But if we’re going to take a ride on the Gillian Flynn Thriller Train, we should pay close attention to how the female villain manifests in Gone Girl. What’s her MO? What makes her particularly villainous? Coming away from this book, it’s hard not to get the impression that a large part of what comprises this particular female dark side is lying about rape. Repeatedly. Fake rape accusations make up no less than three major plot moments in the novel. It’s kind of staggering. She falsely accuses an ex because he lost interest in her. Her fake diary implies that, at some point, all of Amy and Nick’s sex becomes de-facto rape. Finally, to conveniently explain her disappearance (so she can reunite with Nick), Amy murders a man and claims that he had been keeping her hostage, raping her every day.
Ok. Is rape a horrible thing to lie about? Absolutely. Do women lie about it? Sure, but statistics tell us that false rape accusations are no more or less common than false accusations for other crimes. It’s really troubling, as I’m sure it’s supposed to be, that Amy lies over and over about being raped. There’s nothing inherently wrong with writing a character like Amy. But should we pretend this is an act of subversion? At the end of the day, doesn’t Amy play into a historically ubiquitous narrative that says women lie about rape constantly? Simply to be malicious. Because they wanted to have sex, but were ashamed afterwards. For any number of other coercive or manipulative reasons.
So, Gone Girl ends with Amy and Nick reunited, and it feels so awful. Aware of her deception(s), Nick rightfully wants nothing to do with her. As her final act of malice, Amy impregnates herself with Nick’s sperm, thereby trapping him in their loveless, terrifying marriage out of pure spite. Let’s recap here: Amy framed a man for murder, murdered another man, repeatedly lied about rape, and ruined the lives of at least several people. And to top off a year of emotional torment she gets pregnant to trap her husband? Comparatively, Nick’s only sin was being a terrible and adulterous partner. However terrible he may have been, that’s the extent of what he actually “did.” Amy is not an interesting or compelling villain. She is the crystallization of a thousand misogynist myths and fears about female behavior. If we strapped a bunch of Men’s Rights Advocates to beds and downloaded their nightmares, I don’t think we’d come up with stuff half as ridiculous as this plot.
It’s such a shame. Flynn is super-duper talented. This is a really well-written novel, downright insightful about the rigors of relationships and marriages. It’s almost tempting to say that the book is ruined by the trappings of the genre, but I don’t think that’s a fair conclusion. Ultimately, Gone Girl is done in by its ambition. It desperately wants to do interesting, subversive things, but in trying to, falls into some really misogynist narratives and implications. The specific ways in which Amy is evil (lying about rape, using pregnancy as a manipulative device) feel so entangled with misogynist caricatures created by anti-women and antifeminists that it really sinks the entire novel.
OH MY GOD YESSSSS. I saw Gone Girl over the weekend and talked this morning about how I hated it for exactly these reasons. It reaffirms these dumb yet commonly held ideas that women lie about rape just because they can.
Great post. Quality post.