Beyond the piercings, the ink, the leather jacket, the street bike, the hyper intelligence, and the fact that she can kick the asses of boys, men, serial killers and high-profile white collar criminals, what’s so cool about Lisbeth Salander?
Her autonomy. Her social worker, at the beginning of the movie, is a certain personality type: self-important, pathetic, and on a delusional power trip. While she does suffer at his hands temporarily, she uses intelligence and premeditation to assert herself when the time is right.
Basically, she is able to stand up for herself, by herself. She uses her calculating smarts in justified situations — for self-defense — and as a hacker/researcher. But she is also capable of immediate, physical counteraction, as seen when she chases her would-be mugger in the subway, punches him in the face, grabs her bag back and escapes. Also when she effectively rescues Daniel Craig’s character by grabbing the gun and pursuing the villain to annihilation, a role often reserved for the male protagonist.
At the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you feel bad for her. After her devastating childhood and everything she goes through, she begins to have feelings for Craig; to get attached. She, of course, is human (or rather a fictional representation of one, but suspend your disbelief for a moment), and all humans, male and female, have emotions, weaknesses, tendencies and vulnerabilities. At the closing scene, after she buys him an expensive coat as a gift, she sees him with his former lover and walks away — probably heartbroken, but on to her next adventure. No tears. No Ben ‘n’ Jerry binges. No begging.
To be a strong, independent woman doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love and that you can’t be taken advantage of, abused, taken for granted, beaten, abandoned, and hurt in manifold ways. People can leave you and bad things do happen. But what’s so awesome about Lisbeth is that she doesn’t really need anyone. She can feel the pangs of hurt and move on, always true to the self. She can feel affection and love, but she is never dependent or needy. She doesn’t chase, doesn’t wallow in self-pity. She walks away a complete, solitary, self-assured, assertive, unafraid, competent, indomitable individual; a badass postmodern warrior.
*The Romantic hero is a literary archetype referring to a character that rejects established norms and conventions and has been rejected by society. Literary critic Northrop Frye noted that the Romantic hero is often “placed outside the structure of civilization and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting”. Other characteristics of the romantic hero include introspection, the triumph of the individual over the “restraints of theological and social conventions”, wanderlust, melancholy, misanthropy, alienation, and isolation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_hero)