On the Millennium Trilogy
The Cost of Justice
Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander is a unique and compelling heroine who, as Niels Arden Oplev, director of the Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, told Charlie Rose1, refuses to become a victim no matter what happens to her. Haunted, resilient, savvy, dark, unpredictable, and endlessly resourceful, she delivers ingeniously planned and colorful acts of “vigilante justice” to the irredeemable criminals who have the misfortune or poor judgment to cross her path.
Following in the footsteps of previous superheroes–she does, after all, take on evil villains–Lisbeth is a female David to all the misogynistic Goliaths in Sweden. She’s the ultimate underdog: abused, abandoned, disenfranchised, and waif-like in appearance. And we love her, not despite her anger and violent potential, but because of it. Her anger is righteous. Her violence, apparently justified. After all, we neither mourn for the monsters that heroes kill, nor question their choice to kill the monsters. Killing and being killed are what monsters are for. But what are the costs to Lisbeth–and to society at large–for this violent brand of vigilante justice? And, given the exact circumstances at hand, was there anything she might have done instead that would have served both her and society better?
These questions are not posed solely for the sake of a fictional analysis. Though less common than in works of fiction, vigilantes–including female vigilantes–exist in the real world, too, as of course do the inhumane individuals upon whom the vigilantes exact their revenge.2 The Millennium trilogy presents fertile ground …