Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander
Baldur Bragason/Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.
The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson is, without doubt, a publishing phenomenon. ¬†Initially a word-of-mouth success, sales had reached an incredible 65 million by December 2011. With successful Swedish films made of all three novels, and a Hollywood update of the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander‚Äôs story is firmly embedded in our global public consciousness. She is one of a new breed of anti-heroines taking the entertainment industry by storm. Others of this genre include Kristen Stewart as a sword-wielding Snow White, former MMA fighter Gina Carano as a formidable solider of fortune in Haywire, and Pixar‚Äôs forthcoming Boadicea-alike Princess Merida in Brave.
It has been suggested that Salander is not a feminist, perhaps most notably by the latest adaptation‚Äôs star Rooney Mara. However, I would disagree. Salander is undoubtedly fearful of men, but who can blame her, considering her past experiences. The character‚Äôs backstory is particularly brutal. Forced into state care after retaliating against an abusive father, the young Salander was repeatedly failed by institutions and individuals intended to protect her, resulting in her losing legal autonomy and being placed under guardianship. As an adult, she is brutally raped by her guardian Nils Bjurman and determines to exact justice.
Lisbeth is tough, but then she needs to be. Far from indiscriminately hating men, she opens up to and comes to trust several important male figures, including journalist Mikael Blomkvist, her boss Dragan Armansky, and her previous guardian Holgar Palmgren. She is resourceful, loyal and incredibly clever, yet is judged harshly by society, based largely on her appearance and sexual preferences. Without wishing to spoil the plot for anyone yet to experience these incredible stories, I wept with triumph when some recognition finally comes her way. What‚Äôs maybe most exciting about Salander is her polar opposition to tradition female protagonists. She doesn‚Äôt need to be rescued by the male lead (in fact, she‚Äôs often doing the rescuing), and unlike Lara Croft, or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, she‚Äôs not running around wearing tiny shorts or skintight PVC. She‚Äôs fighting for her own rights, and the rights of girls like her, and doing it with skill and bravery; she‚Äôs real, and you can‚Äôt help but root for her to the very end.
Yes, Salander is flawed. But isn‚Äôt everyone? Lisbeth‚Äôs popularity, and Mara‚Äôs recent Oscar nomination, may be a sign that pop-culture heroines are starting to get serious. I suggest that this could only be a good thing. What do you think?
You can read more interesting discussions regarding Salander and feminism here¬†and here.
Girl Museum Inc.