‘Gone Girl’ makes violence against women a punchline

***SPOILERS***

“Gone Girl” makes violence against women into a punchline, and does this so well that even I laughed at the jokes.

Just as the book “Gone Girl” is well written and well plotted, the movie version is well acted, directed, and produced. Watching the movie, even more than reading the book, I felt like I was having a meta experience: watching a movie about storytelling while being manipulated by the story I was being told. “Gone Girl” is the story of a woman who lies about being raped by three different men.

There are a few core beliefs women’s rights advocates have worked hard to get the culture to understand:

(1) Women don’t want to be raped

(2) A woman who is raped did not bring the violence on herself

(3) The #1 killer of pregnant women is homicide

In “Gone Girl”‘ each of these beliefs becomes a mockery, perfectly executed with comic timing, plot points, and good acting to seem ridiculous. I’m going to summarize a few instances below though its from memory, so the quotes may not be precisely accurate, and you’ve got to see it yourself to experience the reaction, I don’t think the typed words on the page will do it.

When Nick Dunne seeks out another guy that his wife, Amy, falsely accused of rape, the guy says,”That’s Amy! She’s graduated from rape to murder.” I chuckled.

When it becomes public that Amy was pregnant (a faked pregnancy by the way) media and townspeople nod and knowingly say, “The #1 way pregnant women die is murder.” The scene is so cartoonish and Nick is so clearly a victim, that when hearing the line, even I rolled my eyes.

When Amy spins the story of how she never should have let another guy she accused of rape into her house, an FBI guy steps in with a concerned face and says, “Don’t blame yourself!” When I heard that line, I snorted.

At the end of the book, Nick falls back in love with Amy and you’re left with feeling that these two deserve each other. At the end of the movie, Nick is still angry. Like all heroes, his experience led him to go through a transition, and you’re left feeling sorry for he guy who only wants to be a good dad to his son.

Describing her book, author Gillian Flynn says:

“It’s a story about storytelling, and in the 24-hour media world, no matter what the content, the media has a disproportionate voice in all our lives. I wanted it to be a third character in a way — Nick, Amy, but also the media. We all weigh in on everybody’s life no matter what. And there seems to be a constant audience monitoring our lives.”

 

No question that “Gone Girl” is a movie about story-telling. Maybe Flynn isn’t perpetuating misogyny here but being doing something quite brilliant. The joke is on us, the audience. Look how easily we’re manipulated, at this particular moment by beautiful people and great acting into, once again, believing the story that scorned women lie about about rape while its men who are the real victims.

In the USA one in five women reports experiencing a rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Yet, a 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “ This is typical. Why do so many people believe women lie about rape? Because of a story we’ve been told again and again and again.

 

 

 

Here’s my original post on “Gone Girl:”

I haven’t seen the movie “Gone Girl,” and neither have you as it’s hitting theaters on October 3, though I did read the book this summer. I was horrified by the misogyny woven through the narrative. Perhaps I was so surprised by the sexism because the only controversy I’d heard of before I read the book was that people didn’t like the ending. I did like the ending. I’ll tell you why, and also go into the plot points of “Gone Girl” but before I do, consider yourself warned: spoilers will be in this post. If you’re going to read Gone Girl– and it is, like so many sexist books I critique, well written and well plotted, I’m talking about technique here– you may not want to proceed much further, except, perhaps, to take a look at this cover of Entertainment Weekly. There you see Amy, the protagonist of “Gone Girl,” shown as a “beautiful” female corpse, a trope Anita Sarkeesian dissects in her latest video: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This image of the dead, sexualized female body is, quite literally, everywhere in popular culture. After you check out this cover, I want you to know just one more thing.

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My final comment to those who don’t want spoilers: I have absolutely no problem with women not being “likeable” characters. I want that. I was so excited when I read the comment by the excellent writer Claire Messud who, when asked about her protagonist by Publisher’s Weekly (I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim”) responded:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

 

Get that, people? Is this character alive?

OK, moving on to spoilers, if you don’t want them, it’s time to leave.

