My first encounter with Lisbeth Salander was a Facebook status. In case you've been under a rock for a while, Salander is the heroine of the new film based on the New York Times best-selling novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by the late Swedish author Steig Larsson. The Facebook status had a young woman reading the book, proclaiming her own likeness to Salander. My immediate reaction, though I knew nothing at that point about the book or the character, was "uh oh"— for wannabes seldom want the right be.

I didn't add Dragon to my already long reading list, but the recent release of the U.S. film adaptation offered a promising girls' night out after a long bout of end-of-semester grading. Promise delivered. The movie was entertaining, if dark and rough, but not one I'd see again. To me, the most intriguing part of the story was Salander, who apparently has ignited a new obsession among moviegoers now joining longtime fans of the books. One website has compiled a lengthy list of the contradictory descriptions of Salander—ranging from hero to anti-heroine, from interesting to terrifying—proving her to be a kind of Rorschach test of cultural icons. The trendy clothing chain H&M has even announced a new "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" line. Clearly, the character the The New Yorker touts as a new kind of heroine is catching on.

And that's a shame.

For anyone who's unfamiliar with Salander, here's the lowdown. (Note, this isn't a film review and not having read the book, I offer analysis based only on the film.) Salander is an anorexic, pierced and tattooed, 20-something cyberpunk and ward of the state (having been declared mentally incompetent) who turns her hacking skills and photographic memory into adventurous private investigation ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.