Salander on the Couch

Just when you thought every interpretation of Lisbeth Salander’s character had already been written – and written, and written – here comes Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D., in his “Addiction in Society” column in Psychology Today.

Dr. Peele starts by calling her a “misfit” and then goes on to peel away her character this way:

She is not a happy person. She has created a way to be seen as trash. Part of that is a stay-away thing, and part of it is a self-conscious agreement with what everyone thinks of her. She thinks, ‘I’ll live with that if it means no one ever takes advantage of me.’

So why do we love Salander?  Because she is unique?  We hate people who are beyond the social pale.  Because she is an outsider?  We hate outsiders — that’s why they are outsiders.  Because she is poorly adjusted?  We avoid the maladjusted like the plague.  Because she casually breaks the law and strikes out at authority?  We fear and kowtow to authority and teach our children to do so.  Because she tortures her social worker who has abused her?  We recoil from such behavior.  Because she is totally self-contained, and has her own world?

This may get closer to the heart of our infatuation with Lisbeth Salander.  She seems to have total control of this encapsulated world (as in her hacking skills and the rewards they produce).  She puts up with nothing she doesn’t want to — which is hard to do and to live in our world.  So, we return to the question — why do we love someone who is not psychologically successful?

Perhaps we love Lisbeth because she fails to meet our criteria for psychological health, and yet retains her existential being and dignity — which gives us all hope for ourselves, even when we fail by the high standards we set for ourselves.

So now you know.


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