A couple of months ago I watched the movie Gone Girl and had an intense reaction to it. I wanted to write about it back then but other things came up and I also don’t typically write about pop culture. But since watching the film I’ve heard or read analyses of it that have “forced” me to say my piece. I knew nothing about this movie—other than the fact that I was reluctant to watch it—before watching it. I watched it with a heterosexual male friend and when it was over we both had the same reaction: “wow, whoever made this film must not like women!” For surely only a hater of women could depict them in such a light! When we searched the film and discovered that it was based on a book written by a woman–Gillian Flynn–I was a bit confused. I had naively assumed the book was written by a misogynistic man.
And when I read the online reactions and reviews of the film I was doubly confused. While some felt the film was misogynistic or anti-women, many hailed it as a feminist celebration of “strong empowered women.” Seriously?! For those who haven’t watched the film, it basically revolves around the popular and tired clichés/stereotypes that men are cheating pigs and women are crazy psychos, taken to brutal and bloody extremes. Given the sociopathic and brutally violent revenge the female character embarks on for her husband’s cheating—the worst of it aimed at another, innocent man who was merely trying to help her—I assumed that women would find the film highly offensive (for its portrayal of women as scheming psycho killers.) When I saw reviews hailing the film as a feminist piece that depicts women as strong and empowerment, I was surprised.
Is this what western feminism has become!? It goes without saying that the male character—the emasculated and failed husband played by actor Ben Affleck—was totally wrong to cheat on his wife (as a woman would be for cheating on her husband) but the female character’s reaction was extreme, to say the least. While she starts out with a clever (yet disproportionate) plot for revenge, by the time she slits poor Desi Collings’ throat—her rich and overly obliging college sweetheart whom she exploits and then kills in cold-blood—she has gone from clever schemer to cold blooded killer. And that is what made me think it was an anti-woman film. For me (and my male friend) the message was that women can be sneaky. They pretend to be one thing (in this case, the cool and fun wife that is not fazed, does not “nag” and is sexually adventurous) while underneath they may be mentally unstable and will ruin your life and go on a killing spree if you hurt or betray them. To me, this is a highly negative portrayal of women. So I was surprised and confused to see this film hailed as feminist.
While I get that some may find her plan for revenge clever or “empowered,” it is nonetheless a huge over-reaction. Yes, cheating is bad and wrong, but framing her husband for her murder is a bit excessive don’t ya think?! And the fact that she murders a man in cold blood (and practically bathes in his blood) and then blackmails her husband into getting back together with her and having a child together (for fear that he will suffer the same fate) makes this female character both clinically insane and extremely pathetic. A man does not want to be with her, so she forces him to stay with her by threatening his life? And let us not forget the second ex-boyfriend whom she falsely accused of rape when he ended their relationship. Are these the actions of “an empowered woman”? This is the epitome of non-empowered, weak and criminally insane. Such a depiction of women is cringe-worthy. And the fact that this type of female character could be seen as a positive or empowered depiction of women may speak to how confused we have become as a society.
Or maybe it’s just me…