Anne Claire Stone

*Disclaimer* I am known to be a pretty indecisive and flaky person. I always struggled with writing because I spend too much time trying to find the perfect topic to write about. 9 times out of 10, I go off topic when I find another "perfect" theme to write about. Therefore, the following posts are not ALL related. Some posts are related, and some begin the discussion of another theme.

The dictionary defines "home" as "the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household."

I apologize to my parents in advance who built our house in Philadelphia from scratch 22 years ago. I had a front yard to go sledding on, a backyard to play manhunt till sundown with the neighbors, and a driveway to make watercolor art with chalk in the rain. As young as I was, my heart was always somewhere else. For most of my life, it was West Beach Drive, Oak Island, NC. We only went once a year for a week, but there was something about driving over the bridge to get to the island that made me feel so safe and welcomed. 22 years later, Oak Island is still a home to me, but Denmark owns a piece of my soul.

I can't exactly pinpoint the moment I realized Store Kongensgade 97 (pictured left) was home, or hjem in Danish. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Copenhagen, where I lived for 4 months, consistently ranks in the top 5 of the safest, cleanest, happiest, and eco-friendly cities in the world. But those aren’t qualities that make a place a home. I supposed it was the little things that accumulated during my time there that made me feel at peace with myself. I felt so connected to people, plants, animals, places more than I ever had in my life. This may be due to the particularly relaxed lifestyle the Danes live. By no means do they not care about what is going on around them, but they prefer to live their lives in the here and now. They bike everywhere, which is something i grew to love. You’re constantly observing your surroundings and taking them all in and truly appreciating the little things in life. For example, when I was riding my bike somewhere, if the smell of a Wednesday kanelsnegle drifted through my senses, I would stop, go in and buy one. From there, if I didn’t have class, I would find a nearby garden and lay on the grass in the Scandinavian sun and enjoy my snack. That’s another thing that has become part of me that I learned from my Danish friends. No matter how cold it is, there is no reason not to enjoy the outdoors. Just layer up, grab a blanket, go to the nearest cafe, grab a hot coffee, and sit OUTSIDE at their tables and enjoy your hot coffee in the Nordic weather. This made me feel so connected with nature, and even more connected with the country.

Copenhagen was the first place in my life where I felt like I truly belonged. I consider myself an introvert, so I enjoy being left alone to observe the noise around me. That being said, when I do interact with people, I want to be seen and to have a connection with people. Copenhagen caters to people like this unlike NYC where you will be glared at for being cheery or Raleigh where you'll be stuck in a 30 minute conversation with the cashier about their 104 year old grandmother. The Danes are reserved and respect personal space and boundaries but are not closed off to a friendly interaction with another biker at a red light.

Cast of Shameless

I know immediately halt my discussion on Denmark to talk about another thing that brings me a sense of belonging: Shameless. If you've heard of Shameless, but have never seen it, you may be aware and shocked by its vulgarity. If you watch Shameless, you are most likely in love with its honesty and in awe of its portrayal of family, loyalty, tragedy, addiction, etc. Just like Denmark, I can't exactly pinpoint how I feel like I am a part of the Shameless family.

I don't necessarily think of myself as one of the characters like Fiona or Debbie. I also feel like more than just a fly on the wall. However, I do feel like the events in the show affect me. When a character makes a selfish decision, I feel upset and think: "why the hell would that do that to US?" William H. Macy portrays being a deadbeat alcoholic father so well. Like the younger kids in the first season or 2, I find myself putting too much hope in Frank, knowing deep down I'll be disappointed. We always end up being disappointed by Frank.

"You don't get to just abandon your kids and then show up one day to take your pick of the litter" Fiona to Monica

Every winter season I feel like I need to pitch into the squirrel fund. I remember rooting for Lip to get into college and how painful it was to watch him spiral out of control and become an alcoholic. I remember how angry I was when Debbie purposely got pregnant at such a young age. I felt so betrayed and worried about how they would provide for another baby. As the audience, we were there every single time Fiona got her heart broken. Each relationship seemed to be healthier than the last, but it always fell apart at the last second. I felt so protective over Carl when he was trying his best to get out of the gang life. Behind the guns, drugs, and grills we all saw the fear in his eyes when he found out what his friend did to the kid that stole his bike.

In every character, I see a piece of myself. I see my hotheadedness in Fiona, my feminist side in Debbie, my foul mouth in Lip, my nurturing side in Veronica, my inner dumbass in Kev, and my selfishness in Frank. For anyone who struggles with mental health like I do, you probably find comfort in Sheila and Ian. They are never portrayed as crazy or as the token characters with mental illnesses. I see myself in Ian when he struggles to get out of bed in the morning. I feel seen by Sheila when she is too riddled with anxiety to walk outside amidst the chaos of the world.

