Cameleon Stories: Revisiting ‘Gone Girl’

‘Nick Dunne took my pride and my dignity and my hope and my money. He took and took from me until I no longer existed. That’s murder.’

I hated Gone Girl the first time I watched it. I could recognize it was a well made film with great performances; yet it completely rubbed the wrong way. I thought that yet another story of a woman lying about being raped really wasn’t a necessity, no matter how stylish. I questioned the appeal of the narrative, the audience that the film wanted to get. I didn’t doubt for a single second that the film sided with Nick instead of his crazy bitch of a wife. I knew that some would appreciate the film as a twisty thriller with a dark atmosphere and ironic humor. As for me, I couldn’t detach all the technical qualities from the message I was getting from this.

The film’s popularity kept growing. As I joined online film circles, I was surprised to see how beloved this mess of a movie was. I was even more confused to see how many women loved it. I questioned myself a lot. Was I being a confirmed Crazy Feminist TM ? Did I watch a completely different movie ? Was I so dumb that I completely took the wrong message from it ?

I tried reading Gillian Flynn’s novel and had a more enjoyable experience. Reading Amy’s thoughts gave the story a new depth that I had not perceived in Fincher’s film. Yet I still couldn’t call myself a fan. I thought that Gone Girl would remain one of these pieces of media that I don’t know how to feel about.

Here’s a little fact about me: I don’t like feeling too dumb to understand something. Call it vanity or something else, that’s the way I am. So, about four years after my first watch, I gave Gone Girl another chance.

I don’t know if I actually like this movie, but I can’t deny how much it fascinates me. I love discovering how different the responses to the narrative and characters can be. You would think that people wouldn’t side with the psychopathic liar and murderer — and yet, so many, mostly women, do. It was a bit hard to wrap my head around this one. But I’m not that stupid. I knew this didn’t mean that any of the female fans would support a real woman accused of the same crime. And that’s when I sort of got it.

Gone Girl is a fantasy.

It goes both ways. For men who feel threatened by any hint of female anticipation or rebellion, Amy is a confirmation of everything they are afraid for. She’s a girl who cries wolf in a world ready to believe her every word. Nick is a martyr. He was tricked into marriage by this beautiful woman, and now has to stay with her forever. Amy is a Men Rights Activist’ worst nightmare (and to be fair, probably how they potentially see every woman). Nick has no control, trapped in a relationship with a woman who wasn’t who she said she was and a child that isn’t even his. He could be the poster boy for male oppression.

The other reading of the character is the most interesting to me. Amy may be insane, but she makes some striking points through her monologues. The Cool Girl monologue has become a reference for many, and it may be key to understanding the female audience’s reaction to the character. There is a reason both movie and book conveniently erase that Amy is only able to pull her stunt because she is young, beautiful, rich and white (as well as a character in a fictional world where the police can’t tell the difference between two different women’s urine). Of course, few women aspire to be Amy as she is. As hard as it may be to believe for a lot of misogynists out there, we don’t spend our days sitting around wishing we could ruin men’s lives.

But how many of us have wished that we could stop playing a role ? How many of us find ourselves trying to be the Cool Girl on a daily basis ? How many women have you known that barely know their own husbands ? Mainstream feminity is so narrow that a lot of us shrink ourselves in trying to fit it. We don’t only become someone else; we become nothing. The rejection of all of the conventions of marriage and womanhood that Amy goes through is profoundly cathartic. It is pushed to an unusual extreme, but in its essence, it is a weirdly unspeakable female fantasy. By the end of the film, Amy forces Nick to play a role, something that she was forced to do her entire life. Revenge in its purest form. It’s not fair, but they never had a chance at being fair in the first place.

Gone Girl was so confusing to me because it is whatever the viewer wants it to. It’s a beautiful noir-ish fever dream that I’m still not completely sure I like. I hope I never get into a relationship so bad I start relating to Amy at a dangerous level. For now, I’m happy with just being a little less confused.

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