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Well, to add insult to injury, after my poisonous nightmare the night before, I woke up at 11:30pm last night and couldn't get back to sleep for four hours. I'm beginning to wonder if something is eating at me, but if anything is, it's at a level invisible to my conscious mind.

Anyway, since I was awake I finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the third book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. (Thanks to ron_drummond for sending me the first book and therefore getting me addicted!) I saw the three Swedish theatrical films, the American film of the first book, and the Swedish mini-series version of the trilogy before reading the books, so I was to a large extent reading the books against the movies. I think the books are more successful than the mini-series at building up from, as it were, the personal to the political (i.e., up to the level of a government conspiracy), although the mini-series does a good job of honing the books down to a dramatically satisfying story arch.

However, I'm not going to tackle the whole trilogy here, and instead I'm going to focus on something that has bearing on a discussion surliminal and I had about the character of Mikael Blomkvist in the American film of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had suggested that in the American film Blomkvist is portrayed as a bit of a cad who is not abusive toward women but still neglectful of them in hurtful ways. (WARNING: NSFW image at that link.) surliminal countered, in an LJ post I can't locate at the moment, that Blomkvist is portrayed as a passive person who basically does what the women in his life ask him to, and that sexually he's not a cad but somebody who simply doesn't have any hangups. I found her argument persuasive. My argument seemed like a bit of a stretch.

The books portray Blomkvist as much more of a womanizer than either the Swedish films or the American film do. The American film follows the Swedish Dragon Tattoo in eliminating Blomkvist's affair with Cecilia Vanger, for instance. The Swedish films eliminate his affairs with Harriet Vanger (in The Girl Who Played with Fire) and Monica Figuerola (in Hornet's Nest) as well. I have mixed feelings about this. There certainly seems to be a fantasy aspect to Blomkvist's attractiveness to women, but it's also part of Larsson's critique of monogamous heterosexuality, which he also gets into through his portrayal of Lisbeth Salander's bisexuality. Blomkvist is portrayed as not possessive of women, unlike all the men who hate women who are the villains of all three books. For the most part this seems to be a positive trait in him, but then Larsson starts to interrogate that in Hornet's Nest.

The thing I was particularly struck by in Hornet's Nest was the final conversation between Blomkvist's sister and Lisbeth Salander. Annika asks Lisbeth if she has been avoiding Blomkvist for two years (and two books) because she had developed feelings for him. Lisbeth (typically) says she doesn't want to talk about it. Then Annika says something to the effect that Mikael likes to screw around and doesn't realize that it causes hurt and disappointment for the women who develop feelings for him. Essentially she calls him a bit of a cad. This is the first time that anyone in the books has voiced such a point of view, so maybe we're just supposed to understand that Annika is a bit conservative on sexual relations. Yet over the course of Hornet's Nest we've seen Monica Figuerola fall in love with Blomkvist and worry that she's going to end up getting hurt, and we've seen Monica and Erika Berger try to grapple with Erika's relationship with Blomkvist, leaving them both feeling unhappy. We've seen Blomkvist's own uncertainty about what he is feeling for Figuerola. This is left unresolved, but it seems likely that Larsson was going to delve further into that issue in the next book.

So no conclusions here really. There's a lot going on in these books, and the ideas about sex and sexuality are just one strand. I like the fact that Larsson allows complexity around the subject. I'll be curious to see how the American versions of the second and third books, if they get made, treat this thread, or if they'll follow the Swedish films in removing that part of the story to focus more on plot -- specifically the plot against Lisbeth Salander, which is indeed the core of the books.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
surliminal
Mar. 6th, 2012 10:17 pm (UTC)
I suspect from what I know of scriptwriting they too will simplify Blomqvist's relationships to only Lisbeth and peripherally Erika - but we shall see.

I think we agree more than we disagree in that you seem to be saying something like what I see as a central hub of the books - ie te thesis that possessiveness becomes jealousy becomes male violence against women. Therefore Larsson's hero - v much a Mary Sue - is not monogamous (and is also rather more attractive than his writer) - and his heroine -a damaged fantasy object - is skewed away from an important trust relationship by misplaced expectations of monogamy. I see this as pretty deliberate. OTOH given how much of Larsson himself there seems to be in Blomqvist and given my own observations of polyamory it wouldn't surprise me if by bk 3 Larrssson was observing that not everyone has equal power in non monogamous relationships and that people get hurt in them (if not raped and murdered..) - but the main theme, whether I agree with it or not, still seems clear.

But interesting coda..
randy_byers
Mar. 6th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
That's a nice, succinct statement of the theme. And now I've realized that there's another male in the books who is characterized by his lack of possessiveness toward women: Erika's husband. But there are also a number of men who are on the side of the angels whose possessiveness isn't characterized one way or the other: Armansky, Bublanski, Holger Palmgren, Dr Jonasson. I guess Armansky is shown to be attracted to Lisbeth and jealous of Blomkvist's rapport with her, but he isn't an asshole about it, so maybe he qualifies as jealous but not possessive?

It's also interesting that one of the things the miniseries cuts from Hornet's Nest is Erika's experience at the newspaper (a tangent to the plot that I can see why they cut) where she is harassed by a stalker and is protected by two women: a security guard from Milton Security, who acts as her bodyguard, and Lisbeth, who takes it upon herself, despite her jealousy of Erika's relationship with Blomkvist, to discover the identity of the stalker. Larsson really works through some variations on the theme.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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