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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Feminism and misogyny in Fincher’s “Gone Girl”

Gone+Girl+movie+playing+in+theaters+now
‘Gone Girl’ movie playing in theaters now

This article contains spoilers.
With Halloween coming up, and everyone seeking a cinematic thrill, whether it be on TV with the return of shows like American Horror Story, or with creepy new movies like Annabelle. But if you’re looking for something a little more complex, something that not only disturbs you to the core but forces you to question the world, then you’ll want to see the new psychological thriller “Gone Girl.”
Based on a book by the same name, David Fincher directed the mystery under the supervision of novel’s author, Gillian Flynn. That’s already good news right off the bat–you can rest a little easier knowing that the person who created the characters had a heavy hand in the movie’s development.
The film follows the life of a couple in the midst of marital crisis–husband Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) complains of his marriage struggles to his sister on his 5th anniversary with his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). As we discover, the two began struggling to see eye-to-eye when they both lost their jobs in a brutal recession, and were forced to move from New York City to Missouri to look after Nick’s dying mother.            
Nick finds out on the same day that Amy has gone missing, and in a convoluted turn of events, we find out that Amy has faked her own murder after finding out her husband had cheated on her. She ends up murdering an ex of hers in the process, and then gets away with it.
As you can imagine, audiences exploded over the implication of Amy’s character. Many labeled the development of her role as entirely anti-feminist, by supposedly upholding the image of the “crazy, clingy girlfriend who loses it on her cheating partner.” Some feminists point out that women are always slammed for being the intensely over-emotional, over-reactive partner in a relationship, and that the fact that Amy’s potential insanity manifests itself into a murder takes this negative view of women to a new level.
The conviction that “Gone Girl” is misogynistic isn’t invalid. What’s unique about the film, however, is that it is also incredibly pro-feminist.
The most fundamental aspect of the pro-feminist argument for Amy’s character is the fact that Amy has a vibrant complexity that most female leads lack. Although she is a cold-blooded murderer, she is evidently intelligent and spectacularly creative.
The fact is, Amy’s role is unique. Women are never cast in so many different lights, when realistically, Amy’s psychotic nature is not simply a crazy female thing; it’s a mentally unwell human being thing. Yes, Amy’s approach to her husband’s infidelity is insane. She is a ruthless, calculating, and psychotic individual. But this dimension of her persona is not dictated by her feminist frustration with what she calls the “Cool Girl.”
A big aspect of “Gone Girl” is examining the reality of relationships, and the personas we put on for those we have relationships with. Nick puts on a show of being the “no bullshit” guy. Amy puts on the act of being cool and collected at all times. In a long sequence in which Amy looks at the girls around her, a voiceover of a famous passage from the novel reads:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Amy’s point is that this girl does not exist–that it’s a performance put on by girls who want to be liked by men, and who want to meet the standards of what is attractive. This girl does not exist, and it is not fair to expect her to exist, or to expect women to meet those standards.
Many women would agree with Amy, but hesitate over her killer status, and that is exactly the point of her design–we are meant to be uncertain about agreeing with her because, the fact is, she is a murderer and a psychopath. But at the same time, she is profoundly intelligent. She is complex in a way few female characters are; complex in a way only male characters are. This is what makes “Gone Girl” a potentially feminist piece.