The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2) The Girl Who Played with Fire question

Salander's breast implant, Larsson's contradiction
Sabah Sabah Feb 14, 2012 11:57PM
Although the Millenium Trilogy has a big part of it dedicated to women's rights and anti rape and domestic abuse causes , I couldn't but feel scammed when in the first part of "The Girl Who Played With Fire" Larsson described Salander's new and improved breast size as "improving her quality of life". I know it was the point of view of Salander, but a powerful character like her shouldn't be affected by something as superficial as this, and it didn't seem right when the author tried to justify it by her having "abnormally underdeveloped breasts". I was very disappointed by his objectifying of women. And although his striving attempts to being different he is just being a less intense misogynist. Does anyone share my feelings?

I don't think that creating an imperfect character makes the author a misogynist. Would the world be a better place if everyone was happy with their natural bodies? It would. Does the author hate women because he writes about a world in which that is not the case? Of course not.

The more interesting question, in my mind, is whether this bit of character development fits with Salander as the author developed her in the rest of the text. I think it does. She is powerful, but she is not perfect. Though she presents an image of wanting to push people away, and is clearly tough as nails, she also wants to be liked and loved and is not entirely comfortable with herself as a social being. I think her decision to get implants fits with that aspect of her character. Notably, the decision comes on the heels of what she sees as a rejection by Blomkvist, in favor of Berger, who is much closer to traditional notions of sexual attractiveness. Salander's implants are an indication that this experience truly did shake her. While she is a tattooed badass, she is also much more complex than that.

Eyehavenofilter (last edited Mar 16, 2012 04:46AM ) Mar 16, 2012 04:30AM   2 votes
Without question, we accepted Lisbeth's tattoos, facial and body piercings, dyed mohawk hairdo, goth type makeup and style of dress, sexually ambiguoius appearence etc; so why not her decision to severely alter her appearence in another way?
Just because it might quantify her as female? Finally?
Perhaps that was Lisbeth's decision " so to speak ".
We can't have it both ways.
She can't be a female Peter Pan forever.
Larsson probably figured that out, and she had to grow up somehow. She had to evolve in order for the story to evolve, so she had fallen in love, adult love, and Blomkvist had awakened something inside her. He had almost replaced her old mentor but in a different way. Not as a father figure but as a partner. A "trusted friend" if you will. She was
maturing in so many ways. Mentally, emotionally, psycologically, and physically! This time it was spiritually and sexually as well!
What better way for a writer to sybolize that, than to have her to choose to develope her own breasts?
Just a thought!
I'm sure Larsson didn't plan his demise and there was much more to Lisbeth's story that we may never know about. That's the only thing that I don't like about it!

Adam Rugen I dont think Julie meant that the surgery makes her grown up but rather the reasoning behind Salander's decision to have the surgery is her growing up ...more
Sep 28, 2014 10:50PM · flag

I've heard this opinion a lot in a lot of different sources and I must say that I don't agree with it at all. To be a stroong women you do what makes you happy and if that means doing whateveer to your body then that is your choice. Larsson is far from a misogynist but since he is a man and he shows the brutality and choices of a woman he often gets branded as one. Salander getting breast implants does nothing to impact the plot of the story but it does show that Salander is strong enough to make her own choices. Salander, little breasts or big bazoomas, is still a brilliant character and Larsson is the best parts of a femisist. He shows Salander's bravery and I thought that her getting breast implants showed that she was a brave character who can make her own choices. Salander does what she wants and this is soomething she wanted to do. It was an effective move and i applaud Larsson for doing ii but then again this is the man who gives us shocking attack scenes. He is completely fearless with his writing.

I saw these physical changes as growth and control. Removing the tatoos makes perfect sense to reflect her personal awareness and maturity. The breasts made her feel more normal. That's all she ever wanted. I had no issue with it (besides, I was turning the pages so fast...)
either way, what's cool is we're talking about Lisbeth like she's a real person. I LOVE THAT!

