From The New Yorker:
When Stieg Larsson’s girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, encounters a man who regards her as “legal” prey, we quickly realize exactly what sets this skinny hacker apart from heroines of the past. Salander invites Advokat Bjurman into the bedroom and leads him to the bed, “not the other way around.” Her next move is to fire seventy-five thousand volts from a Taser into his armpit and push him down with “all her strength.” In a stark reversal of the nineteenth-century playwright Victorien Sardou’s famous formula for successful theatrics—“Torture the woman!”—Salander ties up Bjurman and tattoos a series of vivid epithets onto his torso. A sadistic sexual predator is transformed in an instant into her victim.
We’ve come a long way from what Simone de Beauvoir once found in Anglo-European entertainments: “In song and story the young man is seen departing adventurously in search of a woman; he slays the dragons and giants; she is locked in a tower, a palace, a garden, a cave, she is chained to a rock, a captive, sound asleep: she waits.” Have we kissed Sleeping Beauty goodbye at last, as feminists advised us to do not so long ago? Her younger and more energetic rival in today’s cultural productions has been working hard to depose her, but archetypes die hard and can find their way back to us in unexpected ways.
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” series have given us female tricksters, women who are quick-witted, fleet-footed, and resolutely brave. Like their male counterparts—Coyote, Anansi, Raven, Rabbit, Hermes, Loki, and all those other mercurial survivors—these women are often famished (bulimic binges are their update on the mythical figure’s ravenous appetite), but also driven by mysterious cravings that make them appealingly enigmatic. Surrounded by predators, they quickly develop survival skills; they cross boundaries, challenge property rights, and outwit all who see them as easy prey. But, unlike their male analogues, they are not just cleverly resourceful and determined to survive. They’re also committed to social causes and political change.
Link to the rest at The New Yorker