Recent critique of David Fincher’s new film “Gone Girl” has brought up the question of whether or not we’re appropriately deconstructing seemingly anti-feminist films. “Gone Girl” isn’t the first movie to create a sociopathic, mentally unstable woman as we see with Rosamund Pike’s character, Amy Dunne. So why the uproar about this particular character in this particular movie? Fincher wouldn’t have gotten the idea of adapting the film had it not been for Reese Witherspoon who urged the film community to look at the book as a potential film. Not only that, but the author, Gillian Flynn, adapted the novel into the screenplay herself, making sure the movie would project the way she had envisioned. If we’re critiquing Fincher’s portrayal of women, we must also look at other contributing creative factors, two important ones being women. So what is it about this film that’s stirring up controversy?
Just last year we were handing the Best Actress Academy Award over to Cate Blanchett for playing an unstable, money absorbed, a-man-will-make-me-happy type of character in “Blue Jasmine.” Not to mention that this year, moviegoers are anticipating the Halloween release of Jake Gyllenhaal’s sociopathic performance in “Nightcrawler.” Why are we anxiously excited about a mentally unstable male and not a mentally unstable woman? If we’re voting for one man-centered woman, why are we not voting for Amy Dunne? One argument is that the movie’s involvement of rape paints a bad picture for all women. Rape is a real issue, and right now we’re fighting for it to be recognized as a worldwide problem. We’re encouraging females all over to speak up about their traumatic experiences. “Gone Girl” glimpses into the possibility of “if we listen to each individual case, what are the implications and consequences of that?” And we see the consequences when Amy Dunne gets off the hook, convincing the male police of her misfortune. And there’s also the question of race, gender, age, etc. Flynn’s book, and the movie go into detail about how communities band together when a pregnant white woman is hurt, or murdered. This creates a feeling of unease because it forces us to ask ourselves what we pay attention to in the news, what the news chooses to speak on or leave out, and how we view others around us.
Nobody likes to be tricked, and that’s exactly what Dunne’s character does, she tricks the community and viewers. It’s an outrage that she uses rape, a very real issue to trick us into believing her story. It’s dirty, and it threatens the way in which people view rape. But this all boils down to fiction, and how seriously do we take fictitious stories either through novels or films? What about all of the movies that center on dirty politicians, or all of the television shows that involve rape, but from “the woman is the victim perspective?” And this question is not meant to suggest that male rape is not as prominent in our world as we make it. These questions are genuinely not meant to make light of the issue at all. But viewing rape where women are the victims is so fluent within our entertainment culture that it seems as though we’re numb to it. It happened in “True Detective,” it happened to Joan in “Mad Men.” The idea of a woman as the victim is so common that when it’s presented to us we don’t react the way in which we’ve reacted to “Gone Girl.” So why is that? Is Amy Dunne’s character a genuine threat to the way in which we perceive rape as a worldwide issue? Are we asking the right questions when it comes to fictional characters?
I thoroughly enjoyed “Gone Girl” and despite the push against it, I still enjoy it. The soundtrack, cinematography, narration, everything was an absolute delight. And after reading the backlash, I almost feel guilty for taking an interest in it. I struggle with the seriousness of the issue and the idea that it’s a fictional story. So I’ll ask it again, are we asking the right questions when it comes to fictional characters? Amy Dunne is what makes the movie, especially as someone who didn’t read the book and had no idea what to expect. She is a downright sociopath, and it is completely engaging. Her use of rape is part of her character’s structure, it fit. She uses men to gain sympathy, because she’s a sociopath, a very uncommon characteristic in the grand scheme of things. After viewing “Gone Girl” I was not worried about a shift in the perception of rape, because it’s a fictional story. And the way Amy handled her jail-like scenario was on point as far as fitting her mental illness. It made us hate her that much more. Movies are persuasive, fiction is persuasive, but the problem then lies with the people who genuinely believe these types of stories, and the people who apply them to real world arguments. That’s not to suggest that there aren’t fictional narratives that are meant to tell a truthful story, but “Gone Girl” is simply a movie about a sociopath terrorizing the people she’s closest to. If Fincher were sending an indirect message, it would be to beware of how we react to these situations in regards to gender and race.
And let’s not forget that the only two stable characters within the film are women: Margo, an independent bartender that holds Nick Dunne accountable for his immoral acts, and Detective Boney, the rational, questioning female who doesn’t buy into the pregnant white wife’s murder. So again, are we appropriately critiquing this film as an anti-feminist story? Are we taking into account every bit of the movie to support our critiques? There have been plenty of amazing anti-feminist films in the past, for example “Misery” with Kathy Bates, “Sunset Boulevard” with Gloria Swanson, “Mommie Dearest” with Faye Dunaway, “Fatal Attraction” with Glenn Close, “Rebecca” with Joan Fontaine, “A Streetcar Named Desire” with Vivian Leigh. Indeed we need women in protagonist, heroic, independent roles, but we also need to see them on the flip end of the spectrum where they suffer from mental instability. Seeing women play versatile characters proves how unbelievably not niche women are. We need to be asking a range of questions when critiquing seemingly anti-feminist films. By attacking films such as the ones above and “Gone Girl,” we’re tossing aside some of the most enduring, captivating performances that film has to offer.
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