Throughout “The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo”, all of the characters are competing to discover the unknown, to unearth the hidden mysteries. As Salander says “people always have secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are”(138).
Salander’s job and hobby as a hacker revolves around finding all available information about the people she is investigating. When uncovering details about someone, she goes to all extremes including illegal practices such as breaking into other people’s property. She enjoys “digging into the lives of others”(363) and “loved hunting skeletons”(297) or the secrets people attempt to hide.
Mikael Blomkvist’s has his own share of exposing other’s lies and secrets. As a journalist he worked towards writing an article about the corruption within the Wennerstrom Company. After this, he begins to investigate the disappearance of Harriet Vanger by the request of Henrik Vanger.
In addition to these protagonists, Martin Vanger possesses a strong and creepy obsession to know every last detail about his victims. The Vanger family does not hestitate in discovering the truth to why Mikael is snooping into family history. Bjurman also pries into Salander’s life. Harriet searches for the truth behind a series of murders and attempts to tell Henrik the truth about Martin. All of these characters including Salander and Mikael use the information they gather about others to their advantage and believe that “knowledge is power”(361).
Although most of these characters spend their time and energy searching for truth and bringing the unknown into light, they are not so happy when their secrets are being told and are public. Salander is taken off guard when Mikael barges into her home and has a distain for Bjurman and his evasion of privacy. Mikael becomes angry when he finds that Salander has been on his laptop. Wennerstrom sues Mikael for supposedly writing false information about a secret investment. Martin and Bjurman lose all hope in their lives when their secrets of sadism are going to be publicized. Harriet has to go into hiding before she is able to tell the truth about her brother to Henrik. In addition to this, the pastor comments that Harriet was looking for “the forbidden truth”(442), making it appear that seeking for knowledge is not always positive.
These reactions create the question, how can everyone be searching for the truth of others yet still want to hide their own lies and secrets? As Salander says, “all people have things they consider to be private and that they don’t go around airing in public”(61). Larsson explores the effect that information, public or private, has on people. As people search to known everything about one another and hide their own secrets, it becomes evident that truth and the unknown is key to control and power. Unveiling secrets is not just about holding more knowledge over another but that this knowledge gives a person the ability to outsmart and hold control. Stieg Larsson suggests that each of the characters need to find a balance in hiding their own secrets and seeking out others to remain in power.
Being an outsider within Neptune High’s social hierarchy gives Veronica Mars a perspective that enables her to be a good detective. Because of her fall in popularity and trauma as a rape victim, Veronica is able to have the invisibility and freedom that is required of a good detective. Her independence enables her to find an end that “justifies the means”(Burnnett, Townsend) by manipulating people without being noticed.
In the first scene, Wallace Fennel is taped to a flagpole with the words “Snitch” written across his chest. In most situations, the average teenager would consider it to be “social suicide” to assist the bullied. Instead, Veronica Mars breaks the social norm and helps untie Wallace. Due to her father’s job loss and Veronica’s status as an outsider, she does not have anything to lose socially and can easily free Wallace. In addition to this, her actions are of little surprise and significance to the rest of Neptune High’s pupils because she is low on the social hierarchy. Veronica Mars is able to go under the radar. Due to her ability to stand up to the population of Neptune High and save him, Wallace is in debt to Veronica, which gives Veronica more power. She uses his alliance in future scenes.
With the help of Wallace, she is able to obtain evidence of Weevil and another PCH biker stealing alcohol. Again, who would suspect a teenage girl with little social status to have the bravery and intelligence to trick a police station that mocked her when reporting a crime? Veronica would not have been able to pull this off without Wallace’s help with the remote control. Her ability to obtain the evidence tape is key to acquiring the partnership of the PCH biker gang. Again, Veronica Mars uses her intelligence and lack of social status to manipulate people into assisting her when needed.
Veronica Mars is able to uphold a confidence and independence that allows her to manipulate people and to be a good detective. She is able to maintain a lone wolf personality and be a strong individual through her survival of rape, and her ability to be invisible in society. She proves she has what it takes to achieve what she wants although most of society would believe she is incapable due to her social status and victimization. Veronica remains ahead of the game and in control of those who are in debt to her. She is not just another teenage outcast.
While both versions of “The Scandal in Bohemia” revolve around a woman’s ability to match Sherlock in intelligence, Irene Adler’s choice of dress in the TV series is an important element to consider in modern day society We first see Adler as very confident and masculine: when deciding what to wear upon her first meeting with Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler decides on wearing her “battle dress”. She also uses imagery of blood and war in a way that could be perceived as masculine and aggressive. Compared to Irene in Conan Doyle’s story, Irene Adler’s personality in Sherlock is bold and powerful. Irene does not come across as dainty and feminine as in Doyle’s edition. Adler displays a masculine personality by being over confident, aggressive and describing her encounter as a battle. Adler’s male like persona is a representation of her ability to think and act like a man and to be in control.
