“It’s always the husband. Just watch Dateline,”
March 27, 2015 11:33 AM   Subscribe

 
We’re All Just Lying Machines: A Conversation about Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn - I believe that the best review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl must include a discussion of the mystery’s revelations, not just its set up. The first part of this review assumes that you have not read the novel and don’t want to know what happens (and, in my humble opinion, serves as a perfectly fine assessment of the novel on its own). The second part of this review assumes that you have read the novel or don’t care if you know what happens.

"In this video, part of the ongoing VF Confidential Presents: Psych of a Psycho, F.B.I. agent Candice Delong goes over Amy Dunne’s (Rosamund Pike) many, many crimes"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:35 AM on March 27, 2015


If memory serves me correctly, a spouse is always one of the first people of interest in a murder investigation.
posted by Gelatin at 11:37 AM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Flynn cracks open the culture and lets Nick say one of our unsayable beliefs: that it is scarier for a man to be accused than to be killed.

Clearly not a regular visitor to one of our "(Man/men) accused of raping (woman)" threads.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:56 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Flynn cracks open the culture and lets Nick say one of our unsayable beliefs: that it is scarier for a man to be accused than to be killed.

And why shouldn't it be? Your life will someday end, but your reputation, for good or ill, can last forever.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:03 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I did a lot of reading about this after watching the movie, and the best criticism I found was that it's some kind of Men's Rights wet dream. Amy wants nothing more then to ruin her husband's life, maintaining him as the center of the story while she goes on to do cartoonishly evil things to him. This subject material makes me wonder why the movie was so popular - Fincher's directorial skill notwithstanding.
posted by Dmenet at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dmenet: "I did a lot of reading about this after watching the movie, and the best criticism I found was that it's some kind of Men's Rights wet dream. "

If you pretend you've never heard of MRAs, or mentally turn them into a same-gender couple, it's just a good old-fashioned sociopath movie. People LOVE sociopath movies.

I thought the novel played pretty skillfully on a lot of media tropes around men, women, relationships, true crime, media, etc., but at bottom the appeal is that it's a sociopath novel.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


the best criticism I found was that it's some kind of Men's Rights wet dream

I actually found that movie one of the more feminist things i'd watched lately - it's weird how people see different narratives in it. If memory serves, the only man she kills is pretty rapey and controlling in the first place, and honestly, even after seeing the Big Twist occur, I kind of maintained my belief that Nick deserved what he fucking got. There's this part in the movie - maybe it's a voiceover - where it talks about the many ways that men destroy women's lives - how even though she's not dead, she has been murdered - and it really resonated, as did the Cool Girl speech.
posted by corb at 1:01 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Because the Men's Rights people believe that women are out to hit them with false rape accusations after stealing their sperm at a STEM college that they only got accepted to because of their huge tits.
posted by gucci mane at 1:35 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's a quote somewhere that I can't find that says that Amy is to MRAs as Chucky is to people who are afraid of dolls. I think that goes a long way in explaining the appeal to both sides of coin.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:17 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


...the nightmare is to no longer be the narrator of their own story

My husband and I have watched a lot of crime dramas and sociopath-esque movies together. This is perhaps the first one where he was legitimately taken aback by the evildoer's actions -- and we have watched every episode of SVU, every thriller that has come out in the past 10 years, Serial, The Jinx, etc.

Upon further inspection of this point (because, really, I couldn't let it slide; I'm not, as it turns out, a cool girl), we decided that it ties into the default gender/Bechdel test thing. Men are typically portrayed as the character with agency - the doer - whether the resulting actions are good or bad does not matter. They are choosing to take whatever actions they take (so the men watching can say "hey, I'm a good/bad person, I would/wouldn't do that."). Rarely are men (in media depictions) portrayed only as having things done to them as passive participants, unable to change the trajectory of their lives by their own actions (there are male victim characters, but they are victims of other male characters).

This is not the case for portrayals of female characters. Women are used to seeing movies or reading books that have few, if any, female characters in the first place and the ones that are included are often in the victim/trophy/throw-away role. For the first(?) time, there was no male "doer" in the story. Women have become accustomed to empathizing with the male protagonist/antagonist because often that's all there is; men are less accustomed to this, so the only character they end up being able to empathize with in the story is Nick (or Desi or the dad) the victim, and this makes them uncomfortable.

So, it's not so much man qua victim that makes men uncomfortable with the story, it's that there's also a lack of man-as-actor. It's not that it's scarier to be accused than to be killed, it's that your fate can only be expressed in the passive voice.

Unrelated sidenote: I was really upset that they cut out Betsy Bolt for the movie
posted by melissasaurus at 2:24 PM on March 27, 2015 [28 favorites]


The article has some really interesting points to ponder, but maybe meanders a bit near the end.

