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Just how feminist is Lisbeth Salander? Part 2

Posted by Christopher Shea  August 2, 2010 11:40 AM

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I raised an eyebrow (and was hardly the first) a while back about whether "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" was quite as feminist a text as its late author, and reviewers, insisted it was. The original Swedish title was "Men Who Hate Women," which telegraphs the overt polemical intent of Stieg Larsson, who peppered the book with statistics about violence against women.

The Rejectionist (nice nom de blog), an anonymous assistant to a literary agent, makes the anti-"Girl" case with considerably more vigor and detail than I did, at Tiger Beatdown (ditto on the blog title).

First came her annoyance with the universal praise for the book:


She has some gripes about workmanlike prose and caricature villains, but, on the gender front, there's the issue of the male protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, an anti-fascist journalist who is a not-so-subtle stand-in for Larsson--in other words,

A not super-normatively-attractive middle-aged anti-fascist journalist writing a novel starring a "very good-looking" middle-aged anti-fascist journalist whom ladies line up to get breast-grabbed by ...

"And then," the Rejectionist writes, "of course, there is feminist heroine Lisbeth Salander,"

the super hot ("with the right make-up her face could have put her on any billboard in the world") damaged skinny white chick with a bunch of tattoos ("in spite of the tattoos and the pierced nose and eyebrows she was ... well ... attractive. It was inexplicable") who kicks ass. Boy is that a new one in the universe: the super hot damaged skinny white chick with a bunch of tattoos who kicks ass.

Feminist heroine? More like "Tomb Raider" for men who think they are feminists, writes our critic. (She actually has a more piquant line, which I can't quote here.)

But, clinching the case: "There are a lot of dead ladies in this book. Literally: hundreds.... reading the book, you start to get the feeling it’s not a polemic so much as a manual."

It was briefly rumored that notable Harvard grad Natalie Portman was up for the Lisbeth role, in the Hollywood remake of the Swedish film, but that doesn't seem to be happening. Daniel Craig has been cast as Blomkvist, and David Fincher ("Zodiac," "Fight Club") will direct.


Lisbeth Salander: feminist icon and/or male fantasy?

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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