This past weekend at the American box office, the number one and number two films each featured stars of the famous Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" films in major roles. And one of the top five films was the American version of the adaptation of the first book in the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series of novels, which were written by a Swedish author called Steig Larsson. These novels are a worldwide sensation. Their movies and the stars of those movies are literally taking over the box office. So for those reasons I thought I would examine the phenomenon of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," just like it's already been examined about a million times already.
First of all, I should admit that I have not read any of the books. I tried to read one of them, but I got bored and distracted so I stopped. I then watched all of the first, most of the second, and some of the third of the Swedish film adaptations of the novels. They were tawdry and ludicrous, which are the two things that will always make your work popular if you're thinking of trying to make it as an international bestseller author writer. Anyway, now that I know all about them, here is my examination of them.
FIRST OF ALL, WHO IS "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO"?
"The girl with the dragon tattoo" is one of the main characters in the three books about "the girl with the dragon tattoo." Her name is Lisbeth Salander, and she is in her late teens or early twenties, or maybe her thirties or forties, I couldn't always tell. She is a rebellious punk hacker who plays by her own rules, which is why she is a ward of the state, and keeps getting stuck with these foster fathers who keep raping her. In Sweden, if you get sentenced to spend time in psychiatric wards, they let you out and you have to live with a rapist until you're 30 or 40 or something. The reason why Lisbeth got sentenced to live with rapists is because she threw gasoline (or, "petrol," as they call it in Sweden) on her abusive father, and then lit the petrol on fire and burned him up. You don't learn this until the second movie, I think. Anyway, her father it turns out was a big shot from Russia or something, and he defected to Sweden and started doing a bunch of bad stuff, like human trafficking or something, but a secret organization inside the Swedish government was protecting him because he brought a bunch of stuff from Russia, or something, which is why whenever he beat on Lisbeth's mother they never did anything to him. It's sort of like that group of people in the US government who assassinated Osama bin Laden, except instead of being grateful to them for helping keep the citizens of Sweden safe, we're supposed to think of them as villains just because they put Lisbeth in a mental hospital when she was a little kid. But if they were so bad, why did they let her out and put her with all those rapists? Also, Lisbeth sometimes sleeps with women.
WHAT IS "THE DRAGON TATTOO"? WHAT IS IT'S SIGNIFICANCE?
The dragon tattoo is a big tattoo of a dragon on Lisbeth's back. It is supposed to symbolize that she is a rebellious punk hacker who plays by her own rules. Also, she sometimes sleeps with women.
WHO IS THE OLD GUY THAT LISBETH HANGS OUT WITH?
There is an old journalist called Michael Blomkvist, or something like, who is so European that he sits down to pee at a urinal. He smokes cigarettes and drives from one action scene to another in a hybrid, or on a vespa. At the end of the first movie, he doesn't want to kill the Nazi guy who has been raping and murdering young women for about twenty years, because that would make too much sense, which is why Lisbeth has to do it. He is such a careful journalist that when he studies important documents, such as Lisbeth's government file that proves that she was unfairly sent to the mental hospital and to live with rapists by the secret cabal within the government, and that her father is this big Russian guy or something, he just leaves them lying around his apartment so that when someone breaks in to steal the documents, they're laying right there on his desk, out in the open. At the start of the first movie he's been set up by this big businessman, and he publishes a story in his magazine, Millennium, that turns out to be based on information that is no longer available, or something. He goes to prison for libel, or whatever it is they have in Sweden. But he's still a virtuous, strong, virile Swedish journalist, which is why Lisbeth can't help herself, even though she's about twenty years younger than him, she still climbs on top of him for some rub-and-bump (that's what it's called in Sweden) when they're out at that farm investigating the Nazi family that rapes and kills young women. I don't know what is the Swedish equivalent of a "Mary Sue," but that is what Blomkvist is: Lisbeth gets raped a couple of times, has sex with Blomkvist, and has sex with a couple of women. In the movies, at least, her encounter with Blomkvist is her only consensual heterosexual encounter. Unless I missed something
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" BOOKS?
I don't know for sure. I haven't read them.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" MOVIES?
