Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lisbeth Salander

(Warning: This post contains spoilers.)

There are few heroines that speak to me the way Lisbeth Salander does.

Stieg Larsson has become famous. Everyone has heard of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. But the works speak to me in a way that is perhaps more profound than they do your average reader. I admire Lisbeth Salander, that skinny waif of a girl who is so strong and has so much heart. I love her spirit. I think her tattoos are beautiful. I think every single one of them is a 'f--k you' to all the people who hurt her. I love that she alternatively dresses like a goth, a punk or mixes up the social stratas to be blonde, wealthy women such as Irene Nesser.

And I really love the Swedish film version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"- which I just rented off of iTunes and watched tonight! It was so brilliantly done. It was the fragile, sexy, clever, intelligent, lonely, antisocial and beautiful Salander brought to the forefront. There's a part in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" - the book version- which is so token Salander. She's talking to Blomkvist and she says that Harriet Vanger was a coward and a weakling because by fleeing to Australia she didn't report Martin and allowed him to keep abusing women for the rest of the time that he was alive. And she holds Harriet responsible for that, for the cowardice that allowed Martin to continue to hurt so many other people. And there's an element of justice in that, testament to the unique moral code that Salander follows, that resonates so strongly with me. In Salander's world there is right and there is wrong and choosing to be weak and allowing others to be hurt because you haven't got the guts to condemn them or fight them is wrong.

The movie demonstrates this in a pivotal scene where Salander and Blomkvist are talking and the conversation goes like so:

Blomkvist: What happened out there? [pause] He didn't die in an accident, did he? [pause] Damn, Lisbeth. His father taught him to kill when he was 16 years old. That would make anyone sick in the brain.

Salander: Don't make him into a f--king victim. He nearly killed you. He was a killer and a rapist and he enjoyed it. He had the same chances as everyone else. You choose who you want to be. He wasn't a victim. He was an evil motherf--ker who hated women.

Blomkvist: How did he die?

Salander: He burned to death.

Blomkvist: Could you have saved him?

Salander: Yes.

Blomkvist: But you let him burn.

Salander: Yes.

And the Salander in that scene is all avenging angel justice-in-black-leather with delicate piercings scattered across her eyebrow, nose and ears. You can't help but love her.

She's a goddess in black leather who drives motorcycles, can access your computer and beats people up with golf clubs. She'll only hurt you if you deserve it and she'll dole out justice where it's due. She won't let anyone intimidate her, frighten her or otherwise manipulate her. She's independent in every single way and scary as hell.

She's Froken Salander...and she's a diminutive 4 foot 9 or so.

She's also the answer to Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. McMurphy died to set his ward free...but Lisbeth Salander's going to make sure anyone who wants to hurt her goes down screaming, the smell of gasoline in their nostrils and an axe through their head. Her motto isn't to get revenge; it's simply to get even.

Salander's the answer to girls like Bella Swann or Lexi Gray, the ones who let themselves get pushed around and allow their lives to revolve around men. She's complex, complicated, incredibly intelligent and nobody's b*tch. Buffy the Vampire Slayer looks pitiful next to her.

In short, she's a little bit like my dream girl. And evidently, not just mine, based on the 21 million copies sold of the book.

Long live Lisbeth Salander...the woman who combines femininity, mystery, stubbornness, independence, detective skills and sheer cheek with amazing survival abilities and a wonderful ability to make us readers laugh while she's doing it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 Top 50 Judaism Blogs

So this is exciting...I opened up my email and discovered I'm included in a list of the 2010 Top 50 Judaism Blogs!

Thanks so much to those who nominated me. Hope all of you are doing well!

Update: Alas, this award was merely eloquent spam. Saddening.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

My Lady of the Radiance

Sometimes we cry only for ourselves.

It's a selfish kind of crying. We feel sad or unhappy; we feel as though God has treated us unfairly. We don't understand the challenges He has chosen to give us and rebellious, we cry out to Him and tell Him that we are angry or upset. We cry because we cannot move forward; we are stuck and stagnant. Our feet are caught within swirls of desert sand and as we attempt to plod along, we find that we are unable to do so. We cannot go on anymore. From our parched throats comes only a helpless, "Why?"

And sometimes we cry for other people. Because we don't understand why God has chosen them as His unique recipient of suffering. They're brilliant, bright, radiant and joyous. They're smart, intelligent, lively and clever. Why is it they who must suffer? Why is it they who must bleed publicly, having lost people whom they love and what is worse, lost them voluntarily? What is one to do when one realizes that one did not really know a person? How should they carry on?

