Feminist Criticism

Gone Girl’s ‘Cool Girl’

gone girls cool girl

Artwork by Chloe

Occasionally, a character comes along that captures an entire generation and sets the bar for future works of fiction to aspire to. They open debates and invite people into endless discussions, creating an almost worldwide storm of mutual intrigue, a feat that is notably difficult to achieve in modern filmmaking. During the nineties, this coveted position was taken on by Tyler Durden of ‘Fight Club’ and Patrick Bateman of ‘American Psycho’, both of which were the worthy successors themselves to Scorsese’s Travis Bickle and Hitchcock’s infamous Norman Bates. When they were first introduced to us, these characters were not simply regarded as ‘villains’ and tossed aside; they were presented to us as anti-heroes, characters that we could shamelessly delight in and empathise with but could not fully commit ourselves to. These days, it is somewhat commonplace for a movie to include some form of a male anti-hero and for him to receive widespread acclaim for his ambiguous role and yet, whenever a woman is given to us in a similar way, she is met only with misogyny and labelled as a bitch, rather than as a brave choice of character.

Why? Why is it that fictional males are permitted to be as cold and as morally dubious as they wish and females are not? Why can’t a female be an antagonist without being hounded by sexism? To meet a woman, then, as calculated as any of the male characters that I have previously mentioned, is a tragic rarity within cinema. At least, until Amy Dunne appeared. Ah, Amy Dunne. The ‘Gone Girl’ herself of David Fincher’s latest piece and Gillian Flynn’s greatest novel. Arguably, the most complex and most fascinating character of both film and literature in recent years. To describe her in just a few words would be impossible. She is, for me, one of the finest creations that I have ever come across and her characterisation has affected me so much that I was evidently inspired to write this piece based solely on her.

The kindest thing that we could say about Amy Dunne is that she is intelligent. Alongside this, she is vindictive. She is cruel, she is manipulative and she is undoubtedly malevolent. The actions that she indulges and even revels in throughout ‘Gone Girl’  are so unforgivable that everyone I have spoken to about the film was left in shock; just in the way that I was. But, and here is the wonderful thing about Amy Dunne, whether you like her or dislike her, there can be no denial that she is an absolute pleasure to watch. The speeches that she delivers on the expectations and self-entitlement of men are a joy, as she talks both hilariously and thrillingly, allowing us to join her on her descent into total malice and defiance. Amy is brought to life by not only Gillian Flynn’s stunning screenplay and Fincher’s directions but also by Rosamund Pike’s wondrous portrayal. Here, Pike is a dream. She both understands and beautifully conveys exactly what it is that makes Amy so enthralling; her normalcy. From the very beginning, we are led to believe that Amy is no different to any of us. She is from a stable family. She is privileged, she is the daughter of two psychologists and even has an entire series of pretentious children’s books named after her, for fuck’s sake. She is loved, she is attractive, she is self-aware and she is admittedly mundane. Her acts of cruelty are so chilling because, as a fantastic result of Pike’s performance, they are entirely, and eerily, believable. Amy is not a cartoon villain. She is a woman; plagued with underlying sociopathic tendencies and driven to the brink of reality by the darkness of marriage.

As terrible a person she may be, Amy Dunne is refreshing proof that women can be immoral, that women can be malicious and that women can be remorseless without being a ‘bitch’. Amy; you are most definitely not the ‘Cool Girl’ that you were once so terrified of becoming.

Hannah Ryan

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