January 18, 2012

An Observation on Subjectivity


Have you seen the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies?* I’ve seen the Danish/Swedish version (2009, director Niels Arden Oplev), but I’m waiting to see the American version (2011, director David Fincher) when it comes out on DVD. It’s such a dark vision of the world, I didn’t want it drilled into my brain on the big screen.

One of the many things that struck me about the Oplev version was that the actor who plays Mikael Blomkvist, Michael Nyqvist, is not conventionally handsome by Hollywood/American cinema standards. His eyes are set a little close, and he has rough skin on his cheeks, which are not craigy (forgive the pun) but rather a little loose and round. On the other hand, Daniel Craig of the Fincher version ~ he’s got that strong jaw with long dimples and smooth skin. (Full disclosure: I think Daniel Craig is just yum.)

When you look at Nyqvist and Craig side by side, they actually look fairly similar. They are of a type. However, Craig is definitely classically Hollywood in looks. Nyqvist is more regular guy, more what the rest of us look like. It’s like some of the British drama/comedy series ~ they have regular-looking people on them.

It got me thinking about American sensibilities. Then it struck me: why, in American movies and television, do only beautiful people get subjectivity and depth of character? Of course I know why. Beauty and sex sells. But think of the ramifications. The underlying message is that only people who are beautiful have lives and thoughts and anything worth anything inside them. If you aren’t conventionally beautiful, you are at best a character type. You are to be made fun of or even not shown at all. Fat men can be in comedies only, and fat women aren’t shown at all, if possible.

So our kids are getting the message every day that 95% of our people should not be given any respect for intelligence or depth of character or anything. They are invisible. That’s no small thing.

Food for thought.

* Note that I'm not linking to any Wikipedia sites today.  That's because Wiki and many other tools we use every day are being threatened.  If you care about your internet, write your congressman or -woman today!

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