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Saw a comment on ONTD talking about Splice that said: "This movie's plot freaks me out too much to consider seeing it, but I'm glad it did well since it's Canadian. (...) Um, anyway, I'm going to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo later today!" That was posted a few days before I saw it; too late to warn the well-meaning commenter in question.

But, gosh.

FYI, people? If you think *Splice* might trigger you?


It has a brutal rape scene, and extra sadistic sexual violence as a by-product of its main plot.

(The original title in Swedish translates as Men Who Hate Women. And yes, I've read the books.)

I'm still waiting to see the backlash against that one, and the late Stieg Larsson's much vaunted feminism ('cause Lisbeth is sooo coool.... *eyerolls* a real heroine for the 80s, very cyberpunk! she even gets implants in the 2nd tome!), but it's just ordinary old rape without science-fictional story twists involved, so I guess it's less likely to squick the random internet user who finds a summary of the film.

[ETA: cross-posted to Dreamwidth: ]

[ETA2: Spoilers in comments.]


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2010 05:02 am (UTC)
Yeah, TGWDD shocked me by how casually it treated the rape as a device. And while I get that Lisbeth isn't the sort of character to go to the authorities, I really hated that they turned it into a viligante switch-fantasy, like "strong women" use it to their advantage or something. It was genuinely nasty, and as you say not really crucial to the plot...
Jun. 18th, 2010 05:08 am (UTC)
Re: Spoilers
I didn't mean to say it wasn't crucial to the plot (it's not in the first book, but, lo, it becomes so with the sequels), but the main plot is *also* full of sadistic sexual violence, albeit less graphically depicted.
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Spoilers
Ah, only saw the movie and it... didn't encourage further perusal.
Jun. 18th, 2010 05:17 am (UTC)
Re: Spoilers
Edited the entry to tinker with that sentence.
Jun. 18th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
I wonder if TGWTDT escaped fandom rage by virtue of playing the art house circuit in the US? I found The Girl/Tattoo far more objectionable than Splice.

Admittedly, I didn't have a huge problem with Splice - it's not particularly graphic and both scenes are integral parts of the story. Argue that the story is flawed, perhaps, but you can't argue that those scenes aren't narratively valid.

I can't say the same for the plot involving Salander and her public guardian in TGWDT. It sits like rotting meat in the middle of the first act and doesn't really do anything to further establish Salander's character - that she was abused and that she's a badass are bits of characterization that are reiterated several times in other parts of the movie. As a result, it's gruesomely voyeuristic and degrading.

The other part of it is that Splice essentially validates motherhood as a primal force and mothers as power figures in our society. Despite the fact that Elsa and Evil Corporate Mistress are bad mothers, their agency is not diminished by their gender. On the other hand, Salander comes from the male authorial tradition of the Other Worldly Hero. If Salander were male, he'd be an orphan and removed from the normal social order by virtue of his lack of family. Because Salander is female, she is a survivor of multiple incident of sexual abuse and therefore removed from the social order as a result of her emotional scars but in reality, this trope recapitulates the old prohibitions against unclean women - by having her sexual honour taken from her, Salander exists outside the realm and concerns of ordinary women therefore she is fit to take the heroic male role in the narrative.

Seen in this light, you could argue Splice is a profoundly feminist work that acknowledges both the existence and power of sexuality as something intrinsic to female identity unlike Salander's aggressive androgyny. Ultimately, Elsa is the arbiter of life and death, mothering in a new world while Salander is a tool used as an instrument of vengeance by wealthy men (although I really am twisting both works more than a little here).

Edited at 2010-06-18 06:08 am (UTC)
Jun. 18th, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
Lisbeth (some spoilers)
Larssen has stated -- and it's referenced in the books, kind of like Greg House's connection to Sherlock Holmes, via her address, etc. -- that Lisbeth is inspired by Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking character. (And his male protagonist is based on another Lindgren character.) Talk about co-optation.

