"Dragon Tattoo" Nauseates; Perplexes

"Dragon Tattoo" Nauseates; Perplexes

I heard SO MUCH about Stieg Larsson's  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  It has a strong female character!  It's practically feminist fiction!  I would pick it up and turn it over and read the back, and flip through the pages and read a paragraph here or there and put it back, puzzled. 

I mean, it seemed like "same old same old" to me.  And the prose I caught in bits and pieces didn't exactly wow me.

I was finally motivated to read the book when I learned of the impending movie.  I'm glad that I did, if only because I can re-sell the book.  You can't re-sell your movie ticket when you don't like a movie, more's the pity.

First of all, the book's protagonist is a man.  Who sleeps with - by my count - every single female character in the book who is A) alive and B) not a blood relative.  Some people have put forth the argument that Mikael Blomkvist is a postfeminist male character, because he treats the women as human beings (true) respects them (also true) and doesn't just treat them like his bed buddies (also true).  

Blomkvist is definitely a far sight better than so many male genre protagonists.  But does he HAVE to sleep with every woman in sight?  I mean honestly.

My understanding is that the movie version has shifted Lisbet Salander much more to the fore.  Which is good, because she's pretty awesome, and a lot more interesting as a character than Blomkvist.  But it's important to note that Salander is most definitely a secondary character in the book.  She is the only other character who is told in third person subjective (i.e. we see the world through her eyes), but it only represents about a fifth of the entire book.

And oh, what a fifth that is.  Salander's life is literally not under her control.  She, largely through her own passivity and lack of affect, is a ward of the state.  Let's just say that, from a feminist perspective, this is "problematic."  The text is going to have to deal with this situation carefully and OH GOD HE JUST RAPED HER.

From what I hear, the rape scene is like ten minutes long in the movie.  I'm so grateful I read the book instead, so that I could just skip those pages.  

Salander decides not to report her rape to the police, because she's afraid they won't believe her.  Unfortunately the book makes a pretty good case that this is probably true.  Instead, she blackmails her attacker - slash - state agent into giving her some control back over her own life.  Where is the feminist message in this?  I am sad.

And then what starts out as an intriguing mystery (where did Harriet go?) suddenly devolves into a plot about dead naked ladies, and therefore straight into the puddle of cliche.  This made me extra-sad.  

At one point a dead naked lady is vividly described as having been violated with a parakeet.  All I can say is, if this is the state of feminist literature today, then we're all in a lot of trouble.