An Analysis of Affirmative Violence: Lisbeth’s Case


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1. Almost all acts of physical violence arise from neurosis. Possibly the biological outlier, the psychopath, is an exception? Even the naturalism of that has no conclusive verdict. Honor killings of the betrothed, sexual assaults as result of sexual repression, a child killed for witnessing a parental affair – the immoral image of an affair too hard to confront, therefore, even living evidences are removed. Question of interest: Are affirmative acts of (quasi-)physical violence possible?

2. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the protagonist is Lisbeth Salander: an unsound individual, as labeled by the state. She is appointed a state guardian, who supervises her and allots personal finances and others. Circumstances lead to a new guardian: Nils Bjurman. Immediately, in their first meeting, Bjurman sexually extorts her under the threat of institutionalization. A forced blow job in the office. 

Later, Lisbeth arrives at his place, in need of more allowance. He proceeds to invite her to his house and brutally rapes her. However, it is shown that she captures the footage with a hidden camera in the bag. She plans her rape, a temporary dreadful assault, as to enact something.

Next day, Bjurman expects the same when he sees Lisbeth at his doorstep. However, the door is closed and he is tased unconscious. He is restrained the same way, in metal cuffs, and raped with a steel dildo; thus, traumatizing him for life. She blackmails him with the earlier footage, favorable state-mandated reports and comfortable allowances – the price of not going to prison. As follows, Lisbeth gains freedom from the state, for her, a necessity for any non-neurotic grounds for existing.

3. An interpretation of Lisbeth’s act as a non-neurotic, affirmative one. As shown in the movie, she has her trauma, neuroses, to work through. However, is that not only possible without the threat of rape from the state guardian, where non-compliance costs potential institutionalization?

In Violence, Zizek talks about how physical violence occupies merely the tip of the iceberg, the larger portion occupied by systemic, ideological violence that perpetuates.

This is the starting point, perhaps even the axiom, of the present book: subjective violence is just the most visible portion of a triumvirate that also includes two objective kinds of violence.

Introduction, Violence

While an agreement exists with the Zizekian claim, an introduction of a quasi-inversion: Individual, tangible cases of violence as affirmative acts against the systemic-cultural apparatus. An influence of amorality, a tint of individualism. 

Lisbeth is a perfect example. A voluntary undergoing of a maximally traumatic experience, the rape, a planned violent “submission” – all to overcome it. An explicit materialization of Nietzschean Overcoming, willingly allowing destruction upon oneself as to create anew. In this case, Freedom from the state.

It is easy to read the act as retributive justice. However, that would be a pitiful underselling. Is not her plan a transgression of the social order in the maximal amoral, individual, sense? Deliberate exposure to traumatic violence, as to reclaim freedom, at least fertile grounds where it can be cultivated. As opposed to measly revenge, the explicit act of ressentiment, if there was any.

You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame. How could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

4. We know of the Lisbethian act now. Potential for affirmative (quasi-)physical violent acts do exist. Then, what is the next act of the kind? A new, creative act, the mode of it quite clear. A transgression beyond the context, the historical and the current, a materialization of the non, that which is not all that has happened hitherto, from nothing. That is the next task.

And to the pacifists.

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. 

M.K. Gandhi


Zizek, Slavoj (2007). Violence.

Nietzsche, Friedrich (1883). Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

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