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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:

I lost count of the book reviews I read that basically went like this: HUZZAH FEMINIST STIEG LARSSON, FEMINIST PENNER OF FEMINIST THRILLERS FOR FEMINISTS LISBETH WHAT A BABE.

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_Mikael_Blomkvist_on_bike_Millennium_1_small.jpg

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.
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