Even as someone who tends to skip to the last page, I have to precede with a big fat spoiler warning and tell you that you will ruin a huge element of the movie for yourself if you read this without watching it.
Last night I saw Gone Girl with my fierce, flawless, fast-talking girlfriends.
2/6 of us had read the book before, and knew what was coming the entire time. 6/6 of us left the movie shaken.
It’s rare that the movie version actually manages to do a better job telling the story (at least in certain regards) than the book, but this one did it. It’s one thing to imagine Amy Dunne’s size 2 figure striding across your mind, seducing Desi before deftly slitting his throat, because it is simply the most optimal option to achieve her ends.
It’s another thing to see Desi’s blood squirting all over aforementioned lithe figure.
But truthfully, all the gore of the movie’s most violent scene slid into and out of my memory like water. It’s not what woke me up early this morning and it’s not what haunted my thoughts as I got dressed. There’s not much in life to remind me of a throat-cutting scene.
But the rest of my day, on the other hand… the checklists, the color codes, even the wardrobe. The daily calculations, down to the length of my hair, sleighted to reach optimal wedding length just in time for–you guessed it–my wedding.
I haven’t put on my makeup yet because, honestly, I need to see the two ugly zits on my chin to remind myself that I’m human, that I’m not actually a control freak, that I’m warm and relatable and even if I have a penchant for optimizing, it’s checked by compassion and empathy etc…!
But am I reminding myself? Or just telling myself that?
The scariest thing that the Gone Girl movie did which Gillian Flynn’s book could not was give us Rosamund Pike. Somehow to read about Amy’s flawless execution in words is, even to an imagination that tends to go haywire like mine, not as powerful as seeing it personified, and all with a wide-eyed, even fragile-looking mien.
Scary, because it’s inherently scary. But also scary because that tone of voice, that gentleness laced with forethought, that smiling efficiency, is all too familiar, and Amy’s character is so identifiable.
And. The title of this post refers to your (plural) self.
It’s not just Amy’s tactics that are recognizable to so many women–it’s the uniquely female circumstances in which she finds herself. Her, a powerful, brilliant, woman–still profoundly and pervasively threatened by the inherent societal power of men in her life.
They move to Missouri, where Nick’s education is an asset, while hers is a liability–where the local ideal woman is perhaps someone more like Noelle Hawthorne.
Nick ages, but has no trouble finding a “younger, bouncier cool girl” to admire him despite his infidelity.
And finally, there’s Desi, who captures Amy at her most vulnerable and is fully equipped by physical strength and wealth and power and force to reduce her to what he thinks a woman should be–at worst an ornament and at best a toy for his lavish lake house.
It’s scary not just because I see my own cunning, but because in desperate situations it seems like the only tool that can get me out. It is scary because the world that women experience is inherently tilted against us, but the use of our wiles often lands us in even greater disfavor.
It is scary because just as my mother warned me about not appearing too strong, too aggressive, too successful, I will frankly warn my daughter of the same–not that she should not be strong, aggressive, or successful, but because the world is such that often, the only way she’ll be able to find happiness while being all those things is to pretend that she is not.
Isn’t it scary how many male protagonists in movies do similarly violent things to their captors as Amy did to hers, to nothing but cheers and commendations of badassery in response?
As my own views on gender roles and relationships have gone from ignorance to empowerment to confusion and back again, at first what I see in Christianity about how as a woman to respond to systemic injustice seems as impossible an ideal as “Amazing Amy”–submission, gentleness, grace, generosity. Who can do these things? Who can respond to Amy’s circumstances with true gentleness and not the kind staged to achieve one’s desired ends?
I am in the trenches, not just against the tilt of society but against the tilt of my own heart, which instinctively reacts toward oppression with not just reciprocated aggression, but all the attention to detail which makes underhanded warfare possible and appealing.
But as I read about and think upon the life of Jesus, I recognize that in that trench I am not alone. Here is a man, but one who is wise and meticulous and sees all things. One who is powerful, but breaks the cycles of oppression and injustice not with force or with wile but with a turned cheek and a bloodied brow.
One who exemplifies the perfect balance of internal power against external circumstance, but does not do so ignorant of the resultant personal tension and pain. Who releases me from the need to “win” because he has already won.
And as long as we have each other, everything else is background noise.