In the same moments, Irene can be perceived as feminine through her naked appearance and her sexuality. This femininity does not take away her dominance but rather assists Irene in outsmarting Sherlock and throwing him off guard. Adler’s nudity gives her an immense amount of power over Sherlock Holmes: he asks her to cover up after the shock of seeing her naked. He appears weak and consumed by the distraction of her nudity. This power struggle suggests that men are still addicted and flawed by their obsession with women and sex and hints that women have the ability to use this addiction to their advantage such as Adler did. Simply put, to remain in control a woman must think like a man but use their feminine values to obtain what they want.
The television series, Sherlock, suggests that nowadays that the correct balance of femininity and masculinity enables someone to be in power. Irene Adler’s blurred lines of masculinity and femininity is what enables her to have more power than Sherlock in this particular scene. At the same time, I would like to pose the question: At what point does using your sexuality for power not become okay? Irene’s nudity also calls into question the normatively of being naked and a role such as a dominatrix has in today’s society. It highlights the commonality of seeing a naked woman in modern cinematography and that there is still appears to be an unbalance of female and male roles in power. While gender roles have become more equalitarian, nudity and sex still play a dominant role in the power play between the sexes.
“Spade’s yellow-grey eyes were somber. His face wooden, with a trace of sullenness around the mouth. Cario’s face was twisted by pain and chagrin. There were tears in his dark eyes. His skin was the complexion of polished lead except where the elbow had reddened his cheek.” (46)
The deep contrast between Sam Spade and Joel Cairo displays a battle between masculinity and identity. Cairo exemplifies a character without masculinity. He shows emotion and that he can be defeated: “chagrin. There were tears in his dark eyes”(46). Tears show a sign of weakness but also present a degree of humanity. While Cairo may have first appeared to be in control his strength or “polished lead” was merely a “complexion”(46). Spade was able to wipe away his painted mask and uncover Cairo’s his true face. Without a mask, Cairo’s personality is readable and gives him his own identity. Cairo’s individuality is seen as negative because of its femininity and humanity.
In order for Spade to continue to be seen as masculine, he must have a mask or make “his face wooden”(46). Feelings can be read as limitation and therefore are not seen by others. Hammett gives a glimpse of Spade’s internal struggles of masculinity and identity through the description of “sullenness around the mouth” and his “somber” eyes (46). Spade’s yellow-grey eyes represent his pride of being in control but embody the animalistic personality of Spade. The eyes and mouth are the only evidence of sentiment. The image of Spade’s mask is similar to that of the fat man: “his face was a watchful-eyed smiling mask held up between his thoughts and Spade’s”(109). While the man begins to show his emotions he safeguards himself with a wall between Spade and himself. His eyes are the only evidence of feeling. Although both men are showing strength, masculinity and control, the two characters are so similar they could be interchangeable. They hide behind a wall disguising their personalities and individualism. Hammett expresses that to be masculine means to be in control, to remain mysterious and lack a true identity.
“Spade stood up, thrust his hands into the pockets of his jacket, and scowled at her. “This is hopeless,” he said savagely, “I can’t do anything for you. I don’t know what you want done. I don’t even know if you know what you want.” She hung her head and wept. He made a growling animal noise in his throat and went to the table for his hat…..Spade made the growling animal noise in his throat again and sat down on the setee.”(Hammett, 39)
Sam Spade struggles with being in control of his masculinity and how his masculinity controls his identity. Hammett shows Spade’s struggle of masculinity and identity through changing the description of Sam’s “body like a bear”(12) to “grinned wolfishly”(48). A large bear is more powerful and forceful compared to a much smaller vocal canine animal such as a wolf. Hammett continues to describe Spade making a “growling animal noise”(39) or “grin[ing] wolfishly”(70). Sam’s animalistic persona makes an appearance when there is a question of control such as helping Brigid or fighting Cairo. While Sam Spade attempts to be composed, the imagery of a savage animal suggests that Sam Spade is losing with the power over his own identity. A wild animal cannot make thoughtful decisions and instead bases its actions on instinct, just as Sam seems to be doing.
Sam’s identity crisis is due to his addiction to women. The more Sam interacts with Brigid O’ Shaughnessy and other women, the greater Sam’s internal struggle becomes. Sam downfall begins when he has sex with a miscellaneous woman: following their intimate encounter, Spade’s body “was like a shaved bear’s”(12). His loss of identity continues with Brigid. Because Brigid is a woman, Sam views her as inferior. When he cannot help he feels “hopeless [and] he said savagely. ‘I can’t do anything for you”(39). Sam fumbles with the idea that a woman is in control. Brigid causes Sam to question his own identity by being mysterious, vague and upholding a masculine costume of “incredibly wicked, and an iron-molder by trade”(55). An iron-molder is intended to be a labor-intensive job for men. This imagery also implies Brigid has the ability to mold to the type of personality needed to obtain her needs, almost like magic of a “wicked” witch. The true mystery Hammet creates is Spade addiction to women that lead him to his demise.