Gone Girl and the Specter of Feminism

~I’m about to spoil this entire book. Fair warning.~

Some folks would have you believe that feminism is dead. It accomplished its goals, perhaps went too far sometimes, and now it’s dead. Buried. Indeed, we are post-feminist. True equality and all that. I’m not one of these people. I think feminism is very much alive. But were I to be forced to accept its death, I would have to submit that its specter still haunts us all, sometimes crying out from the pitch black. And I am its harbinger. I have come to let you know that feminism has given Gone Girl  a rating of “W” for: “Wow, totally fucked up bullshit.”

Gone Girl is a novel largely concerned with the failed marriage of its protagonists, but this plot thread is inextricable from the narrative’s mystery/thriller elements. Amy and Nick meet as beautiful, young, successful people in New York City. Nick is a working-class Midwesterner, now writing for a magazine. Amy is a lifelong New Yorker. She writes personality quizzes, and is substantially wealthy due to a series of children’s books written by her parents, but based on her alter-ego, Amazing Amy, who breezes through life’s challenges with aplomb. Their relationship appears to go smoothly for quite a while, but there are early warning signs. Both Amy and Nick seem like Grade A narcissists. On each yearly anniversary, Amy creates a scavenger hunt filled with clues based on their year together. The problem is that Nick is so unobservant and self-centered that he can’t actually figure the clues out; at the same time, Nick sees the scavenger hunt as less about them as a couple and more about Amy. In short, both characters are shitty to each other.

Eventually, Amy and Nick are laid-off from their respective jobs. Money problems begin to crop up. They live in a leased apartment in Brooklyn paid for by Amy’s parents, but her parents aren’t as well-off as they once were. Turns out, they need to take money out of Amy’s trust fund, to the tune of 600k+, to deal with their own financial issues. When Nick’s mother falls ill, he decides to move back to Missouri with Amy, in order to help his sister care for their dying mother. In Missouri, Nick takes a loan from Amy to finance a bar, which he runs with his sister, Margot. Obviously, this adds even more tension and resentment to their relationship.

I think this may actually be the best part of the novel. It’s all about people’s expectations when going into a relationship. How does one balance what we expect of those we love with the stark reality that they are flawed human beings, just like us? That, in all likelihood, no matter how much we love our partners, they will fail, disappoint, anger, and sadden us? What if the person you love just isn’t who you thought they were? In a way these are super basic themes, but no less resonant because of that. This novel’s depiction of a relationship that just isn’t working for a number of reasons (lack of affection, lack of sex, outsized expectations, changing circumstances, plain incompatibility) feels achingly, painfully real. For the entire first half of the novel, I was just deeply moved by these people who seemed to be in love but were just too fucked up to fix their problems.

Then, one day, Amy is gone. She has disappeared. Nick is blindsided, wandering around in a bit of a fog. And not appearing to be the distraught husband one might expect. Gradually, suspicious details emerge. Nick is obviously withholding information from the reader. Why does he have a second cell phone that keeps ringing? Why does he keep imagining his wife’s skull? Why can’t he account for his location during the time of Amy’s alleged disappearance/murder? There is other, alarming evidence: cleaned-up blood, a strangely disheveled living room, and a stockpile of Man Toys that Nick appears to have bought on credit but claims to know nothing about.

If the disintegrating marriage is the best part of the novel, this may be the second best. Gillian Flynn, the author, does a wildly successful job of building the case against Nick. Up until the actual reveal, I entertained three theories:

1. Nick actually killed Amy

2. Nick and Amy faked her death to get the insurance money

3. Amy is alive and framing Nick

It is all to Flynn’s immense credit that she had me more or less convinced of 1. even though 3. seems to make much more sense. The detail that sealed it for me was Nick’s father’s misogyny clearly having taken root in Nick himself. I got all wrapped up in the idea that this might be a story about generational misogyny. How we learn attitudes like misogyny from our environment, whether from our parents, friends, the things we consume, etc. It felt really exciting. That novel still needs to be written.

