photo by Joe Mazza and Brave Lux

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Short Rant on GONE GIRL, Monstrous Female Characters, and Domestic Violence

As I left a late-night showing of Gone Girl, shaking with rage, in my small university town, I encountered one of the university’s male undergrads. He was a film major I recently met at a screenwriters’ club that invited me to critique their scripts. His face glowed, he obviously loved the movie, and he asked me what I thought. Too forcefully, I told him I hated it. He recoiled, and I felt like I had stolen candy from a baby. And Gone Girl is surely sugar-coated with its beautiful cinematography, soundtrack, and direction. But it is poisoned candy.

Briefly, I hated the movie because the disproportionate response of the female character to the male character’s actions makes her appear at best psychotic, at worst monstrous, and I find this message dangerous. The female character finds out the male character is cheating on her, so she decides to fake her death, kill herself, frame the male character, and destroy his life. When that doesn’t quite work, she fakes her rape by her ex, then kills that ex while orgasming in his blood, and uses the male character’s frozen sperm to lock him into a dangerous marriage. The end.

So let’s review: male cheats. In response, female kills and tortures. A more proportionate response might be divorce, marriage counseling, or all out verbal war à la Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But because the female’s response is so utterly bizarre—who taps a vein and throws blood on the ground for the police to find because you saw your husband kiss another woman?—she is depicted as an uncontrollable monster who literally kills one man and destroys the life of another.

But why do I find this disturbing? Surely not every female character must be a saint?

I find the depiction of “monstrous” women killing/destroying their male partners so troubling because it is the opposite of reality. The fact is, between 2001 and 2012 in the U.S., 11,766 women were murdered by their male partners or ex-partners. Three women are murdered by a current or former male partner every day in the U.S. And nearly five million American women are attacked physically by a male partner every year. You can find these and other truly monstrous facts about domestic violence in this Huffington Post article.

The art of a culture delineates and “imagines” ideological boundaries of that society. Movies and other media create a picture of the world on which we ground our beliefs. And so movies like Gone Girl—and it is only the latest in the genre of monstrous women—obscure our society’s real domestic violence monsters: men who murder women.

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