It turns out that the protagonist of Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played in the movie by Rosemund Pike) fakes her own rape, pregnancy, stalking, beatings, and murder. That’s right, Amy goes through a veritable list of practically every act/ crime that a wicked and conniving (are men ever conniving?) woman can manipulate. While Amy fakes her victimhood, her husband, Nick, played in the movie by Ben Affleck, is falsely accused of killing his pregnant wife. Why, you ask, is Amy motivated to be so awful? She’s a woman scorned, of course, who discovered her husband’s affair with his student.

Here’s one passage describing Amy’s fakery:

I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…

That particular scene, by the way, refers to another man Amy is setting up, not her husband.

Here’s the problem, and once again, it’s not that Amy is a villain or unlikeable.

In the USA 20 percent of women, 1 in 5, report experiencing rape or attempted rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Here’s another important fact about false accusation: A 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “Gone Girl” perpetuates the popular narrative that rape isn’t real and isn’t happening, that women lie, and falsely accused men are the real victims.

But Gone Girl is fiction not fact, you say. Why am I listing stats here? Am I trying, once again, to censor artists with my PC beliefs? Surely Amy’s story can fall into the 1- 2% of women who falsely accuse men of rape. This is a free country.

This is also a country where Washington Post columnist George Will, a man known as the “most powerful journalist in America” recently wrote that being a rape survivor is “a coveted status.” When others challenged Will that rape is not, in fact, something women want, the conservative group, Women’s Independent Forum called a conference “Rape Culture and Sexual Assault,” putting out this press release:

The White House has embraced the statistic that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college…The White House has released its “first ever report” on the issue and are using it to push their policy agenda…But many question the validity of the White House’s one-in-five statistic, even as those who challenge this figure are silenced as being uncaring about women…The IWF takes any accusation of sexual assault very seriously. But we are concerned that there is a potentially harmful hysteria developing about this issue. Where does this come from? Where is it going? And who will be harmed?

Lucky for us, Gone Girl answers every single one of the IWF’s (hysterical) questions: Where does it come from? In Gone Girl, overachieving Harvard grad, Amy Dunne, was used but never truly loved by her egotistical writer parents. They penned a best-selling YA series based on their daughter. Where is it going? Female anger and, yes, hysteria, not to mention jealousy, vindictiveness, and aging, leads to violence. Who will be harmed? Nick, of course, innocent men in America who are falsely accused, lied to, manipulated, and victimized by the scorned, bitter women in their lives.

Yes, Of course Gillian Flynn can write about whatever she pleases, but I find it sadly ironic that when I argue for more diverse stories to permeate our popular culture, a culture where people believe that 50% of rape accusations are false, a culture where stories of rape remain secret to the point that the media hides names and identities of survivors, a media dominated by the same old trope ridden narrative, that I am the one who’s accused of stifling creativity. Gone Girl is a best-selling book about to be blockbuster movie that will help to perpetuate  the myth/ story that rape and violence against women is not epidemic but mostly exists in our imagination.

By the way, the end of the book, you know why people don’t like it? Because Amy ends up OK. She and Nick get back together, they’re going to have a baby. (Pregnant for real this time, she stole his sperm.) Apparently, the no punishment-for-Amy-finale is so unpopular that the director changed the ending to make it more of crowdpleaser.

I’ll leave you with some facts about domestic violence in the USA from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women.

 

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

 

Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes.

 

Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

 

On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

 

 Reel Girl rates Gone Girl ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping

After I read Gone Girl, I searched the internet about the book’s misogyny, here are some interesting posts

 

The Misogynistic Portrayal of Villainy in Gone Girl

Is GONE GIRL a Misogynist Novel?

