Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

By Robert Folsom | February 15, 2012

Consider a few facts regarding the popularity of a certain fictional hero.

  • This hero’s story was first told via three novels which have sold a combined 17 million copies in the US and 60 million worldwide.
  • The novels spent a combined 272 weeks (five-plus years) on The New York Times bestseller list.
  • The three books in turn became three hit movies; but the original films were not English-language, so all three are being re-made by Hollywood (the first is in theatres now).
  • This fictional hero’s attire has proved so influential that it spawned an entire style, complete with a slideshow/photo spread on The New York Times fashion pages.

Now, if all the above doesn’t amount to enough of a hint about the hero’s identity, let me add that this individual is a grim, sexually voracious, revenge-seeking, anti-social, motorcycle riding, goth-dressing computer hacker.

And one more thing: The hero is a she.

I’m talking of course about Lisbeth Salander, aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. When it comes to the embodiment of a negative social mood, Lisbeth stands alone.

Powerful people conspire against her, and what they do to Lisbeth is malicious and in some cases appallingly hard to watch or read about. But she outsmarts them and repays their evil in full; her revenge is as much about mayhem as it is justice. Lisbeth Salander would not look good in a white hat.

I could produce a copious list of quotes to convey the many ways that Lisbeth embodies negative social mood; there are at least six such qualities that we’ve elaborated on in our books and publications. This one observation from Pioneering Studies in Socionomics (2003) gets the broad idea across:

Definitive morals and heroes accompany a bull market; blurred morals and mixed heroes accompany a bear market.

A Game of Thrones – Almost Everybody’s a Bad Guy” was the cover essay of the July 2011 issue of The Socionomist, and is an excellent introduction to cultural expressions of mood in a bear market. Read that essay for free by following this link.

Andrea Dibben contributed research.

P.S. Around the office we discuss (or have raucous debates about) who best represents today’s social mood. Lisbeth gets my vote — I’d like to know who gets yours, and why. Feel free to speak up in the “Comments” section below.

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