After revisiting my post on The Social Network, I decided to write down some of my thoughts on Fincher’s most recent film, 2014’s Gone Girl. I will say that I found Gone Girl to be successful in that it does what films are supposed to do: it stayed with me. Long after the credits stopped rolling, I just couldn’t shake this film. It was disturbing, and well-deserving of its Oscar nomination for Rosamund Pike’s performance as Amy. However, it should be noted that much of what made the film disturbing was problematic for me from a feminist point of view. When Gone Girl ended, I remember saying out loud that the movie hates women. That may be over-simplifying, but it’s worth examining further.
On the one hand, one could argue that it’s refreshing to see a woman on screen create such buzz, discussion, and controversy. Amy is brilliant and strong, and she cunningly destroys a man’s life in ways usually left to male on-screen psychopaths. Also, I’ve heard it said that Amy’s psychopathy is the result of the roles that are forced upon her, and by extension, are forced on women in general. “Amazing Amy” and the “Cool Girl” are roles that to some degree are hoisted upon women from the moment they’re wrapped in their pink blankets. Amy is a character who refuses to be complacent in her roles. Besides which, interesting psychopaths in film are so often men who exert some form of violence against women. Perhaps the reverse in film was overdue.
On the other hand, Amy still falls deeply into stale and damaging female stereotypes. The “psycho ex-girlfriend” has become its own maddening cliché (Let’s face it, I’m unlikely to believe most men when they throw this charmingly disparaging description at an ex-girlfriend. Just because she wasn’t that into you doesn’t mean she’s a psycho). Amy is portrayed as psycho in perhaps the most damaging way possible. Forget that she fakes her own death and manipulates everyone around her. That’s kind of awesome. What I don’t’ like it that she fakes a pregnancy, the stereotypically “psycho” way to keep a man. Worse still, though, what I found most disturbing, is that she fakes a sexual assault. Overwhelming evidence suggests that this does not happen. There are, of course, exceptions, but by and large, survivors do not lie about rape, and sexual assault is grossly under-reported. Yet women are so often dismissed as exaggerating, or they are outright blamed, when they are victims of sexual assault. We live in a world where upwords of 50 women can claim that Bill Cosby raped them, but it isn’t acknowledged as true until he admits it. I have said before that instances where it is one person’s word against another, I am always more likely to believe the victim. But in our culture, that is just not the norm. At best, Amy can just be dismissed as a “psycho bitch.” At worst, this film shows an underlying distrust and hatred of women, illustrating and confirming that we cannot take a women at her word when she claims sexual assault.
I have not read the source material on which the film is based, but I have heard that the author is a self-proclaimed feminist. I would never question anyone’s commitment to the feminist movement. As bell hooks wrote, feminism is for everyone. I do, however find it disappointing that strong female villains so often express their evil and villainy in stereotypically damaging “feminine” ways.