8 thoughts on “‘Gone Girl’ makes violence against women a punchline

  1. In 1981 , I was raped at age 11 , at a horseriding holiday farm near Cowra in central nsw. The 40something yr old perpetrator was the owner and his wife worked the night shift at the Cowra newspaper. He rapped me while she was at work. He told me to never tell anyone because he and his wife would be really angry at me and I would be in trouble , so I didn’t but spent all of my 6th class yr sick, and back and forth from hospital. I eventually made a statement at age 33 for police
    I have 3 beautiful children, and was separated and divorced 4yrs ago. My boys threw my ex husband out and locked the doors during i of these attacks.
    He was charged and convicted of 2counts of assault occasioning actuall bodily harm.
    He abused my then 6yr old daughter many times during her allocated visiting days and verbally abused my 12 yr old on those same days. They refused to go back and aslo jirt and docs and my family doctor and the children’s victims support psychologist told me to agree with what the children wanted, keep them with me , as I need to protect them. 4yrs on , ongoing phycological abuse via him and his girlfriend have worn us all down. We never respond to any of their socially damaging posts , texts emails and writing they put on there popular company web page. We do have it all printed out using SMS export ( an app ) i Have never used Facebook and only hear these relentless nasty things through other people.
    4 yrs on my now16yr old son has attempted to stand up for his little sister and his grandfather and myself , in a very non aggressive post pleading his father and fathers partner to stop. I didn’t know about his attempts to do this.
    My son screen shot everything that was written over 3days. So we have proof. I have had ptsd since 11 and chronic migraines
    And my heart races with panic attacks from the constant pain of their social media content.
    They have taken down all their horrible posts to my son now , but I have just been told tonight by a friend of mine, that he has put something up about a movie called “Gone Girl” and is relating it to me.
    And his followers fans friends have written comments.
    I’m more than devistated by him using a terrible traumatic event when I was 11ys old (that was proven by witnesses and cooberative statements) , agiainst me. He aslo states I have serious mental illness and it shows through my kids, and that ptsd is a disease ect
    My ex husband and his partner wrote all this on their business web page
    Ignoring this hasn’t stopped him
    Gone girl may be a well made movie. I don’t know. But I’m assuming they are accusing me of making up the rape at11 and his 2 convictions against me.
    I’m not feeling very strong at all and have nothing I can do. So so sad , that he is allowed to do this. He is a movie director and very believable unstoppable and has fans. http://Www.the big movie company.com I think.
    Is there nothing that can be done?

  2. Couldn’t have said it better myself, Miss Evelyn Woods “turning and manipulating situations to fit a feminist agenda”

  3. Thanks so much for writing this. I was beginning to think I was the only one disturbed. Walking through this world as a survivor is hard enough with people’s attitudes and victim blaming. Now the #1 movie is telling an even more extreme version of the narrative society tells itself so we don’t feel bad victim blaming…

  4. Dude. Calm down. This is a book/movie (both written by a female by the way) and its not even close to being a misogynist ANYTHING. Just calm down.

  5. What I hear about this book/movie has continually reminded me of Mamet’s “Oleanna”. It pretends to take place in the real world, not a fantasy parallel universe, and yet it’s one in which people respond to women making rape allegations with trust, encouragement and belief in a way we know is not the case in the society in which the story is set. The result appears to be a parable saying, “see folks, this is what happens when you start believing what women say about what men did to them.”

  6. I think the IWF has it right. There truly is a hysteria developing in this country around rape and the oppression of women. I personally take rape extremely seriously. I support the equal treatment of women in all aspects of society. I want to think critically about how common sayings or beliefs perpetuated by society influence the identity of women. However, I don’t feel the need to turn everything into an argument about feminism and rape culture. This book is about a truly evil woman. Why can’t there be a truly evil female character? Can’t we give everyone more credit than to assume that the fictional story of one evil woman will make us all believe that women all just make up rape stories? I mean, c’mon.

    • It isn’t “turn(ing) everything into an argument about feminism and rape culture,” it’s exploring assumed ideas, words, plot devices, societal norms—which already exist below the surface. It isn’t turning and manipulating situations to fit a feminist agenda, it’s questioning what is already there, the media, politics, everyone pushing in different directions, and finding what makes sense, what the truest reality says.

      To me, rape culture is not “hysteria.”

    • Amy was not inherently evil. She was driven to her actions by her parents, her husband, her peers, and the oppressive nature of her surrounding society for her to be THEIR ideal image of a woman that they created and idolized, rather than being who she wanted to be. So she took matters into her own hands, said “fuck that,” and she fought back.

      “The women in Gone Girl, like the women in too many movies, have had their agency taken, have been stripped of their power, by their husbands, or by their boyfriends, or by their parents, or by the system, or just by the horrible turns a life can take. But Amy refuses to accept this. She pushes back toward the center, and she takes what’s hers. But Amy refuses to accept this. She pushes back toward the center, and she takes what’s hers.”

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