In a world which cares passionately about descent, he would have been born illegitimate, had his disgraced mother not been rescued by marriage to another man. His associates are at best unimpressive. He is often found in the company of collaborators and prostitutes, the diseased and the insane. He joins an exciting new movement; shortly thereafter its leader is beheaded. He takes it over, only to be repudiated and betrayed by his own followers. In time, he too is executed.
Most myth and fable is too good to be true, but the gospel narrative is too unutterably depressing to be false. Except of course the beginning and end, of which presumably the reverse is the case. To believe otherwise would be an act of will.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is only so-so as a genre thriller. But it strikes a chord with us culturally because it perfectly articulates a certain feminist consensus. Don’t forget that the title in Swedish, which was changed to improve marketing in the US, was “Men Who Hate Women,” and this literary title functions as if to say, “you know: all of them.” And indeed, it is one great big 80s/90s feminist cliche, a pedantic exercise in heterophobia. Yet we love the story because we love Lisbeth, and we love Lisbeth because she is the perfect embodiment of a certain collective dream of the Meaning of the Feminine: as Victim, Subsequently Empowered. The “good” male exists outside of any committed, emotionally open heterosexual relationship, can only relate to a girl, and only if he is utterly sexually passive. The “good” female is immature, unfecund, emotionally inaccessible, amoral, assertive. It goes without saying that the only real extended family shown is essentially evil, itself the heart of predatory capitalism, which in turn is identified in a cartoonish way with Nazism, the off-the-rack villainousness for us for decades now.
The most hilarious thing about us is that we tell ourselves that all we care about is justice, that we’ve utterly transcended sexual guilt and anxiety as a culture. Yeah. Tell me another one. A more honest Swedish title would have been: “Western Man Who Hates Himself, Fantasizing About Girls.”