Lisbeth's family backstory isn't revealed/explained in the first book/movie, but there's a conspiracy aimed specifically at keeping *her* down and discredited, which as a narrative device aims at a metatext about patriarchal powers, blah blah blah, but is so, so *very* over the top and exceptionalised that it works against its own cause. And in any case leaves the first book/film standing alone with a standard, hoary, rape-and-revenge scenario, the kind used since forever to allow audiences to have their self-righteousness and their prurience, too. (The later books/film further use the rape in an exquisitely perverse manner as a trump card in Lisbeth's defense, where the audience is clearly meant to root with triumph knowing that Lisbeth has been raped.)

The books eventually get slightly better by drawing multiple female characters in orbit of Lisbeth's cause, and marking their slightly less extraordinary courage and heroism, etc., but they are massive, massive failures in that Larsson doesn't have a freaking clue how to make them relate directly to each other: most of the time, they are merely minorly exceptional figures who happen to relate to his Designated Good Guys. Oh, and they fuck his Marty Stu, too. And their subplots vanish in the translation to film. (Maybe, maybe there were some traces of them in the mini-series format that was edited down into the 2nd and 3rd films...)
Jun. 18th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
Re: Lisbeth (some spoilers)
Oh, jeez.
Jun. 18th, 2010 07:59 am (UTC)
Splice (spoilers)
Splice's female characters actually talk to each other about things other than men. Elsa and Dren and Joan Chorot (the corporate exec; I had to look her name up) interact directly, and their relationships (and Elsa's past relationship to her mother) are central to the plot.

And the film doesn't condemn Elsa, Dren, or Chorot, leaving it up to the audience to judge whether they are good or bad.

you could argue Splice is a profoundly feminist work that acknowledges both the existence and power of sexuality as something intrinsic to female identity unlike Salander's aggressive androgyny.

I think you're twisting things into an essentialistic reading there. Or, at any rate, my kind of feminism is not the kind that attributes instrincness to female identity. On ne naît pas femme: on le devient, to use de Beauvoir's phrase. But it is possible to reify gender as a natural quality in fiction, though audiences can also read more into it because they see it as a natural quality in reality too.

Splice essentially validates motherhood as a primal force and mothers as power figures in our society. Despite the fact that Elsa and Evil Corporate Mistress are bad mothers, their agency is not diminished by their gender.

Chorot is a mother figure insofar as female authority is perceived in maternal terms, and we lack non-gendered models to describe it otherwise. She's the Corporate Boss, her authority flows from her position, but she's not Elsa's or anybody's mother in the film; her acceptance of Elsa at the end is professional, and reads as maternal when she gets more personal because she's a woman.

Elsa is the movie's mad scientist figure. She is exceptional not because of who she is, or what was done to her, but because of what she does: her scientific genius and ambition drive the plot. Splice adds Mommy Issues on top of that the way most other films tend to lay on Daddy Issues, as character flaws and complications, and its genders them also, but it doesn't require gendered qualities to make Elsa central. They become central because Elsa is (and are also debateable as world-building choices). Raising Dren and the division of labour that follows gender both Elsa and Clive. And Dren, as the film progresses, could be said to become gender and gendered sexuality reified in flesh and action, as her body transforms and her focus shifts.

But I agree with you that Splice's characters' agency is not diminished by their gender. Nor does their gender require extraordinary (and very gendered) steps to justify their agency like Lisbeth's seems to.
Jun. 25th, 2010 09:59 am (UTC)
I'm conflicted--Larsson's books undoubtedly have some problems with gender and his feminism is, hmm. Sometimes he gets it very right, sometimes he gets it very wrong. FYI, I haven't seen the movie because I was worried about how they'd deal with that scene.

I agree with the problematicness of the rape/revenge scenario, absolutely. Here's what the books do, though, that works for me--the way that the abuse of Salander's mother was ignored, the way the system conspires to keep her isolated and declared legally unable to take care of herself--before the re-introduction of the spy!father--it's a vicious take-down of how Swedish society deals with abuse against women. And it's sensationalist (especially combined with the violence of the first book), but god help us, it's not too far from the truth. So for me reading it was like--oh, hi, look, this is an incredibly popular book that does more than touch on some very serious problems of my country. If that makes sense.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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