I recently finished reading the Millennium Trilogy by Swedish author Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. The series was bite-your-nails and sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat good. Highly addictive stuff. One of the things I loved most was the main character, Lisbeth Salander. She is so different from most female characters in books (and movies, for that matter): strong, violent, and not conventionally feminine or beautiful. The character as well as the author have been claimed by many to be feminist. While I do think that Larsson’s books broke down many gender stereotypes and aimed to bring attention to violence against women, I still some have feminist qualms.
I am very disappointed with the English titles of the books labeling Salander as a “girl”. The original Swedish title of the first book is “Men Who Hate Women”, which better articulates the story’s sexual politics and main theme. The second book is a direct translation while the last book is originally titled The Air Castle That Exploded. I agree with Victoria that calling Salander “girl” belittles her. The series starts off when she is 25, by no means “a girl”; rather she is an adult and should be referred to as a woman. In failing to acknowledge her as an adult, audiences are made to think of her as a subject, a child, a thing to be handled. Yet, Salander is clearly not someone that can be controlled and manipulated. I wish the English titles were more accurately translated or at least true to the main character.
However, my biggest problem is Mikael Blomkvist, the “hero” of the series who seems to be some sort of lady magnet. Throughout the series, he has many love affairs and casual flings. The Rejectionist describes him as a “breast man” who “spends a lot of his time resting his head on the breasts of the lady he is sleeping with, kissing breasts, noting when ladies are not wearing bras, and commencing his sexual endeavors by ‘stretch[ing] out his hand to touch her breast.’” Although Blomkvist is the one persuaded by the ladies, he always gives in. We are also informed in the first book that he was told to seek help for his sex addiction. GAG. To further add to the unrealistic nature of this character, all the women Blomkvist sleeps with end up falling in love with him. Meanwhile, he does not want a serious relationship and is only interested in sex. Blomkvist is supposed to be the “good” guy in the series, the one who actually likes women. But it seems he just likes sleeping with them. In reality, Blomkvist is arrogant, selfish, and immature. Not only does he fail to have a serious relationship with a woman he is sexually involved with, he fails at a relationship with his teen daughter. We are briefly introduced to his daughter in the first book and she is never mentioned again. I cannot possibly think of Blomkvist as a “hero” given these relationships (or lack thereof).
There are many other feminist criticisms of the Millennium Trilogy around the explicit rape scenes, which are definitely worth a read. Nevertheless, I do not mean to dismiss Stieg Larsson’s novels as unfeminist and greatly appreciate the creation of Salander’s character.
I also recommend watching the movies. I’ve only seen the first one but intend to watch the rest. The director was true to Larsson’s leading lady Salander whose is brought to life by Noomi Rapace. She is one tough WOMAN.