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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hollywood’s renditions of bestselling books “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Hunger Games” set a trend of strong female characters.

With their recent roles in David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and Gary Ross’s “The Hunger Games,” Rooney Mara and Jennifer Lawrence, respectively, became the new Hollywood “It” girls with their strong and unforgiving yet honest portrayals of two young women who are trying to survive in a world that tries to control them — gripping the audiences’ hearts in the process.

The tattooed punk Lisbeth “The Girl who Played with Fire” Salander and working-class girl Katniss “The Girl on Fire” Everdeen are without a doubt fiery characters who both garnered large fan bases since the trilogies were released. However, moviegoers’ new favorite female heroines in Hollywood’s renditions of the beloved books do a lot more than kick butt.

Fincher’s and Ross’ takes on the characters are a feminist’s dream: They have love interests and tender sides that never compromised their strength. Both directors drove the stories forward and revealed the dark aspects of society that are sometimes overlooked, a trait that is surely rare in the male-dominated world of cinema.

This year’s Academy Awards’ Best Actress in a Leading Role category celebrated strong female types, as the nominations, one of which was Mara’s role, were from films that featured extraordinary women who defied the odds. Even Oscar snubs like “Hanna” featured female characters worth mentioning. In 2011, female characters dominated, and in 2012, Jennifer Lawrence continues the trend.

And as the “Twilight” series wraps up at the end of the year, these two characters are a fresh step forward from Bella Swan’s step back. Bella, dubbed a “feminist’s nightmare” in 2009, annoyed the non-Twihards with her hyperdependency and total immersion into the mysterious Edward Cullen.

The ultimate disappointment is that her character did not endure any character change, aside from turning into a vampire, courtesy of her crutch, Edward. In other words, she pales in comparison to the strong and independent Lisbeth and Katniss.

It’s great that the movies don’t stop there — both actresses, who are slated to reprise their roles, have two movies left in the respective series, so the fun isn’t over.

But behind the glitz and glam, Hollywood has brought these two series, there are several dark subjects from the books that the movies capture. “The Hunger Games,” while aimed toward a younger audience, does a great job introducing topics such as poverty, starvation, the effects of war and the killing of peers.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” on the other hand, is aimed toward an older audience. It has intense rape scenes and abuse that reveals to audiences the corruption in the government and authorities.

While the themes appear different, both trilogies capture the essence of oppression and the effects it has on the innocent. Katniss and her family are let down by their world, as she’s thrust into a sick game to entertain a well-advantaged society. Lisbeth is physically and mentally tortured by authority figures for sexual pleasure.

Despite their hopeless, dark situations, both heroines refuse to feel sorry for themselves, eventually rising against the odds and making fools out of the systems that mistakenly mess with them.

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Both characters develop in vastly different ways. To author Stieg Larsson, Lisbeth was an adult version of the unconventional Pippi Longstocking. Her damaged soul was inspired by a young woman, of the same name, whose rape he witnessed when he was 15 years old.

Katniss is a mashup of Suzanne Collins’ childhood feeling of loss while her father was in the Vietnam War and the Greek myth Theseus. The two young women, so similar despite their nine years apart in age, have appealed and inspired women and men around the world.

It’s easy for one to wonder why their appeal has been so strong, and the answer is simple: Both women take control.

This control grips the audience, both on print and in film, as they root for these two young women to make it out alive. And long after the credits roll, both heroines leave you sighing in relief.

For now.

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