I am not very well endowed myself and when Salander got her implants, my first thought was, "Good for her!" She did it for herself and her self image. She didn't do it because some one else wanted her to. I think calling Larsen a misogynest is quite a stretch. I think of myself as a strong "character" in my life, but hell, if I had the money, I'd get implants too. I have to do what I can for myself, to pull myself up, because there is no one else out there who is as vested in me as I am. I believe that goes for everyone, women and men alike.

Merrie (last edited Apr 24, 2012 07:28AM ) Apr 24, 2012 07:27AM   1 vote
I coulldn't agree more. I was caught completely off guard with the decision of Salander to get a boob job. The first book made her out to be a strong, independant, "take no shit" woman and I feel that this took away from that. This made her out to be superficial.
I am halfway through the third book now, and the further I get the more I wonder if Salander's boob job was meant to show some sort of vulnerability. Was it leading up to the helplessness she is now faced with? I feel like in the second and third books, Salanders character has made vast changes. She has gone from doing everything for herself and never being the victim to putting herself into stupid situations that anyone in their right mind wouldn't put themselves in and rendering herself helpless.
The concept behind the books is a fantastic one but Salander's character nas been turned into a sex object. First with the boob job and now by the media in the police investigation.

she is a woman...thats the point! deep inside she wants to be i dont know if pretty, but for sure a little bit sexy, she consider herself to skinny and the whole stuff...i totaly understand that!!!
is simple is a woman.

I flip-flopped on this ... it caught me by surprise, and did not sound like the Lisbeth Salander I "knew". BUT it also struck me that she would do WHAT she wanted to do when she wanted to do it, and not worry about whatever anyone else might think.

The "I don't think so" is winning, though ...

I don't know if it makes the author misogynistic or not, but I know it disappointed me. A lot is made of her bucking traditional beauty ideals and being an individual; I respected that and mourned its demise.

F 25x33
Marion Coro I do understand this viewpoint.
Dec 30, 2013 08:40PM

I thought it was odd for her character, but speaking on womens rights maybe what the author was trying to say was that salandra had that right to change herself out of an insecurity. Maybe that is what made her more relatable. I will never have surgery to change how I look but is it not empowering to say, fuck what others think I want this! Not for a man or society but for me! In the end I bought it.

deleted member Mar 06, 2012 03:25AM   0 votes
This was one of the reasons I didn't finish the book. I thought this situation (and others) really detracted from the characterization of Salander from the first novel, and the way it was written made me feel like I was reading an ad for implants, one that was trying to convince people that being flat-chested is the worst thing that can happen to a woman.

YES. I felt this way, too. I almost put the book down I was so angry.

But, then I kept reading. As others here have mentioned, she suddenly became so human. Her love for Blomkvist, and his silent rejection of it, opened her eyes to being more than just the eccentric person she portrayed herself as. I don't think Larsson was objectifying her - she didn't go out and get them because she was vain. She also played into the objectifying world she lives in. It is easy for any of us - even Salander - to fall "prey" to these things.

I was more upset about the wasp tattoo removal and piercings gone than the implants, personally. But, she is also a wanted woman and a non-tattooed, non-pierced, voluptuous woman is not who they are looking for.

It wasn't distracting to the story, for me.

No, I disagree. I think if anything, it made the character of Lisbeth even more real. It adds depth to her peronality. She isn't a one dimensional cardboard cutout, fighting the injustices of society against all women. She's a relativly young woman, who has a lot of issues. One of them, which shows up time and again, is she has problems with her body. Now, she has pretty much set herself at the end of Dragon Tattoo to address some of these things. It shouldn't be a surprise that she went out and did something like this.

I did think of it as a contradiction for a moment but then continued...further ahead he also adds many other human touches to her and finally her gory past just kind of justifies it all...So I guess it was kinda okay for her to get breast implants.

I also found it very out of character and unfitting to the story. Salander feels very insecure about herself, however, getting breast implants is not the solution to that problem, and nothing from the first book pointed to the fact that Salander would do that. Lisbeth instead seems to go out of her way to be different, and does not fit in, nor care to fit in, with cultural norms. She was also able to find apperently a number of willing sexual partners with a small chest. Sadly, my thoughts are that they are there to fit what James Bond turned journalist Blomvest (and Larsson) find more appealing.