Every Sunday night during a new season, I know that I can leave my worries behind and step into the frigid south side Chicago weather to be a part of this dysfunctional family

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

When I lived in Copenhagen for 4 months, I was introduced to a genre of crime fiction called Nordic Noir. I was already familiar with the genre, unbeknownst to me, since I had read and seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a novel by Steig Larsson. It had been years since I read the book, so I decided to read it again at the request of my Danish best friend and fellow feminist, Ida Cordelia. Here are my thoughts on the novel/movie regarding feminism and violence against women:

Many refuse to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo due to the violent nature and the hostility towards women that the novel captures. However, the violence and the misogyny is too often misinterpreted. Sure, it is bone chilling and downright disturbing and there are no clear disclaimers that say “THIS IS A FEMINIST NOVEL”. The reader has to dig and analyze just exactly what the events mean. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is without a doubt, a femi-krimi novel.

Those who claim the novel is swamped with misogyny have a point. The novel contains, in graphic detail, the rapes of Lisbeth and the various murders of women by Martin. One can argue this is for entertainment purposes. It is uncomfortable. That is precisely the point. Sexual violence against women needs to be discussed and Larsson is trying to push it. Many readers may feel uncomfortable or taken aback by the type of victim Larsson paints Lisbeth as: the angry woman. Lisbeth is a victim of sexual violence, and she is out for blood. She tortures her former guardian relentlessly and wants nothing but for him to be in pain forever.

While the novel is plagued with graphic details of rape and the attitudes that women face every day, it succeeds in bringing awareness. In addition, it emphasizes the feminist nature of her relationship with Mikael. At the start of each part of the novel, a statistic about violence against women was the first thing the reader came in contact with. Many of them were jarring, and that is the point. It allows the reader to enter the next stage of the novel with some knowledge about world that women live in. Lisbeth is a controversial character, to say the least. However, she does not let the relentless abuse she faces to distort her ownership of her body or her life. Most notably, she tortures her former guardian into total submission and gives him a souvenir which he will never be able to get rid of. She takes her horrid experiences and tattoos them on her body as a reminder that she is capable of changing the outcome of these experiences.

While her relationship with Mikael is complicated, it is equal. She is not a damsel in distress or a delicate lady who is seduced by a macho man. In fact, she initiates their sexual encounters. Intimate moments aside, they work in tandem. Mikael needs Lisbeth and her intelligence. As a final display of Lisbeth’s strength, both mental and physical, she is the one who ends up saving Mikael from Martin. All in all, this novel is a feminist novel that includes but does not endorse misogyny.

If Mikael Blomkvist, as a real person, was approached and asked if he identifies as a feminist, the answer, like most scandinavian men, would be a yes. In a way, he contrasts the doom and gloom of the novel by being soft boiled rather than a hard boiled detective. The masculinity of a hard-boiled detective is often predictable and even sometimes downright offensive. Mikael, on the other hand, is quite gentle and unassertive.

He is quite different from the macho detective who only seeks for intimate moments with his coworkers late at night. It’s a refreshing change; Mikael never initiates a sexual encounter. Not with Cecilia and not with Lisbeth. “Are you going to come quietly or do I have to handcuff you?” (Larrson). They both seduce him. In typical novels, not just nordic noir, it is vice versa. In fact, he is the one who voices his concerns for the consequences. It was pleasing to have Cecelia make the rules and be the one in charge. This aligns with the typical Scandinavian man. He sees women as his equals and will not search for the upper hand in situations. Mikael is quite introverted and not overpowering towards others in his day to day life in his desolate cabin. His passiveness is quite noticeable every time Lisbeth enters the picture with her dark features and scary tattoos.

In comparison to the hard-boiled Erlendur, Mikael appears weak, but he still gets the job done. Erlendur bottles up his inner battles, for example, his issues with his daughter, and unleashes them in the field, leaving his coworkers inching away from him. In some respects, they are very much alike. In the back of their minds they are dealing with the complicated relationships of former partners.