So, yes. Amy’s alive. She’s framing Nick. She discovered his infidelity, and planned her “death” for months. Honestly, when the reveal happens, it’s kind of amazing. There’s a surge of relief that Amy’s alive and exacting some kind of revenge on her husband. The fact that the revenge is fairly extreme is reasoned away by the genre’s inherent silliness. But problems quickly surface.

As much as one wants to root for Amy for getting back at (what appears to be) a truly awful husband, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the extent of Amy’s plan is truly monstrous. She plans to commit suicide to conclusively incriminate Nick. What’s more, we discover that the Amy we’ve known up to this point is basically a lie; all of the chapters we’ve been reading from Amy’s point-of-view are faked diary entries, meant to make Nick-as-murderer even more plausible.

But let’s stop here for a moment. There’s nothing wrong, or inherently unworkable, about a novel featuring thoroughly unlikable or heinous characters. Amy is essentially a sociopath. Nick is a wormy, adulterous man-child. They are both terrible, and that’s fine. However, I do want to think a bit about why Amy is how she is.

Throughout the novel I tried to make sense of the backhanded comments toward feminism. Early in the story, Amy says something about “post-feminism” men who are too afraid to be sexually/romantically aggressive. Later, she will make a comment about how her “feminist” parents exploited her childhood to sell books. I don’t quite know what to do with this. What’s clear is that Amy is something of a feminist. There is a delightfully acerbic passage, near her “alive” reveal, wherein she savages the idea that women should stand by while their partners casually ignore them and anything they might deem important. But I don’t know what to say about the rest of this. I mean, clearly, the comment about “post-feminism” men is total bullshit. If men were that reserved about sex we wouldn’t have the problem with rape that we do now. I guess the bit about her parents is meant to signal that “feminist” parents wouldn’t exploit their daughter? I suppose that’s true.

But what I’m really interested in is this: what are we to make of an evil character who is stereotypically evil in the same way that many would characterize “evil feminists”?

So I went to the author’s website, which turned out to be instructive. She described a kind of modus operandi in relation to one of her other novels, but one that also appears evident in Gone Girl:

It’s not a particularly flattering portrait of women, which is fine by me. Isn’t it time to acknowledge the ugly side? I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes (as if we had nothing more interesting to war over), not chilly WASP mothers (emotionally distant isn’t necessarily evil), not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either). I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some. The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side.

To be frank, my first thought upon reading this was: “Oh, so this woman’s just an asshole?” I mean, really? You’re tired of the “brave rape victims”? Considering what you do in this novel, give me a fucking break. That aside, Flynn’s project — that of writing interesting female villains — is a fascinating and completely worthwhile endeavor. I just think the thought process by which she’s arrived at this project is deeply flawed. Let’s pay close attention to what she blames for the lack of compelling female baddies — the lack of the female dark side: “The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves — to the point of almost parodic encouragement — we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side.”

Essentially, she blames feminism. There has been too much girl power — almost enough to be parodic — and now we can’t have proper female villains. This conclusion is ludicrous. Has uncontested male dominance for, like, ever, also failed to produce compelling male villains? Then why should it be true of the last 40 or so years where women have basically said, “hey, we’re human beings, too”? I would submit that the dearth of female villains can be easily explained by cultural misogyny. It’s the same reason we don’t see a variety of nuanced female characters across popular mediums, which is to say that we simply value male experience over female experience. It’s why we have Women in Refrigerators and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It’s why many brilliant actresses are relegated to roles in terrible romantic comedies. The lack of female villains is indicative of a larger cultural problem that has little to do with feminism; instead, it has has everything to do with a society that strongly circumscribes roles for women.

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.

Before we set out on the path of writing an Amy, I think we should take care to note that our society makes real-life survivors of rape into villains every single day. We assume ulterior motives. We invade and question their sexual history as if it’s relevant. We make rape survivors into whores and sluts, into evil, evil women who are only out to hurt and punish men. And that’s if we don’t ignore them altogether, or if they can summon the courage to report the rape at all. I think the brave rape victims that Flynn is so bothered by are likely a literary reaction to this hard reality.

