** Gone Girl spoiler alerts! **
The most recent band wagon I’ve jumped on is Gone Girl because it looks like a good movie and I’ve got to read the book before I see the movie. The only time I’ve seen the movie first is when I didn’t know it was originally a book. Now, I’m thinking that when a movie comes out that I want to see, I should just assume it’s a book and scoop it up before I buy my movie ticket!
What Gone Girl has done for/to me is something that a book has not done for/to me in a long while. Normally, when I can’t put a book down, its because I’m just a book worm and I’m eating it up whether or not I like it very much or I think its the best book I’ve read so far. But I devoured Gone Girl in 3 days with a very busy schedule. Every spare second I had, the book was in my hands. I haven’t had a book leave me at the edge of my seat (the way movies proclaim to do so often) in a very, very long time. It takes the reader on an emotional ride where he or she does not know who to sympathize with, if anyone at all, as if we were watching this woman disappear and the case unfurl before our eyes, while all the while we’re getting a glimpse into the minds of the two main characters, Amy and Nick. It made me feel like I was an insider and a bystander all at once.
In typical me fashion, I jumped all over the notion of the Cool Girl that Amy writes about when we get to hear her true voice, not that of Diary Amy. This phenomena, for lack of a better term, of girls and women pretending to be what they are not in order to interest a man is not only something I’ve read about in femist theory, but something that I’ve witnessed and been a part of in every day life. Gillian Flynn writes, from Amy’s point of view:
“…I was playing the girl who was in style, the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl. Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot,brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
Flynn uses Amy to draw attention to the extreme expectations that males, in general, have for females. It goes right back to the Madonna or the whore. Be caring, be understanding, be tough, be sexy, eat a steak, laugh at my fart jokes but be a lady, be motherly but don’t smother me, deep throat me and take it from behind but don’t be a slut, have some self respect. Every female I know, including myself, has had to deal with these unrealistic expectations. Flynn goes on to write: “Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.” Males, and many females, with antiquated ideals expect so many contradictory qualities in women that it becomes confusing for a girl or woman to even know who she is or how she really feels because we are always so busy attempting to squeeze ourselves into the mold, to avoid the dreaded labels: psycho, crazy.
I don’t believe that any of the pretending that Amy is talking about here is done intentionally by women; I believe that we’ve all been groomed to act in a way that men will find attractive and we allow others to dictate who we should become in order to get their attention and gain their affection. But the pretending, intentional or not, can only go on for so long before the real you, your true emotions, bubble over. Once that happens, that may not be met with the kindest reactions, which is what happened to Amy in this book. Her true nature coming out pushed her husband, Nick, away, so far away that the marriage collapsed. Now, I’m not making a plea for Amy or blaming Nick; in this one situation, Amy does turn out to be what we all fear we will be called as females who dare to share our true selves with a male: a psycho bitch. But that’s not quite my point.
Speaking from experience, I’ve been in that place where I was the Cool Girl. This wasn’t intentional, this wasn’t even pretending – someone had brought out all of these ideal qualities in me at one point. I wanted to have fun and go to parties and drink whiskey with the guys and go to band practice until all hours of the night and let him put his hands on me whenever and however he wanted. But like all good things, it was good until it wasn’t. It turned into a big case of “Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.” I wouldn’t say that I was pretending and then I stopped, I would say that I was taken advantage of and then let my feelings be known. As Amy, again, says “I was told love should be unconditional…But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever?…Unconditional love is an undisciplined love, and as we all have seen, undisciplined love is disastrous.”
What then happened was that I was sick of being walked all over; I drew up conditions in this “unconditional love” and those conditions weren’t favorable to the other party. Fuck me for having feelings, right? So often women are shamed for being honest. So many times, in different situations and to different people, I’ve said “you really hurt me” to be met with “you’re being dramatic”. When we try to take control, we become the psycho bitch. Our truth is minimized at best.
Amy takes things to the extreme, to say the least, and although I couldn’t sympathize with her after I got to the point in the book where I knew what was really going on, I could identify with her.
That being said, I was, and still am, so conflicted on the ending. Another thing that we are groomed into is that yearning for the fairy tale ending, that happily ever after. So much so that even after reading the horrible things that Nick and Amy did to and thought about one another, I still wanted them to wind up together. That in itself kind of confuses and scares me. Or maybe I just felt like Amy and Nick did: that they were so fucked up and knew each other’s fucked up-ness so damn well that who else could either of them wind up with if not each other? Part of me is also disappointed that Amy didn’t get her due punishment, or did she? Living a life with a man who loathes you, who is only with you because of your child that you share, that’s got to be some kind of hell, right? I’m very much disappointed, confused, and only very slightly satisfied with the ending. Yes, that’s right, I’m disappointed and satisfied at the same damn time and that’s alright because I’m a complex, female human being and I can feel however I want and tell you all about it.