Jar City

Jar City, a novel by Arnaldur Indriðason, is another product of Nordic Noir. I was so eager to enjoy this book and for the most part, I did. It was a fantastic crime novel that sent shivers down my spine. The shivers were probably due to the unforgiving Danish weather and the fact that I did most of my reading outdoors, no matter the weather....but you get the point. The movie, however, did not please me because of how it handled/ didn't handle one of the main themes in the book: violence against women

For many years, Iceland has been ranked the safest and most gender equal country in the world. One might say it is as utopian as it is picturesque. Jar City, by Arnaldur Indriðason, delves into the seemingly ideal world of Iceland that is interrupted by a murder. However, underneath the masculine and hard boiled exterior of this novel lies a dark and societally relevant theme that often remains as silent as its victims: violence against women. Indriðason does a fantastic job highlighting the the flaws in the system and uses various sub-plots to strengthen the gravity of violence against women. In the novel, the readers can feel the agonizing aftermath of Kolbrun’s rape through her sister’s accounts, witness the uncovering of the runaway bride’s dark past with her perverted father, and see a now sixty year old Katrin live the rest of her life thinking her rape was her fault. These stories collectively produce a powerful, yet miniscule, brick in the wall of violence against women. Besides Jar City being primarily a murder mystery, some might argue that the main theme is violence against women. However, when the movie was released, it was reduced to just another murder mystery. Through the skimming on Kolbrun’s trauma, the total elimination of the bride molested by her father and the attack on the elderly twins, and the change of Katrin’s rape story to an affair, the film is not only stripped of the novel’s main theme, but it perpetuates the societal habit of pushing these burning issues under the rug.

Kolbrun is technically one of the main characters in the novel. While she is deceased, Indriðason realizes the importance of keeping her suffering and her experiences alive in order to strengthen the theme. To do this, the readers are told, in graphic detail, of the rape and the pain Kolbrun went through during the rape and the years after. “Kolbrun committed suicide three years later. She fell into an uncontrollable depression and needed medical care. Spent a while at a psychiatric ward...I tried to take care of her as best as I could but it was like she’d been switched off. She had no will to live. Audur had brought happiness into her life in spite of the terrible circumstances. But now she was gone” (Indriðason). This small fragment of Kolbrun’s suffering in a way overpowers the entire possibility that one should feel sorry for the murder of Holberg. At this point in the book, the attitude towards Holberg changes from feeling sorry for an old man, despite his bad habits, to anger. Anger because of the lives he ruined and anger at the fact that he was released from this world. The world where he was a monster.

If the story was based on true events and those who read the novel watched the film, one can assume that the viewers would take issue with the fact that the producers merely skimmed over the trauma Kolbrun was subjected to. There was no accounts of the demon that violated her in her own home after a night with her friends. They never mentioned The terrible suffering she went through until she decided to end it all. To disconnect this character even further from the audience, there was hardly any mention of the miracle that was Audur. She not only saved Kolbrun’s life, but she also brought her to peace with death. At best, Kolbrun is just portrayed as an object of Holberg’s criminal past.

The theme of violence against women takes another blow when in the film, the runaway bride and the twin sisters are eliminated. Their stories, their traumas, and their burning questions are silenced. While the short account of the elderly twins did not contribute much to the book, the runaway bride was a huge part. This young woman is set to marry a man and have an intimate relationship with him only to still be chained to her experiences being molested by her father. One might argue that removing these side stories was necessary for the run time of the film and to make it more family friendly. But what is family friendly about a murder mystery? These side stories truly strengthened the theme and, therefore, removing them was downright irresponsible and counterproductive.

By far the most shocking and insulting decision by the film producers was the idea to change the story of Katrin. In the novel, she is another victim of Holberg. She is living a double life, no one to share her pain or story with. Her pain and self shaming reveals the belly of the beast that is life after sexual, emotional, or physical violence in a woman’s life. “I blame myself for it, My God...nothing you say can change that in the slightest” (Indriðason ). She also puts the blame on herself by recounting that she had been drinking and dancing and has made some contact with Holberg. At first glance, it is just a statement given by a victim. However, one may come to realize that her feelings of guilt and self-blaming are representative of a much larger dark cloud in society. Separating blame from the victim is a mindset that needs to be adopted by society and Indriðason does a fantastic job highlighting it. But, yet again, someone in charge of the contents of the film had the idea to turn Katrin into a liar. The type of women that are often falsely shown in mainstream media that use sexual assault as a cover story for their unfaithfulness. There is a point in the scene where Katrin admits her wrongdoings and says “this is all my fault”. The scene ends there. No one consoles her or tries to tell her that all the events that had played out were not due to her lie. Not only does this demolish the theme of violence against women completely, but it also perpetuates slut-shaming and reinforces the idea that women are partially at fault for their abuse.

As previously stated, the film strips the novel of its underlying theme. Which, to many, is bewildering considering the fact that Katrin’s story promoted a valuable mindset that needs to be adopted by society. Violence against women is much more than a Holberg against a Kolbrun. It spreads like poison and soon, it becomes the victim against herself and society. Without this theme, the storyline is completely changed and evokes less emotion and less of an impact. With the help of Indriðason beautifully and tragically writing the stories of Kolbrun, Katrin, the bride, and the twins, violence against women is addressed in a heart wrenching and eye opening way.

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