I was reminded of watching TV with my husband last night though. He watches a ton of these true crime shows and I like to join him and crack him up by making fun of the tropes. Last night we were viewing Unusual Suspects - a 23 year-old woman had disappeared and all the suspect were guys she knew, in her age bracket. I couldn't stop pointing out that there wasn't an unusual suspect in the bunch since of course a man she knew killed her.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:29 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I kind of maintained my belief that Nick deserved what he fucking got. There's this part in the movie - maybe it's a voiceover - where it talks about the many ways that men destroy women's lives - how even though she's not dead, she has been murdered - and it really resonated, as did the Cool Girl speech.

If I recall the movie correctly, this was all in the voice over that was part of Amy's (fictional) diary. One of my frustrations with the movie (and yet also very interesting) is that I was never sure what the truth of their relationship was. The OP suggests you get more of the true Nick in the book and I'm curious if its more clear on the page what their actual relationship was like.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:32 PM on March 27, 2015


If I recall the movie correctly, this was all in the voice over that was part of Amy's (fictional) diary.

I suppose that's really where people break down - is the fictional diary all fictional? Does it contain genuine thoughts and hopes and dreams in among the falsehoods? Or is it all invented for the sake of the detectives who are going to read it? I tend to think that it is only a half-fake diary - written after the fact, maybe, but with feelings and anger and genuine frustration bleeding through.
posted by corb at 2:46 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


One reading is that the events as filmed are true and that all dialogue is open to interpretation. My take from the first 10 minutes of the movie was that they were both horrible people - Amy is just horribler.
posted by Dmenet at 2:52 PM on March 27, 2015


aaaaand by 'dialogue' I meant 'narration'

oops
posted by Dmenet at 3:13 PM on March 27, 2015


I did a lot of reading about this after watching the movie, and the best criticism I found was that it's some kind of Men's Rights wet dream. Amy wants nothing more then to ruin her husband's life, maintaining him as the center of the story while she goes on to do cartoonishly evil things to him. This subject material makes me wonder why the movie was so popular - Fincher's directorial skill notwithstanding

Just wanted to chime in to say that I could see why someone would get that read from the movie--which I felt painted Nick extremely sympathetically (might be a result of casting an everyman actor in the role, but probably also writing)--but in my opinion, the book was way more feminist and made it way clearer that they are both terrible, and that Amy's terribleness was in many ways a response to/product of both her family's treatment of her and Nick's.
posted by likeatoaster at 3:53 PM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, FWIW I watched the movie after reading the book, so my feels about it were in some ways already cemented by that medium.
posted by corb at 4:13 PM on March 27, 2015


From the article: This is why Nick’s is the more damning characterization: because Amy bears no resemblance to any person who has ever walked the planet, but she bears a resemblance to women as conceived of in the nightmares of men like Nick, and there are many of those men walking the planet.

I read the book and hated it (didn't see the movie.) I mostly hated it because as the author says, the character of Amy was unbelievable in every way. The only reason Nick seems worse than her is that she is a stupid made-up person and he's realistically venal. I would agree that Amy's parents fucked her up royally, but Nick's just a dumb choad she actively chose, so I can't put much of her terribleness on him, despite my personal hatred for cheaters. I think everything she did to Nick was already in her and if he wasn't the catalyst, someone else would've been.

Hidden in the article is a link to The Ultimate Humiliation, which is also an interesting essay and reminds that although I desperately wish Gone Girl would just go away, I remain sickly fascinated and outraged by Elliot Rodgers's pathology.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:44 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not that it's scarier to be accused than to be killed, it's that your fate can only be expressed in the passive voice.

Ironically, thought-provokingly, to be murdered is also to have a fate expressed in the passive voice; I wonder if the difference is that to survive something like that means to realize you continue to exist as a person realizes they can be acted upon as well as being a person who can act.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:03 PM on March 27, 2015


I haven't seen the movie but read the plot summary and conclusion, so I know what happened and there's still a part of me that thinks Ben Affleck did it.

After all, he looks a lot like Scott Peterson.
posted by discopolo at 6:14 PM on March 27, 2015


Ironically, thought-provokingly, to be murdered is also to have a fate expressed in the passive voice

Yes; that's what I meant - both are in the passive voice, the male characters that men can choose from are all objects of the verb, there are no male subjects. And since this is so unusual to encounter, and they're unaccustomed to identifying with any female characters, it makes them uncomfortable.

the character of Amy was unbelievable in every way

I actually thought she was very believable. I obviously disagree with her idea of what constitutes a good solution to her problems, but I thought the commentary and interpretation of a lot of social experiences was spot on.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:44 PM on March 27, 2015


Good article, as is The Ultimate Humiliation which it linked to and Squeak Attack linked above as well if you missed it.

I think we've also got a 'previously on MeFi' for the police department working on preventing domestic violence by tracking the actual red flags (previous violence, changes in relationship status) rather than judging by the level of politeness the accused shows towards the police orother authority figures.
posted by harriet vane at 9:00 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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