Pop Culture

Sanitizing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I’ve been casually following the American remake of Stieg Larssen’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie, namely the criticism that its being sanitized for prudish American audiences who are too lazy to read subtitles.   But in my opinion, the series was already sanitized for American audiences.  The Swedish title of the first book is Men Who Hate Women.  There is no way the series would have sold as well.  I couldn’t find a breakdown of the demographics of readers of this series and it’s hard to guess.  It has a strong female character, which women like, but it also has serial killing and violence, which men like, so who knows.  But I can imagine a marketing meeting with the American booksellers and they’re all sitting down at the table.  The American representative says, “I dunno. I just don’t see this title passing in the States.  I mean “˜Men Who Hate Women’?  No man is going to buy that! And no woman is going to want her husband to see that on the nightstand! It’s just madness.”  The Swedish representative, bemused, says, “But that’s what it’s about. Men who hate women. That’s why it has that title.”  It goes back and forth, charts and graphs are brought in and eventually the title is changed, the book goes on to be a bestseller and movie franchise at the American marketing team sits back, satisfied that they have once again managed to make things palatable enough to sell.

Girl with the dragon tattoo coverAs it is the content of the book is a lot to take, and seeing the rape and violence in the film is even more jarring.  I am interested to see how the US version of the movie reinterprets the original and if the violence and assault retains the same impact.  Off the top of my head I can’t think of a movie that is more disturbing that is not marketed as a horror film.  But, if the changed title is any indication I would imagine that the film remake will follow suit.

When I was researching this topic almost everything that I saw that referenced the original title used it as an example of their opinion that Larssen’s writing lacks subtlety. That may be so, but I think it speaks to an ongoing denial of rape culture in America, such that consumers don’t really want to admit that there are men who hate and exploit women.  What do you think commenters?  Would it have become the franchise it is with its original title or is it too much for the United States to take?

4 replies on “Sanitizing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”

“That may be so, but I think it speaks to an ongoing denial of rape culture in America, such that consumers don’t really want to admit that there are men who hate and exploit women. What do you think commenters?”

I completely agree. I don’t think it would have sold as well. We’d probably hear jokes about it being made on bro-tastic late night talk shows. Unless something bends over for the patriarchy and masculinity then it’s always going to be ridiculed. Also, as usual, those American reps (and sellers in general) are always looking to sell to men. Only men. Since they’re the only ones that matter. Unless they’re selling tampons, of course.

I’ve been wanting to read the series for awhile now — had no idea on the background of the story/original titles, etc. (yes, I live in a cave w/o cable or literary discussion) — I’ve been interested simply be the enticing arrangements at the books stores & airport news stands.

I’m from South America, where the title of the first book was translated as “Men Who Don’t Love Women” and the cover features a creepy illustration of a tied and very frail looking woman. Even though I consider South American culture much less woman friendly than American culture, all three books were in the best-seller list for several months and the first swedish movie had a very big opening (given the subject matter, length and the language). I also know an american guy in his middle twenties who categorically refuses to read “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” because he considers the title is too girly. So while I agree with the assertion that the books were somewhat sanitized, I think they would’ve still done pretty well with the american audience, and maybe they would’ve been taken a little more seriously by some readers.

Leave a Reply