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.
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
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.