It reminds me of a quote in the book Beach Music:
    We were like moons that gave off no light, attracted to the same illusory orbit. Shyla could barely recover her self-respect after having slept with Capers and having shared every secret with him for more than a year. It was not that he had lied about the war that most troubled her, it was that he had told her every night about his love for her, his undying admiration for all she stood for, his adoration of her body, and his ardent desire that they spend their entire lives together. That she could not sense such treachery and dissimulation in her own lover disturbed her far more than that he'd been secretly working for the state. It was not any residue of Capers and his bad faith she feared, but she did not know how to ever regain trust in herself and her own judgements again. Shyla had always considered herself reliable and incorruptible, but never had she thought of herself as an easy mark or gullible to the point of dishonor. She could easily accept the legal consequences of her own actions, but she could not bear being made a laughingstock or a fool for love. So she turned to me and I turned to her, neither of us knowing that we were both keeping a ruthless appointment with a bridge in Charleston.

    ~Beach Music by Pat Conroy, page 719
There is no horror quite as horrible as having given oneself wholly to another, having trusted them with your soul, having offered them all that was valuable in oneself, only to find that you were wrong, that you had judged their character incorrectly. You blame only yourself and you cannot feel confident in your judgments again, for it has become clear to you that you are not as accurate a judge of character as you once were. The betrayal grows within your mind until you are unsure what to think and whether it was you or he who created it and caused it. Were you too quick to make decisions? Or was he really the one at fault? The way at which we guess at ourselves, guessing and second-guessing, permeated by the fact that we still may love the traitor because after all, we did give him our souls...makes life unbearable.

So, my dear one, who is currently in the midst of a very public unhappiness, may you be blessed forevermore; may you meet someone truly deserving of your radiance; may you shine and glow brighter than you ever have and may your heart re-knit itself even though now it must feel shattered all to pieces. The fact that you were the author of its destruction notwithstanding, the pain you must feel is indescribable, so harsh that it must hurt to breathe. Remember only that you are loved by very many, who wish for your health and happiness, that you are a goddess and an inspiration to many, and that this one sadness should not undermine your own sense of reliance or faith in yourself. You are a whole person and your decisions are sound; you could not judge based on what you did not know.

May you be blessed and may you shine like the sun.

Heart to Heart, Lev B'Lev, Hart to Heart: The Shabbat Experience

I recently heard about a fantastic initiative undertaken by a man named Hart Levine, an attendee of the University of Pennsylvania. Levine founded the 'Hart to Heart' initiative, namely a way to expose interested Jews to Judaism without any pressure. Jews who are interested in a Shabbat experience can attend a beautiful Shabbat meal and spend time with other Jews - without anyone actively trying to change their views. Thus, this is not your typical kiruv group and it isn't run by a big organization: it's not NCSY, Aish or anything similar.

Levine's blog is accessible at He coordinates Shabbatonim at various campuses, so if you are interested in having him create a Shabbaton at your secular college, please email him at levblev at gmail.

If you're curious about the organization, then check out the Heart to Heart Project, which has a wealth of informative information, including the group's mission statement:
    "Heart to Heart"/"לב בּלב" is a network of committed Jewish students interested in sharing Judaism with Jews on college campuses. Based on the values of ahavat Yisrael and caring for others, the goal is to connect Jews to Judaism through peer-to-peer relationships. The means are endless, but often start with a welcoming smile, a friendly greeting, and an invaluable invite. There is much beauty, meaning, and value in our Jewish knowledge, experiences, and communities and one of the greatest manifestations of appreciation thereof is to share it with others.
I haven't attended a Heart2Heart Shabbaton myself (though I'm sure it would be a fantastic experience) but this group seems to embody my vision of Judasim. Jews get to have a Jewish experience with other Jews who happily answer their questions, should they have any, and everyone gets to learn from one another and respect one another. I'm not sure how I can help out with this project, but if there's a way, I'd love to do it. Hurrah!

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Loss of Sophisticated Innuendo

The rabbi here pointed me to this interesting quote in an Op-Ed in the New York Times.
    The elemental power of sexuality has also waned in American popular culture. Under the much-maligned studio production code, Hollywood made movies sizzling with flirtation and romance. But from the early ’70s on, nudity was in, and steamy build-up was out. A generation of filmmakers lost the skill of sophisticated innuendo. The situation worsened in the ’90s, when Hollywood pirated video games to turn women into cartoonishly pneumatic superheroines and sci-fi androids, fantasy figures without psychological complexity or the erotic needs of real women.
It's the old argument for tzniut: namely, that the girls are sexier because of what they don't show as opposed to what they do show. A little entertaining to find it in the NYT.