And I understand the other part of what Flynn meant to accomplish here. She wanted to take the narrative of “wife disappears, husband obviously killed her” and turn it on its head. That’s a fascinating idea for a novel, and for the first half of Gone Girl she nails it. Then all of the twists happen. I mean, isn’t it the case that the husband often is the culprit? Like, that’s reality. I guess I’m not exactly sure where the value is in this particular application of that concept.  The value feels even more suspect when the result is a character so outlandish and over-the-top that she is less villain, more supervillain. She should be going up against Batman, not some washed-up loser. Amy’s gift for foresight and planning is truly remarkable. She’s being totally wasted here. I understand Flynn’s impulse for subversion, but the realization of that impulse is kind of bizarre. As Marlo Stanfield once famously said: you want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.

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.

In the end, I suppose Gone Girl is really indicative of a post-feminist mindset, wherein the problems of misogyny become somehow the fault of feminism. Perhaps this is why the novel has a weird jab at post-feminist men. Perhaps that’s how one can say brave rape victims are tired, and go on to write a novel like Gone Girl. Or how we can blame the lack of diverse female characters on girl power. It’s a strange world out there for feminism, but this particular mystery isn’t fooling me.



  1. Terrific, on-target commentary. I just finished this book, had pretty much the same reaction on all points. I googled Gone Girl + misogynist and your piece came up first.


  2. Brilliant, brilliant piece. I just finished Gone Girl today and felt oddly off. What I had previously devoured had left me feeling kind of ill-used. Thank you for putting your finger on exactly what was bothering me about the book. It laid bare the odd relationship that is marriage in many ways…Nick and Amy, Marybeth and Rand, and Marueen and, um, Nick’s dad (sorry…name escapes me right now). Anyway, they each are their own brand of fucked up…and it was interesting to see exactly how each pairing worked…or didn’t. But the constant female issues that cropped up left me feeling that the marriage argument was becoming a footnote. Amy went from being a woman with righteous anger at a husband who did nothing but disappoint in bigger and bigger ways to a “psycho bitch.” She became a true monster, no longer someone we could even recognize as human and that’s where the book fell apart for me. If more was made of how they were equally fucked up and kinda had a destructive/constructive symbiosis, I think I would’ve left feeling better about it…at least more satisfied.


  3. Also really happy to see this. A couple weeks ago, after I finished the book, I googled “Gillian Flynn feminist” and for some reason nothing this insightful came up. I looked at her website and copied out the same paragraph you quoted. I haven’t read Dark Places but I read Sharp Objects, which a lot of my friends liked, and I thought it was kind of predictable. After reading this one, I concluded that she has a deep animosity toward women, but I think you really nailed it when you said, “t desperately wants to do interesting, subversive things, but in trying to, falls into some really misogynist narratives and implications.”


  4. Thank you so much for your article which articulates brilliantly my unease with the novel. I agree Dark Places is a better novel, more reflective and more satisfying, whereas GG just seems to lurch from one sensation to another, so different from DP. Sakurasunicorn’s comment above nails it for me: “Amy went from being a woman with righteous anger at a husband who did nothing but disappoint in bigger and bigger ways to a “psycho bitch”. She became a true monster, no longer as someone we could recognize as human and that’s where the book fell apart for me.” And because of that, any feminist sentiments set out in the first half of the book were totally negated and undermined.


  5. I enjoyed reading this article much more than I enjoyed reading the actual novel. Your insights are spot on, especially when you say: “Amy is not an interesting or compelling villain. She is the crystallization of a thousand misogynist myths and fears about female behavior.” The novel left a bad taste in my mouth, especially because of its constant one-lined riffs against females, articulated by male and female characters alike. The very concepts Flynn attempted to subvert, she instead perpetuated. The way the plot transpires…it just makes me sad that this book became so popular, when it merely reasserts the very sorts of things that women have been trying to disprove about themselves for decades. I love a good female villain, don’t get me wrong, but what Flynn has created is, instead, a “straw man” caricature of a she-devil succubus. And I, for one, think that to be a cheap, degrading, and contrived angle to take.


