby.  No matter what you do, you have a voice that is inimitable.  No one accentuates words like you.  No one gives expression to their thoughts in the same way you do.  No one articulates their passions in the same manner.

I used to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at the kids ministries of other churches.  I would peruse their websites, go to their conferences and follow the blogs of their leaders.  I’m glad for their influence and their individuality but I am learning to find and celebrate my voice too.  Sometimes it’s raspier than theirs, sometimes not as refined or amplified but that’s ok.

The world already has its Michael Stipe and Robert Plant.  It already had its Shakespeare and it’s da Vinci.  We’ve heard from Billy Graham and Gandhi.  Now we need to hear from you and you need to hear from us.