Will Rooney Mara win the Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander?

The field is very competitive and she is not the oddsmakers favorite. Indeed, according to one London bookie, she is the least likely member of the five woman field to win the Oscar.  However, we got to thinking the other day about her chances—and about a comment made to us in an interview for our book The Tattooed Girl by Katarina Wennstam. A Swedish journalist, nonfiction author and crime novelist, Wennstam is a thoughtful feminist who has focused much of her work on raising social awareness of violence against women. In The Tattooed Girl, we interviewed her on a number of subjects relevant to the Stieg Larsson trilogy. At one point we asked about her theory of how rape scenes in well known films served as a kind of “rite of passage” to becoming recognized as a great actress. The following is an excerpt from The Tattooed Girl (Chapter 9): 

You’ve written about how rape is portrayed in well-known films. What’s your conclusion?

Once you start looking at rape scenes in movies, it’s like, “oh my god,” because so many movies have them in it, especially American ones. If you take, for example, Charlize Theron in “Monster” or Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry”…the women are screaming because they are being raped. If this is the case, then you can show their breasts or their near-naked bodies in a way that you would never see in a movie that is not X-rated. If she is screaming out of lust, you can’t show it. But if she’s being raped, you can show it. That provides filmmakers an incentive to show rape. And there are quite a few women stars who were never acknowledged as truly talented until they had done a rape scene. It’s the film world’s rite of passage: you have to be raped on camera to become known as a great actor.

Even if Rooney Mara does not win the Oscar, she has certainly established herself not only as Lisbeth for the next two films, but as an extremely talented actress. How much of her new reputation is due to her total performance, and how much to submitting to a rape scene, will always remain unknown. But it does seem to highlight Wennstam’s point. After all, Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress who played Lisbeth in the three Scandinavian film versions of the Larsson trilogy—and played her so well that many fans could not imagine how Rooney Mara could match the performance—is also now a major figure in Hollywood, having appeared in the Sherlock Holmes sequel and in four other international movies now in production or pre-production.

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