    1. Thanks for this great comment! I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to respond. Obviously, I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. I also think characterizing Amy as a strawman is a fairly apt and quick way to cut to the heart of the problem here.


  6. I just finished this novel and came across your blog post. I completely agree. I think I was one of the few people who loved the first half of the novel and thought that every couple should read it. I loved how Flynn showed how easy it is for an abuser to so gradually dehumanize their partner to the point that they know nothing about them. It seemed that Amy became this monster in Nick’s narcissistic mind. I imagine that this happens in many abusive relationships (like you said, men kill their wives all.the.time. it’s not a myth). That’s exactly what I thought Flynn was doing with the diary entries, showing that Nick was so far removed from the realities of their relationship and who Amy was. This was the novel that I wanted to read. Instead, the novel turned into psycho “chick lit” in that the only difference between chick lit women protagonists and Amy was that Amy was mean and psycho. I found Amy’s character completely impossible to relate to and unbelievable, which to me did not make her a good villain. Nick’s character in the first half of the novel, on the other hand, was a fantastic villain because I think people could see themselves in him. I could not see myself in Amy at all, like you said, she just read like a misogynistic vision of a woman come to life. Thank you for your refreshing critique!


  7. Thank you for this post. I am trying to wash the foul aftertaste of GONE GIRL from my brain, trying to figure out how an author who clearly knew better (Amy’s rants about the “Cool Girl” is actually kind of inspired) could lean into such stock misogynistic tropes. Reading this has started the healing process. I hope one day to read popular genre fiction again with an easy heart.


  8. I just finished reading the book today and am so grateful for this post. I suppose the fact that I feel the need to discuss the book makes it better than I’m in the mood to give it credit for.

    I am in complete agreement about the book-in-halves issue. I loved the first half and really struggled with the second half, the whole time wishing over and over again “please don’t let this end with the awful people staying together, please, please, please.” But there it was…

    I was interested to see your comment that ultimately, Gone Girl was done in by its ambition. Clearly, Flynn can write characters, I loved Amy of the diary, I was on her side for far longer than was reasonable in the second half because Flynn wrote fake Amy so convincingly. It seems as if, as you suggest, character development lost to plot in the second half, note that Go is as flat as characters come, the theft of Amy’s money is trite at best and the “run to Desi” business is just tiresome (which is a disappointment, the way Desi treats Amy, as a caged bird to be admired and largely ignored, rings true and could have helped the second half, I think).

    I guess then, what I see as a problem for feminists is the choices she made, can we blame a lack of editing here, or, rather, call her choices in editing unfeminist? The second half felt entirely rushed. So I wonder whether Flynn just fell into the anti-woman cliches or, worse, actively kept them in as opposed to, say, developing the Amy-as-crazy character and getting rid of the entire mall scene which I found completely useless.


    1. Thank you for this very thoughtful comment!

      You know, I liked Flynn’s writing enough that I picked up and read her first two books after reading Gone Girl. Having done that, I’m quite struck by your comment re: the rushed feeling of the ending/generally messy second half. I’d argue that it’s a problem that affects all three of her novels. She does a superb job of plotting mysteries, writing compelling characters, etc. but at some point all of her books seem to become a mad dash to the ending. It also feels like, after such painstaking set up, her novels just tie things up so quickly. So I think you could possibly be onto something there about, perhaps, the editing choices being at fault here.

      There are certainly well written characters in her first two books. Dark Places is decent enough, but I think her first book, Sharp Objects, is kind of some next level shit. There’s a literariness to that book that is, I think, totally missing from Gone Girl. It’s also about relationships between women, instead of being a super fucked up tête-à-tête between a man and a woman. There are still some weird archetypes that are way more common than Flynn wants to admit (the crazy overbearing mom, for instance) but it feels much more complex.

      So yeah, as to your question, I’m not entirely sure. Though I’m certainly more than willing to give her the benefit of the doubt having read her other books.


