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Gone Girl promotes conversations about misogyny

  • 09 October 2014

Gone Girl (MA). Director: David Fincher. Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike. 149 minutes

[Review contains spoilers.]

'If we strapped a bunch of Men's Rights Advocates to beds and downloaded their nightmares, I don't think we'd come up with stuff half as ridiculous as this plot.' So claimed media and pop culture blogger interrogatingmedia back in 2012, in a compelling and persuasive critique of American author Gillian Flynn's (for the most part) highly acclaimed marriage-and-murder thriller Gone Girl.

The novel, now adapted for the big screen by Flynn and director David Fincher, documents the extreme, even violent, outcomes of a marriage that has decayed in the clammy clutches of a mutual narcissism that borders on psychopathy. It has decayed to the extent that smug, philandering out-of-work writer Nick (Affleck) finds himself suspected of murdering his self-centred yet enigmatic wife, Amy (Pike), after she mysteriously disappears.

His life quickly turns into a media circus. There are several references in the film to reality television, including the throwaway suggestion by one character that Nick and Amy's story would make for great TV. This is a satirical dig by Flynn and Fincher because, of course, the sordid details of Amy's possible murder by the flawed but basically likeable Nick have by that stage already become fodder of the most sensational kind for a ravenous news media.

But did Nick actually do it? The answer to that question is only a small part of the mystery. Flynn's narrative (which, in the novel, unfolds via alternating chapters written from the perspectives of her unreliable narrators, Nick and Amy) is captivating and full of twists. It has been given a fine and stylish cinematic treatment by Fincher, who utilises both humour and suspense en route to unpacking Gone Girl's many secrets.

But enjoyable as it may be, Gone Girl has its problems. Among its revelations is the fact that Amy is far from the innocent victim she appears to be. Dogged by charges of misogyny since the novel's release, Flynn maintains her right to create interesting, complicated female villains. Yet there is something uncomfortable in the way Gone Girl chooses to characterise Amy's 'villainy'. It's at this point that some critics, including interrogatingmedia, baulked. 

'The specific ways in which Amy is evil (lying about rape, using pregnancy as a manipulative device) feel so entangled with misogynist caricatures created by anti-women and antifeminists that it really sinks the entire novel,' wrote interrogatingmedia. In the reams of commentary