I don't think breasts implant to be desrespectful, or degrating to women. People, sometimes, don't like points of their appearence, it's normal. An she when she could, changed. People should not always love how they are, is health, between limits, to wanna improve yourselve.

Lisbeth has gotten an enormous sum of money so when she got implants i think its consistent with human nature to improve ourselves when we have the means. Not only physically, she also started to fill up her emotional needs by taking care of her guardian (the lawyer). I like what Larsson has done here.

All in all, people will change and/or alter who they are in order to feel better about themselves. That's we diet, exercise, plastic surgery, counseling, tattoos, piercings, etc. It's all to fulfill a need inside each and every one us whatever that might be.

I thought it a bit odd too. My thought at the time was that Larsson realised what a powerful character he'd got with Lisbeth, and was preparing to launch her as a main character in a series of novels aimed at a wider, potentially more commercial, audience.

('Making her more Hollywood', was my actual thought.)

Larrson as author can create as many paradoxes as he wishes, for me it made it all the more interesting and he's not subserviant to political correctness. Lisabeth was written as an extremely damaged "child" but with a brilliant brain - read the final three chapters of the 3rd book to see what I am talking about

At first, I thought it was weird that Lisbeth went through with the operation. However, it does mention on page 19 that her flat chest bothered her, and I think most people are vain enough to change some aspect of their body if they don't like it. After all, why is plastic surgery still a booming business?

Tbh i read it and i didn´t pay much attention to it because i guess i related this event with her recent fortune and her feelings for Blomqvist - the feeling of rejection that she experienced when she saw him and Erica walking away maybe made her feel like she wanted to be atractive in a more traditional aproach.

I don´t think that it´s not objectifying women, because then, everytime you diet, change your hair-style, go do your nails can be seen as you sub-duing yourself to the rules of society in terms of making yourself desirable = object, as opposed to doing those things to feel good about yourself, to like what you see in the mirror. If you do those things with the other people´s opinion in mind, then that is a superficial thing; if you do them with your personnal satisfaction as a goal, to feel good about yourself, then there is nothing shallow about it.

I think that my brain cells, inteligence and character stay the same after a trip to the haidresser, to wax the legs or even, if i would be in the mood for it - breast implants.

I think that while at first it was surprising and maybe even a little disappointing, I believe that her breast augmentation was a crucial step in her character growth. It was after she got the procedure that she starts to make changes and get her life in order (only for it to fall apart again). Both Dragan and Palmgren comment on her new found maturity. I think that her breast augmentation had to happen for her to grow and develop in this way.

Salander was unhappy with her small breasts. If I remember right, it was a source of shame. I don't think it belittles Salander if she got big boobs and that made her happy. She needs little flaws... little hiccups of the personality to make her interesting.

A Swedish reviewer commented that tattoos are very common in Sweden. Having them does not at all make a person marginal. As to the implants, Salander is still a maturing sensual woman with some vanity. Also, if she has history as a ward of the state, taking control of her body for her own desires, whatever they may be, is empowering.

Hmmm. Mixed bag here. Personally, I don't like tattoos or piercings and tend to view them as antisocial, or an intentional barrier to ward people off, though I have known a few ladies who have had tasteful decoration on their anatomy that is usually only seen by those that they are intimate with, so in some instances, I can overlook them. Piercings are a big turn off for me and I stay well clear of anyone with a faceful of scrap metal, so I guess Lisbeth did want to alienate herself from unwanted or unwarranted attention, from people like me, I guess...?. The breast implant thing did seem to be a step in the wrong direction...I had to fight a losing battle with my own daughter to try to dissuade her from having them, and actually think that augmenting her breast size has only undermined and devalued her as a person. Awful thing for a father to say, but it is true. In the case of Lisbeth, I also view it as out of character for her, but think that calling the author a misogynist for it a bit extreme...perhaps misguided in the scheme of things.
Still, it's hardly worth getting heated over now...there won't be any more, which is a shame, but probably the Trilogy was about enough and any more would have been a step too far?

