The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo And The Author With The Enigmatic Back Story

By Mickey Jhonny

The tales of Lisbeth Salander, the 23 year old hacker girl, with the dark past and temperament, has been on a role for nearly a decade now. And heck, if you can snag Daniel Craig for the U.S. film, you're rolling in the big time, sweetie.

Brainy, Goth chic though only explains part of the appeal of this pop culture cottage industry - three books, with a fourth on the way, films in both Swedish and English, TV miniseries and graphic novels. The franchise, widely identified as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (or, in some circles, the Millennium trilogy), has an additional cultural cache in the strange back story of Lisbeth's creator: Stieg Larsson.

Larsson's story is a tale pregnant with the ironies of, just before. Just before he became a successful novelist, he was a notorious crusader against what he identified as the dark sources of Fascism and plutocracy in Swedish society. And, just before his novelist success produced a rather large personal fortune, he died.

These facts seem to press upon us at least two pertinent questions. One question is: what if he had not died? Might his great wealth, generated by people freely purchasing his books (and tickets for the movies made from his books), have resulted in a revision of his apparent assumption that great wealth was a reliable marker of dissipation and evil? And, the second question: might the two facts from the previous paragraph be related?

On this latter question, there has been some considerable speculation. Larsson seems earlyish in life to have embraced Communism and that creed has always had something of the conspiratorial about it. So it isn't surprising that much of the 80s and 90s for him were dedicated to uncovering the cabal of right wing plotters and crypto-Aryans.

Toward the end of exposing these villains, Larsson established a foundation and magazine, which he also edited, dedicated to the cause. I don't want to be misunderstood, here: I'm not denying that these kinds of people exist. What I am denying is that they're of any importance. Rather, the real conspiracy to my mind is the conspiracy between such plotters and their avowed foes (such as Larsson), to pretend that they're of great historical importance. That way everyone involved get's to bask in delusions of awesome self-importance. I'm quite confident that the next time barbarism descends on the West there'll be no jackboots or swastikas anywhere in sight.

And, for the record, I certainly do not accept that Larsson's death by "heart attack" (as some insist on putting it) on the "anniversary" (my scare quotes) of Kristallnacht means anything. This is just the conspiratorial mind out of control. Now, I grant you, if they'd waited to whack him in 2008; that would have been 70 years since the original night of broken glass. I mean, 70s years. Now, that would be meaningful, right? I mean, it must mean something? Right? Excuse my sarcasm; perhaps you get my point?

Despite my disregard for conspiracy theory, though, strictly from the vantage point of entertainment marketing, Larsson's obsession with extreme right plotters enabled his literary legacy to cash-in big time, providing the sinister milieu for his bestselling and cinematically adapted books. Weirdly, this political paranoia seems to have at least as much currency in America.

The plots and degeneracy of these blackguard extremists provide the fodder for super-girl sleuth Lisbeth Salander - she of the photographic memory, chess-like strategic mind, mathematical skills to make Fermat weep, and all buttressed by hacker skills that leave any bank or police department computer system naked before her will. Chummed up with her journalist sidekick, Mikael Blomkvist, evil has no chance. Indeed, in one of the sequels, it appears that maybe returning from the dead has been added to Lisbeth's impressive catalogue of super hero skills.

Well, no point mincing words, the whole business is a tad far-fetched. Presumably Larsson thought only a super-hero could bring down the insidious, sinister crypto-villains. But, what the hey, however implausible the suspension of disbelief Larsson may ask of us, his heroic protagonists and their heralded mission provides plenty of entertaining reading (and viewing). And, hey, as the man said, there's no success like market success.

Perhaps there's a lesson in this (perhaps even one from which Larsson might have benefited): even a paranoid old commie can tickle the zeitgeist and crack open the jackpot. Though it may be wise for the rest of us to not ponder too carefully what the popularity of such paranoia says about us.

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