  9. YES! Yes to this blog post and yes to the comments! After avoiding this book as long as I could, I finally caved and read it, and I’m so sorry I did. I started poking around on the Interwebs to see if anyone else was equally disgusted, and this blog turned up.

    Although I think Flynn may have been playing with some of the stereotypes of the “psycho bitch,” this wink-wink-all-in-good-fun misogyny is still misogyny. We’re still presented with a misogynistic husband and a wife with legitimate complaints about his misogyny and then taught that his misogyny is entirely justified because his wife really is a “psycho bitch” after all. What kind of lesson is that? It just adds fuel to the fire for all the MRA types sitting around in their basements, furiously spilling out their trumped up wrath on message boards where some unhinged lurker will eventually get the idea to grab a gun and shoot up a women’s aerobics class…Oh, wait. That already happened.

    I don’t support censorship or anything, but authors shouldn’t hide behind entertainment value. They, too, should take some responsibility for what they write, the ideas they spread. Can you imagine a novel about a racist white boss whose black employee turns out to be the one embezzling from his company? Or a homophobe whose gay neighbor turns out to be a child molester? We’d be disgusted by those stories–they’d probably never get published. But for some reason it’s fine for books and movies and TV shows to continuously paint women as violent psychopaths despite their rarity, especially as compared to violent male offenders. Somehow these incredibly offensive plots are seen as harmless fun when they are neither.

    You know where I *thought* this book was going? At first, I thought it was a brilliant exploration of the marital dynamics in a scenario like the Laci Peterson case. Then it occurred to me that Amy might have faked her own death because she genuinely feared Nick and wanted to punish him for the heinous things he’d done to her, which could have led to an interesting study of retribution and justice: If a man has effectively taken away a woman’s life by forcing her into hiding, is she justified in also taking away his? If he’s been her emotional jailer, should she now be his physical jailer? But, no, instead we got served with misogynistic drivel of the Lifetime movie variety. Poor wittle Nicky! It’s perfectly fine for him to think about how much he’d like to beat and strangle his wife because *she deserves it*!

    I thought Flynn’s writing style was wonderfully original, poignant, and humorous, but it couldn’t save this book, and I won’t read anything else she’s written. What I *can* recommend, though, is the extremely insightful Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman. She *nails* the misogynist in all his pathetic narcissism but manages to do so with a restraint and objectivity that makes her portrait of him very believable and therefore powerful. I read it this past summer, and it’s *still* on my mind!


  10. THANK YOU for your review.

    I spent the entire book assuming it was written by a male author (idk Gillian isn’t that common of a name)– one who thought he was being subversive by being “post-feminist”– that when I got to the end reading the author’s bio I was shocked. It confused my entire perception of the book, so that I wasn’t sure if there was another level I was missing– is she somehow revealing the ridiculousness of thinking we live in a post-feminist society? (I try to assume the best in people.)

    Anyway it helped to read your review, laying out every reason why the book enraged me so much, despite the fact that I gobbled it up like candy.


  11. Excellent review. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m close to the end. I was feeling uncomfortable and disturbed, but couldn’t put into words what I thought and felt about it. This review described exactly what I wanted to say. Thank you.


  12. Such a great post! I, too, felt unfulfilled by Gone Girl, and the complexity of the marriage’s disintegration only to be really disappointed by the ending. So often while I was reading the book I was both amazed and confused by Amy’s actions and decisions, and the push for a feminist approach that really did just the opposite.


  13. I love the book and the film, but as a feminist I definitely wrestle with my thoughts and opinions on it. Great article- although I am still unsure where I stand on the story.