The focus on Lisbeth's appearance *throughout* the trilogy was contradictory and troubling, but it made sense given that it's impossible to package folks into clean neat packages of being this or that. Also, many 'rebels' rebel along normative lines, and often end up being conformist in some respects - sometimes even more conformist than what they claim to be against.

I think it is a bit extreme to call the author a misogynist because of it.

She had been using the bra-fillers implants as part of a disguise and had liked the way she looked in the mirror.

Remember that she had also almost fallen in love Blomkvist and she was surprised at the feelings she felt about him.

She wasn't entirely immune to vanity.

I think it was a brilliant touch! Salander was a very powerful and unusual character. It made her somehow unreal to me. Such details, not really important for the overall plot, made her more of a real person. Sher might have been eccentric to a highest degree but she was still a human being, a woman - after all self-conscious and insecure about her appearance and maybe even a little vain.
And what do you mean by "something as superficial as this" - aren't you a misogynist here, calling 99,999% of women "superficial"?

I think Lisbeth always felt uncomfortable with her small breasts and that's why when she had money she went to get some implants to feel better with herself.

I find that a bit contradictory because that's something i never would've thought of Lisbeth, but i can somehow understand it. She wanted to look and feel a bit more mature and developed for a change.

I also was very disappointed with this turn of events. I didn't feel like it fit Salander's character at all. She does not seek male attention or approval. I know that she felt rejected by Blomquist, but it still felt very out of character for her. It doesn't seem to me that she would conform to society's narrow idea of female beauty like that. She is such a rebel and to surgically alter herself is a sort of conforming to male desire. It just felt wrong for her particular character.

she is a ficticious construct --not a person - & written by a man -- no author can convincingly represent characters of the opposite sex--so, how ever hard he tries not to, his fantasies automatically project themselves onto her--- So theres a long s & m scene with abuse- the obligatory scene where the young woman suddenly inexplicably wants to sleep with the much older man, etc-- punk fashion, inflation to lara croft size breasts... amusing-- the politics are worthy but the characters lightweight & not particularly likeable -- but its an absorbing entertaining story--

I don't find it out of character for Lisbeth at all. It's all about defining herself as a human and as a woman. I see the inplants as the same kind of molding her body and identity as the tattoos and piercings, just in a different direction.

See obviously cares about her apperance. The dragon tattoo is big and very well thought through. It has helped her become isolated from society in general, which is what she wanted. She was - and is - and outsider, and marking her body to match is makes sense. Piercings are never about not caring about your body and always a way of defing yourself, same as clothes and dying your hair. It's more extreme - and so is getting breast implants. Lisbeth never does anything half-hearted. To react to her feelings with an extreme fits her.
Falling in love with Blomkvist makes her realize she is a more sensual and caring woman than she thought - she has real feelings. Getting the implants is her reaction and a kind of acceptance of herself. It's also moving her closer to taking an active part of society in general and I think she knows it.

In general, I don't approve of breats implants, because they often match and reproduce a society based on male dominance. I often see it as a sign of weakness and compliance. However, you have to factor in the individual. It's not weakness here. It's strenght.
Larsson makes this point clear for us by having her feminist lover accept the implants without doubt.

You keep a lot of people away with pierings and tattos - but you also get accepted in other circles. I completly disagree with the point of it being defiling her body. I love pierings and tattos, find them beautiful and sexy. I move in circles and share political oppoinions which makes me identify with Lisbeths girl-group. She's almost accepted here.

Oh, and please overlook bad spelling - non-native english speaker.

I completely share your feelings. It just seemed so out of character for her. Salander has covered her body with tattoos and piercings, leading me to believe she would rather defile her body to keep people away, so it doesn't make sense for her to get breast implants that would attract people to her. (Hope that makes sense how I said it).

I thought I was the only one! I absolutely felt the same way and was disappointed as I felt it was completely out of character for Salander. In addition, (as you pointed out), I found this in complete contradiction to the theme of anti-abuse and objectification of women. I would hardly characterize Salander's character as 'perfect' in any context but I think the point is that this particular event in the book seemed inconsistent with everything we had learned about this character and everything we came to learn about the character. Salander is a complex character but being a woman myself, this part of the book did not sit well with me or ring true with the female character I had come to know so well.

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