Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I have just finished reading the trilogy and viewing the first two movies in Stieg Larsson's series. I have noticed many basic misunderstandings from those who have only seen the movies. I haven't much time but here are some central themes in the books.

Lisbeth Salander is a young woman who suffered from several kinds of abuse as a child. Her father caused her mother lasting physical and mental injury in front of Lisbeth. Lisbeth was later institutionalized and restrained with a straitjacket for months on end. All her appeals to social workers and psychologists were unacknowledged since the Swedish government did not want a record of her father's existance. Lisbeth is not just an example of what happens as a result of abuse, but of what happens as a result of unacknowledged abuse.

Lisbeth is declared incompetent because she does not answer questions posed to her by the psychiatrist during a psychiatric evaluation. This raises the very real issue of how to tell the difference between selective mutism, low verbal IQ and Aspergers. While the story makes clear that Lisbeth is on one level a genius, we don't know for sure if she is selectively mute because of trauma or if she really is an individual with Asperger's syndrome.

Lisbeth is called bisexual by some reviewers of the movie. This completely overlooks the fact that Lisbeth has an constant attachment and desire for the main character, Michael. He is, on the other hand, unable to return her love since he is promiscuous. Ultimately, he feels that he is too old for her, but he may consider settling down with a woman who does not appear until the third book.

Lisbeth engages in sexual activity with a female friend with the understanding that this is an expression of physical intimacy and tenderness that she is in need of and has not experienced from her parents. She is not bisexual in the sense of desiring a female life partner.

I know too many children who have experienced some measure of the abuse that Lisbeth Salander suffered. The series was a fascinating read for me. The movies seem to leave out anything at all that I found interesting in the book. The character of Lisbeth Salander is very well protrayed, but the complexities of her life are drawn too sketchily to get a sense of her morality.

Eat, Pray, Love, on the other hand, is a much better movie than a book. Actually, they are both rather appalling, but I wanted to see what some other people are reading and viewing. I was rather amused to find that an earnest complementarian quoted from Eat, Pray, Love recently to prove that biblical womanhood is written in our hearts. The truth is that I don't eat pasta, I don't like to chant, and being run over would NOT be my preferred way to meet a guy. Sheesh.


bonnie: said...

Hi Suzanne!

I just found your blog (searching for Grudem), and I'm glad to see you still blogging!
I couldn't get past the first chapter or two of Eat, Pray, Love for all of it's horrid vanity. I couldn't believe they were making a movie out of it.
I heard a radio discussion of the Larson book, and at first was rather interested in it. By the end of the show I had gotten the idea the the abuses she went through and/or witnessed were graphic in the novel. Would you say so?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Sometimes, I read a book like Eat, Pray, Love because everyone else is reading it and it doesn't take long to read anyhow.

I did enjoy the Salander books very much because even though the violence is graphic, it is much closer to life than we like to admit.

There is a murderer here in Vancouver whose only regret is that he murdered 49 women instead of an even 50. This is real life.

The message is important. When abuse and violence are not acknowledged, ot addressed, the victims suffer for this.

I have to admit that my interest was also taken up by the process of psychological assessment and related issues. These books may not be for everyone, but I found value in reading them.