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Book Review: The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Book Review: The Psychology of the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth Salander is one of the most intriguing literary characters of all time. A new book, The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, examines Lisbeth’s character in depth. The book’s publishers, SmartPop (BenBella Books, Texas), recently sent me a copy for review.

Edited by a clinical psychologist and written by various PhDs in Psychology, The Psychology of the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo gets inside Lisbeth’s head in a more thorough and professional way than any fan or blogger could. The essays look at Lisbeth’s personality, decisions, and growth, e.g. her Goth appearance, the tattoos and body piercings, the silent stance, and even the significance of Lisbeth’s breast implants toward the end of the third Millennium Trilogy novel.

The Psychology of the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo not only looks into Lisbeth’s reasons behind her behavior, but places those behaviors in a larger society as a whole, giving us a broadened perspective on the beautiful logic and justice of Lisbeth’s joie d’ vive. In dissecting the hero of Lisbeth, the academics build up her character to the superhero proportions it deserves.

Lisbeth is truly the newest Titan of our day. Superman would want to whisk Lisbeth away to his bed but Lisbeth would geolocate the Fortress of Solitude within seconds and broadcast its GPS co-ordinates on the Internet. Spiderman would want to web her up but Lisbeth would nail his feet to the floor, then empty his accounts and publish his identity on Facebook. X-Men’s Storm would make Lisbeth laugh (then maybe Lisbeth would seduce her). James Bond 007 could learn quite a number of tricks from Salander, like international hacking techniques, disguises, videotaping, money laundering, weapons handling, and hand-to-hand combat theories. The Terminator would give Lisbeth pause but she’d find a way to either sleep with it or erase and reprogram its harddrive. Or both, in reverse order. Lisbeth is supremely capable and cannot be stopped.

How did Lisbeth get this way? What age-old mythology supports Lisbeth’s super-humanness? Why do people tattoo and pierce themselves? Why are we so uncomfortable when someone like Lisbeth doesn’t fit into one feminine or masculine profile? By the way, WTF is up with Sweden? What’s with the extreme sexism and the gnarly dudes in the books? What if Lisbeth Salander were real? What would happen then? Where would she have come from?

The Psychology of the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo answers all of these questions and more. Just take a gander at the book’s essay titles:

Part 1: The Girl with the Armored Façade
  1. Lisbeth Salander and the “Truth” About Goths
  2. The Body Speaks Louder than Words: What Is Lisbeth Salander Saying?
  3. Lisbeth Salander as Gender Outlaw
  4. What to Say When the Patient Doesn’t Talk: Lisbeth Salander and the Problem of Silence
  5. Mistrustful: Salander’s Struggle with Intimacy
Part 2: The Girl with the Tornado Inside
  1. Sadistic Pigs, Perverts and Rapists: Sexism in Sweden
  2. Broken: How the Combination of Genes and A Rough Childhood Contribute to Violence
  3. Men Who Hate Women But Hide It Well: Successful Psychopathy in the Millennium Trilogy
  4. If Lisbeth Salander Were Real
  5. Confidential: Forensic Psychological Report: Lisbeth Salander
Part 3: The Girl Who Couldn’t Be Stopped
  1. The Magnetic Polarizing Woman
  2. Resilience with a Dragon Tattoo
  3. Lisbeth Salander, Hacker
  4. Salander as Superhero 
  5. The Cost of Justice

These titles alone are enough to start active fan forum threads. Plus, the writing isn’t at all dry or academic – it’s accessible and flows, but is not in the least condescending to the normal reader. I do wish that some of the essays would’ve steered away from the typical pitfalls, e.g., the first essay on Goth cites statistics that affirm the stereotype of Goths but doesn’t fully examine how those stats are deceiving. Sometimes the analyses can be a bit off. Also, if you’ve read my reviews of the book, I don’t see Blomkvist as such a great guy; In this book he’s referred to as a good influence on Lisbeth (perhaps so, but Blomkvist is no prize himself). Another thing I had an issue with was the promulgation of the word “Girl” to describe Lisbeth. I understand the book is just riffing off the American title but as responsible citizens and members of the Psychology profession, I would have hoped for a bit more accuracy. (There’s a great essay about gender in the book, though, and it’s worthy of study by any top Women’s Studies university-level classes).

I did enjoy the book and will keep it as a reference for my own character studies in my writing. Enjoy the American version of the movie, which releases on December 21, 2011 and then pick up a copy of this book for the fan, the literary writer, the psychologist in you or your family. It’ll add depth to your knowledge and understanding of our most favorite modern-day hero, Lisbeth Salander.

-Christine Cavalier


Book Details:

Title: The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Editors: Robin S. Rosenberg, PhD, and Shannon O’Neill

Publisher: Smart Pop, an Imprint of BenBella Books, distributed by Perseus Distribution

Publication: December 2011, $14.95 (CAN $18.95), Paper, ISBN: 9781936661343

Psychology, 256 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cathyfever 7 January 2012, 10:20 pm

    I’m the one writer out there who hasn’t read any of these books. I’m very hard-headed. Once a book is main stream, I’m out. Until I realize I’m wrong, lol. This post has me even more intrigued than the word on the street and trailers I’ve seen. Can’t wait to read the first book! I know, I’m a loser for not having read it already.

  • Fresketic 23 January 2012, 1:13 pm

    Why don’t you recommend the swedish film? I’d definitely say watch that before the new American version!

    • PurpleCar 23 January 2012, 1:20 pm

      I saw the swedish film… it wasn’t very good. If you didn’t read the book, you’d have no idea what was happening. Noomi was good though.
      -Christine Cavalier