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.”