Romy Shiller

Archive for October, 2014|Monthly archive page

Gone Girl: A Commentary

In 3rd Wave Feminism, book, Drama, Film, review on October 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

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(The following commentary of Gone Girl (2014) contains a necessary plot spoiler. If you’re planning to see the film and have no knowledge of the plot, perhaps read this afterwards. – RS)

About: Gone Girl is an American mystery thriller film directed by David Fincher. It was adapted by Gillian Flynn from her 2012 novel of the same name. It stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon.

Oh, people will be divided here – no question, but the ideas in Gone Girl are much bigger than me and require a defender. So, here we go. I had absolutely no intention of reviewing this film because Piers McCarthy already did – REVIEW  so I just wanted to see Fincher’s new work.

Plot: On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Pike) is missing. Her disappearance creates a media frenzy, and his awkward behavior and lies surrounding the marriage are interpreted by the media and public as characteristics of a sociopath, implicating him for her apparent murder. Flashback sequences told from Amy’s perspective reveal the disintegration of their once-happy marriage.

On one level, a cinematic one, you know; direction, editing, style, casting, acting…. Gone Girl is very good and that is why I am going to call this a dangerous film. It is dangerous to create a female lead character that lies about domestic abuse. It is dangerous to show that cameras lie about rape. We live in a world where a football player beats up his wife on camera.

Mail Online says, “Baltimore Ravens terminate contract of running back Ray Rice after he was caught on camera punching fiancée in lift.” He plead ‘Not Guilty.’ He was caught on camera punching her -Yup.

The Guardian reports, “It is easier to believe that a woman “provoked” catastrophic violence from a supposedly otherwise peaceful man than it is to come to terms with the fact that a well-liked public figure is abusive. It is easier to conceive Palmer as an accomplice in her own beating …” Their words, not mine. Sounds like the film, kind of…

‘But a woman wrote it!’ So? Are women outside of cultural influence? ESPN says that Janay Palmer married Ray Rice soon after the violent incident.

The marriage came one day after Rice was indicted by a grand jury on third-degree aggravated assault for striking Palmer unconscious. She publicly defends him. He punched her until she was unconscious! Yup.

‘But it is based on an existing novel!’ There is a choice here to bring it to a wider audience.

‘It’s only a film, you need to chill!’ Sure – when there is no more domestic abuse, when there is no more rape, when women are not scared to come forward about being assaulted and then called liars – I’ll chill.

Obviously, it is very good to create strong female leads but when our lead is a lying, crazy, murderous, sociopath it is not good. Calling women crazy liars is old-school and a part of our current thought-process, unfortunately. The Monthly, from Australia says; What does it say about us, in a society where domestic violence and rape are actually on the rise, that Gone Girl is so popular? I think it says that we still want to keep assuring ourselves that when women talk about rape and violence, they are making it up. That we are lying, scheming bitches. In one of the film’s closing scenes, Nick slams Amy’s head against the bedroom wall in frustration at her continued hold over him. We are invited, quietly, to wonder if he might be justified in doing so. And that makes me feel crazy. 

A Disney princess is not the answer. We need to see realistic, strong, competent and flawed female characters. I want layers, complexity – not clichés or stereotypes. ‘But Gone Girl is a great film!’ On one level yes but ideologically and culturally – no.

It is very hard to find a review that sees the blatant misogyny in this film. I found a great one in The Guardian – it is even critical of Affleck who directed, produced and starred in the Academy Award-winning film Argo, and will be taking on the role of Batman in 2016: For Affleck, some relation to reality is clearly important. So why doesn’t that apply to domestic and sexual violence? Admittedly Affleck’s character in Gone Girl – he plays the husband, Nick Dunne – is particularly bone-headed, but the actor isn’t, so why didn’t he demand a disclaimer? Affleck wouldn’t dream of suggesting that the US had clean hands in events such as its historic support for the Shah of Iran, but recycling the most egregious myths about gender-based violence is, apparently, another matter.

The Monthly says, Gone Girl fails as a crime thriller in part because it is far too long … It is impossible to discuss the plot without giving the game away, but I’m going to do it because the architecture of the story is bound up with its misogyny, so here goes: Amy faked it all. She faked her disappearance and murder because she resents her husband’s selfishness and dependency, and it turns out that this isn’t the first time she’s brought a good man down.

In the words of an ex-boyfriend, “She’s graduated from faking rape to faking murder.”

The twists in this film hinge on important social commentary. This film underscores ideology and dangerously reinforces the idea that rape and domestic violence victims lie. It may be ‘just a film’ but it is a mirror too.

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