Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Girls with dragon tattoos and other select professionals

It's a bit disturbing - isn't it? - that a book can be so critically misjudged by its cover.  That nice, clean-cut guy next door might be on the verge of a violent nervous breakdown.  The long-haired bass player you've dismissed as a wastoid loser just might teach special education for a living.  The soft-spoken, understated guy in ragged blue jeans could turn out to be a philanthropic billionaire.

I am finally reading, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."  I applauded Lisbeth Salander when she walked into the CEO's office and handed him his starched, pressed little tush for under-utilizing her based on her appearance.  I was also very proud of him for facing up to his own mistake and subsequently entrusting her with responsibilities she could handle more competently than anyone else at the company.  I laughed, and yet, found it quite realistic, when she disguised herself in "normal" attire for the sake of an investigation (I, too, can donn a suit and play the professional seamlessly when need arises.)  My only disappointment, thus far in the novel, is that she actually does seem a bit messed up.  I was secretly hoping she would turn out to be a completely stable young woman, who just happens to look different from what is expected of her.

"The girl with the dragon tattoo" was my personal nickname (verbatim) at work for about three years.  I acquired it when someone on the corporate softball team noticed my left shoulder blade and commented that they thought it was a dragon.  Coincidentally, this was just before release of the book - which, of course, provided hours of endless fun within my company of approximately ninety five professional scientists.  For the record, it's not a dragon.  It's a caduceus (medical symbol) interlaced with a treble clef, and it makes an appearance in, "The Vesuvius Isotope," albeit, tattooed onto a fictional character.

When I began reading the book clearly written in my honor, I began thinking about the general public's perception of a scientist - or any professional, for that matter.  How one looks, and how one behaves.  And ooooooohhhhhh, how wrong they are! 

Truth being told, I work with dozens of professional scientists - male and female alike - who are heavily tattooed, body pierced, and even branded (yes, I said branded).  Of course, I also work with dozens of stereotypical, middle aged nerds with combover.  And I can say without hesitation that physical appearance bears no correlation whatsoever to professional competence.  It also bears no correlation whatsoever to scientific ethics, personal morality, mental or emotional stability, and certainly not to behavior.

Lisbeth Salander, so far, is an intriguing one.  I hope she makes people rethink their perceptions of girls with dragon tattoos.  And I hope she gets the bad guy.   


  1. Hey Kris! I loved this book simply because I loved Lisbeth. The movie is good too. Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth so freakishly well. And...your post just made me think about how writers should consider creating more characters like her. Your post just became the topic of my Favorite Post Friday meme for tomorrow :)

  2. Oh my goodness! That's awesome! I'm looking forward to your post! My stories actually tend to be full of characters like Lisbeth - because those are the real characters I'm surrounded by who inspire them! The funny thing is, one of the critiques I get most commonly is that the character is not realistic. People expect the stereotype so when they don't get it, they think, "that's not what a scientist looks like" or "a professional (fill in the blank) would never say that!" I laugh because it's frequently a true, direct quote, verbatim! So looking forward to your post!