Posts Tagged ‘Censorship’

I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. I wanted to see it mainly to compare it to the European film (there are actually three books and movies and I presume they will do all three in the U.S. as well). I had a bit of bias to begin with because the Swedish version is excellent and did not really need to be redone. But there was money in it and you know how Hollywood is.

I don’t normally do movie reviews but there was something important that I noticed in this film that I thought was very telling about our society and is relevant to recent discussions in the blogosphere about the culture of rape in our country.

If you think you are going to see the movie and don’t want to know anything, then STOP READING NOW. What follows probably counts as SPOILERS!


Let me first start of by talking about the obvious ways in which the films were different. The first thing was that her tattoo was smaller in the American version. The original film had the tattoo cover her entire back and one could not help but think about how much pain the character would have to endure in order to get it done.

The next thing was that I don’t remember the journalist having a daughter that was involved in the story…the American version does and I suspect it is actually closer to the book, which I haven’t read. It makes me wonder about the tattoo…how is it described in the books?

The final thing that I noticed (and this is the important point I wanted to make) was the choice of scenes….what was left in and what ended up on the cutting room floor. In the SWedish version they did not spare the audience anything. By my count the movie contains 2 incidents of anal rape, multiple incidents of consensual sex (a few incomplete scenes were extramarital, one full scene down to the big O was lesbian and then one full scene of hetero sex–out of wedlock but pretty much free from violence or other types of “sin”. There is a ton of violence, sexual and otherwise, that I won’t talk about here…suffice it to say that violence is part of the story, which is an investigation into the disappearance of a young woman.

In the American version, we were also treated to several partial extramarital consensual sex scenes, one full consensual sex scene, and the two brutal anal rape scenes in full. What they did NOT include was the lesbian sex scene. And that’s what bugs me. The scene they left out was between two unmarried women and it was completely consensual and normal. The rape scenes were FAR from normal. It says something ugly beyond words that American censors (if that is who is responsible) and/or the film’s director, indeed the entire rating system itself, feels that we would be more accepting of two brutal anal rape scenes than we would be of consensual sex between two adults.   Even if you think that homosexuality is abhorrent, surely you don’t consider it as bad as the rape scenes….surely not!  But perhaps I am being naive and underestimating just how deep homophobia runs in this country.

Granted the rape scenes are crucial to the story but in the long run (if you know all three stories) the lesbian encounter is also important for character development. After all we need to see some normalcy from Lisbeth’s character…that she is not all anger, all vengeance all the time. She is capable of love, affection and having a relationship. Otherwise too many readers and viewers would not have accepted her as the hero in these stories.

Furthermore, I preferred that they leave everything in as was done in the Swedish film. Tell the whole story–don’t censor it out at all. But the fact that they did censor and what they chose to censor as opposed to what they left in is an ugly indictment of the messed up way we view not only homosexuality but also rape in this country.

I saw an article today on a recent study that documents the exposure to violent video games changes the way the brain works and it affects the particular part of the brain that deals with emotion.  And no surprise to me or anyone with any common sense, there was a decrease in activation….meaning exposure to violence decrease their emotional response.

The reason this is on my mind is that I recently finished a science fiction trilogy, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, that targets young readers.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the books and would recommend them to any adult reader who enjoys that genre, I would never recommend them to my kids until they are probably over 16.  Over 16 is not what I would call a “young reader”.  For example, my daughter who is 8 1/2 and is in the 3rd grade reads on a 6th grade level and she has tackled books up to the 8th grade level.  I’ve seen publishers describe the young reader market as 9 to 11 or 8 to 13….so my daughter could possible fit this description.

The problem for young readers of The Hunger Games trilogy is that it is extremely violent and the final book has some very graphic scenes.  There is also a romantic triangle (unfortunately similar to Twilight but better done) but that all ends up being nothing more than kissing.  The story is set in a dystopian future North America where 12 Districts are ruled by a despotic Central Government located in one large city.  Periodically the government demands “tributes”–human sacrifices from each of the 12 Districts, one male and one female–to battle it out in an arena on TV as a form of entertainment and punishment.  They tributes fight for survival and only one is allowed to exit the arena alive.  To add just a little extra kick and enliven things on the “show” the government puts in some added dangers in the arena….so if enough kids aren’t dying and it gets boring they can get the ball rolling again.

With this brief explanation can you imagine the potential for violence in this story?  And Collins delivers masterfully.  Ultimately what these kids go through was heartbreaking to me as an adult and if I had read this as an 9 or 10 year old, it probably would have given me nightmares.  Then again, I was a sensitive child.  I was raised before personal computers and video games were ubiquitous in society.  The Internet in the 70’s was only an idea.

My point is that although current generations of children are much more inured to violence and its effects, having been exposed to so much of it on TV and on computers, it still behooves us as a society and as parents to put the brakes on that exposure.  Do we really want several generations of kids that are emotionally unaffected by violence?  The real world implications of such numbness is frightening to me and should spur us to action.

I’m not saying we should censor art on any official level.  I do think that the ratings for movies, game content, etc could be improved.  I think we should put pressure on publishers as consumers to change the definition of what books are appropriate for “young readers”.  I also think we should take action in our own families to limit how much violence children are exposed to.  And finally, I think that there should be an educational campaign, by who I haven’t worked out yet, on the consequences of exposing kids to violence so that parents can make more informed decisions.

Again, I am not condemning The Hunger Games trilogy.  It is an outstanding achievement and I highly recommend, just not to young readers.  The real world is, sadly, violent enough, do we have to shove it in our kids’ faces in the form of art too?