Does “Gone Girl” Present a Negative View Against Women?

Gone Girl has no shortage of passionate, conflicting reactions to what it has to say about women. Exhibit A for just about any argument can be found in Amy Dunne’s “cool girl” speech:

“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.”

Most likely the best-known part of the novel, we hear this part as voice-over in the film, with Amy observing all the other young women around her. To some, this may transform the words into an accusatory condemnation of these same women through Amy’s eyes. But this is also a warped sociopath, not a view to be trusted. As a woman arguably deranged by the presumed expectations of men, could this be an angry, satirical critique on the way women are pressured into becoming a male construct?

The film doesn’t pretend that men are free from similar pressures, nor does it limit these explorations to the twisted mind of Amy Dunne. Much of what the film has to say is built around traditional marriage in a modern context, and anything it observes about one gender has some connection to the other. At the start of their courtship, Nick and Amy are presented as an ideal couple, but as their relationship progresses, they both begin to fall into chosen social roles that are often defined by gender. After they enter their marriage, the compromises they have to make put a strain on their relationship, and some have pointed out that all the problems seem rooted in gender expectations. Nick’s professional decline seems all the more disappointing because of expectations bestowed on male providers. Amy giving up the New York life she’s always known for Nick’s Midwestern hometown is primarily motivated by financial problems and family illness, but some believe it reflects a compromise that women are expected to make more often than men. More importantly, the way Nick and Amy present themselves to the world and to each other is shaped by an awareness of what the other gender wants. It’s already clear that Amy is self-conscious to a pathological degree, but when Nick is angry about the media’s scrutiny of his life, he yells out “I’m so sick of being picked apart by women.”

Still, the most revealing analysis may be found in the way general audiences have themselves reacted to the film. Director David Fincher revealed that the sympathies of the test audiences were typically divided along gender lines. What you see may indeed depend on where you sit.