That I do know, kind of. Lisbeth's first foster father has a heart attack or something, so she gets a new foster father who rapes her. Lisbeth makes a video of one of the rapes, and then ties the guy up and tattoos something like "I am a rapist pig" on his stomach, and then uses the video to blackmail him into giving her the money that she makes in her job as a hacker or something. Some people hired the company where she works (actually I don't think she works there very much, because I can't remember seeing her work there ever again after the start of the first movie) to investigate Michael Blomkvist, so she hacks into his computer all the time and looks at the stuff on his hard drive. He gets sent to prison on trumped up charges, and when he gets out this wealthy man from a family of Nazis who own a big corporation hires him to investigate the disappearance of his sister or cousin or something, about forty years before. It turns out that this guy's brother or cousin or something was raping his cousin or sister or whatever, and the cousin or sister changed places with the other cousin or something, and then ran away and didn't tell the police or anyone that her cousin or brother was raping and killing young women for forty years. She got away and moved to Australia and worked for a charity or something. Anyway, Lisbeth steals a bunch of money from somebody and goes to the Caribbean, then for some reason she comes back and a bunch of people start dying, and it turns out they're being killed by her half brother, who is this big giant blond guy who can't feel pain because he doesn't have nerves, or something. One of the people who gets killed is the guy who raped Lisbeth on video. She ends up fighting her father and half brother at a farm out in the middle of nowhere, and they kill her and bury her body in the back yard. Only she isn't dead; she digs her way out of the hole and then attacks them. Her father gets an ax in the head and her half brother runs away. Finally, after he's had a good nap and stopped for a few smoke breaks, Michael Blomkvist shows up after everything is already over, and Lisbeth's been shot a bunch of times and smacked around. She goes to the hospital and then the guy who kept her in the mental hospital when she was a child shows up and wants to take her back and put her back in the mental hospital. But he can't be too bad or too smart because why did they let her out in the first place, and why didn't they just kill her long before, if they were so evil and smart and wanted to ensure all these secrets didn't get out? Then this other secret government organization contacts Michael Blomkvist, and they enlist him to help them find out about this other secret government organization, the one that was protecting Lisbeth's father. Lisbeth's father, by the way, gets shot by one of the secret government guys, because they're tired of protecting him, so this guy, after all these years of trying to keep everything so secret and quiet, goes to the hospital with a gun and shoots the guy, then tries to shoot Lisbeth because that won't draw any attention, and then when he can't get to Lisbeth, he shoots himself in the head in the hospital hallway. This is apparently par for the course in Sweden, because hardly anyone bats an eye over this and I don't think it was ever mentioned again. Anyway, Lisbeth ends up being put on trial for I think killing the foster father who raped her, although I can't remember, so they play the video that she made of herself getting raped by the guy and then the guy who runs the mental institution turned out to have written his "I think we should commit Lisbeth to my hospital for life" report BEFORE he'd even officially spoken to her, because he kept that in a word document or something on his hard drive and it had a date stamp. Oh, and he also had a bunch of child pornography on his hard drive. So Lisbeth gets out of prison and she doesn't have to have any more foster fathers.
THERE SURE IS A LOT RAPING GOING ON IN THESE BOOKS, ISN'T THERE?
Like I said, I don't know about the books. But in the movies, yes.
SO, WHY ARE THESE BOOKS SO POPULAR?
Your previous question answers this one, don't you think? From cave drawings to the book of Judges to Moll Flanders to Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to random episodes of CSI to The Time Traveler's Wife to Precious to Winter's Bone, people love to see women get punished for, oh, you know, whatever.
ARE YOU SAYING THAT STEIG LARSSON TAPPED INTO SOME KIND OF PRIMAL INSTINCT THAT HAS EXISTED IN HUMAN BEINGS SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME?
Yep. He was kind of a genius. Also, I'm not sure if I remembered to mention this or not, but, Lisbeth sometimes sleeps with women.
SO, WHAT OTHER INSIGHTS DO YOU HAVE INTO THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" PHENOMENON?
I think I'm done. I have done a brilliant job of examining this worldwide cultural phenomenon, for which you are quite grateful.
She's so fierce.