Feministic Musings on Pop Culture Heroines-Then and Now
So, I’ve been thinking. With too much time on my hands and a hot sauna to help filter random thoughts slowly through the sieve of my brain, I sat considering all of the female relationships and influences in my life. For some reason I have been ruminating on Lisbeth Salander from the girl with the dragon tattoo. Who, to me is the epitome of a righteous babe. She channels so many of the inspiring qualities that I would like to emulate in my life, cunning, genius, silence and agility. Not in reality, but symbolically. I then thought of other pop culture heroines who have in some way impacted my life in the past years. For some reason, the two that hit me first were Twilight and the Spice girls. Oh yeah baby….
It’s hard to even refer to Bella Swan of the Twilight saga as a heroine. Bella Swan is not a heroine. She is the main character of a wildly popular book series that throws herself off of a cliff and almost gets devoured by vampires for “love”. Reckless, Emotional, silly? Yes, but a heroine? No. Bella is the antithesis of everything to be admired in a woman. Her character is selfish, uninteresting, and destructively needy. I’m not saying that the Saga isn’t entertaining. It is. I was right there for the midnight viewing, whooping and hollering with my girlfriends when Jacob disrobes for the first time. Not to mention Edwards epic bone structure on the big screen. I actually discovered a new talent that night. I can whistle while drooling. Disgusting. Overall, the simple characters and story line did not alter my perspective on love nor did it move me deeply in any way.
What was interesting about the film and the phenomenon in which it created, was the basic feminine social banquet for which I found myself repeatedly indulging. It has been years since a simple catch phrase, or buzzword like “Edward” or “Bella” could strike up a whole conversation, or even a new friendship (well sort of). Or urge a girl’s night complete with blankets, pillows, and every carb under the sun.
It seemed slightly reminiscent of my Spice Girl days. The golden age, when all you had to do was walk up to a girl at recess and ask, “Which Spice Girl are you?” “Ginger?” “Well I’m Scary! Let’s be friends!” Then a costume filled friendship would ensue.
The Spice Girls preached platforms, leopard print and Lycra. A religion that said,” If you wanna be my lover, you’ve gotta get with my friends.” And Girl Power was God. To a 10 year old girl with two older brothers and a penchant for playing in the woods and with barbies, this was profound stuff.
I should have known Angela was destined to be my best friend when we met at age 16. I remember hanging out in her bedroom and looking at a photo taken of her around age 10. She was wearing a leopard print belly shirt and matching leopard print pants. Intrigued, I asked, “What’s this?” She replied, “Oh that was my spice girl’s birthday party. I was always Scary.” I got stupidly excited and said,” Oh my god! I was always scary too!!” We’ve basically been inseparable ever since.
So I reflected. If Twilight and the Spice girls asked us to reach out and connect to build relationships in our external social feminine sphere. Then Lisbeth Salander of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, asks us to reach in, probe, and build a relationship with our internal psychic sphere. The more complex and brooding aspects in which light and dark constantly battle for the floor.
Whether reading it in the book or watching it for the first time, the rape scene is shocking and repulsive. It leaves you with the sick taste of disempowerment and violence lingering on your gums. It evokes such strong emotions that my date actually whispered,” Uh, this is intense.” After having read the book and seen the film, I knew what to expect. Even so, my mind was racing with anger and excitement for the following scene in which Lisbeth completely redeems herself. The fat man gets what’s coming to him when she tattoos” I am a Rapist” on his belly. I was so excited during this scene, I gleefully told my date, “Actually it says, I am a sadistic pig and a rapist!” It is such a controversial feeling, to think of yourself as a woman completely participating as the character takes back her power and control in such a vicious way. I am not a violent person. I’m a freaking vegetarian. There are parts of my mind that only want to be nice all the time and actually feel guilty when I delight in this scene. But hey, I’m human and the shadowy aspects of myself that I usually keep hid were screaming ,”YES! GET HIM!”
There are many times as women when the “darker” more empowering sides of our psyche say, ”Hey! I’m over here. It’s me who’s making you angry. It’s me who’s building your strength. Take my hand and we’ll be strong together.” Instead we chose little Miss Bella Swan. With the boring victim mentality that lets a guy or all sorts of other frivolous drama take control. Lisbeth Salander is a heroine, she is dynamic, exciting, and represents the strongest aspect of the divine feminine. Her darkness is a lesson to all women that when used the right way, strength can come from the blackest corners of our minds. And sometimes it’s alright to peek into those corners with a flashlight and explore the possiblilites.
Watching this movie made me want to wear more black, become a hacker, and get a shirt that says, ”Fuck you. You Fucking Fuck” I couldn’t stop myself from annoyingly babbling to my date when it was over, about how amazing the film was, and how the opening scene was like having multiple visual orgasms. The only thing he knew about the movie was that Trent Reznor of NIN did the score. Being a heavy metal drummer, he commented on how the Led Zepplin cover in the beginning scene, which I loved, wasn’t great at all……This is the same guy that said his favorite thing about me was my tattoos. Uh, yeah…
If you haven't seen the Hollywood version of the film or if you would like to watch the opening scene once again. Here it is!