  14. Thanks you for this! I had been collecting my thought on what a misogynistic and victim-blaming movie this was, and then came across this post via the privilege article that linked to you You nailed it! Side note: How funny is this now: “She should be going up against Batman, not some washed-up loser?”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is point that is often given too-little consideration. Amy is most certainly a sociopath. Her behavior is illuminated by this fact. She isn’t some noir version of the “crazy girl” trope. The accusation that a woman is being hysterical, irrational, vengeful, scorned, and jaded is often levied at women who are entirely sane and who have legitimate grievances (often against their male counter-parts who claim “she’s totally crazy, man!”). So the trope is only trope, when in fact the woman isn’t actually crazy. However, Amy Dunne certainly qualifies as clinically, patently sociopathic. She isn’t some cross between the pettiness of Mean Girls and the unmatched righteous anger of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo set to the tune of “Goodbye Earl”. She is an Aileen Wuornos with a Harvard Education and a wealthy background. She wasn’t a morally competent person and then turned into a monster after she was married to and severely mistreated by Nick. Her propensity to control, manipulate, dehumanize and objectify people is, by definition, an aspect of her personality caused by the dysfunction of her pre-frontal cortex, that was with her, in silent waiting, from birth. This level of pathology transcends “normal” and couldn’t possibly be emblematic of all women. As you said, a survey of MRA’s couldn’t produce recounts of behavior on par with Amy, because when people use the “crazy girl” line they are most likely not talking about faking a murder to put her husband in jail or committing premeditated murder in service of an elaborate revenge scheme. Normal people aren’t capable of that level of moral depravity. The estimated 1-4% of the population with some form of diagnosed ASPD are, and fewer still would actually exhibit Amy Dunne-esque levels of violence.

    As to the comments about exactly how she was evil; false accusations of rape, wielding pregnancy as leverage, etc., how would you have a sociopath with Amy’s intellect, socioeconomic background, education, and more introverted disposition go about pursuing her misdeeds? Should she have gone of a shooting-rampage? Maybe a little poison in Nick’s coffee? Become an chain-saw wielding mass murderer who uses her victims remains to fertilize her vegetable garden ? I do agree that Amy’s rape accusations have some purchase on the awful presumptions people really do make about rape victims. But Amy’s actions fit her profile; sly, cunning, manipulative, calculated, rational, analytical, etc. It is totally reasonable to think she would have the acumen to exact misery on people but to always maintain a few degrees of separation as to maintain her outward image and seem plausibly innocent. Using sex-intensive measures (rape, pregnancy, emotional control) seems like one effective strategy for a character like Amy to get what she wants. She isn’t physically or verbally intimidating. She has to spin a web, lay the trap, and cover her bases before she can step into a dominate role. The psychology of rape is also interesting for her character. Where rape is about controlling a victim, Amy has inverted this dynamic in some sick ironic fashion. The author’s employment of false rape for Amy is arguably in poor taste, I’ll cede that. But it isn’t explicable only in terms of the author’s supposed “deeply misogynistic attitude” or whatever. Amy really is that horrible, so Amy really can do those horrible things and you have likely never met nor will you ever meet any man or women who is as depraved as Amy. Just like you’ll never encounter a possessed doll or have an angry ghost crawl out of your TV or be chased by a hockey-mask-donning meat head with a steak a knife. That is the point.


  16. I disagree with what you say abut Flynn’s views on feminism. She is not blaming feminism or saying there’s anything wrong with female empowerment. Nowhere is she saying empowerment is a bad thing or that we should stop doing that. Her point is that feminism shouldn’t be MERELY female empowerment. It should also be about acknowledging women are just as diverse and complex as men. This includes showing that women aren’t always innocent and sweet, they aren’t always victims. They CAN be bad people. The fact that we can’t even have a female villain without it being ‘misogynistic’ is proof enough of why this is necessary. If you truly want to show women are equal to men, this means showing their diversity. They are not a category, they are individuals who can differ greatly. This means not only acknowledging those who are positive girl-power-feminists, (which is NOT a bad thing to be) but also those who are vengeful and truly fucked up.

    Also I think there’s a bit more to Amy then her being ‘an asshole’. She’s fleshed-out and complex. The repellingness of her actions is a fact, I don’t think anyone can disagree about that. But there is more to her character than just her actions: her views, motivations and inner workings of her mind are given an in-depth explanation. She’s not just a one-dimensional asshole who can be disregarded as ‘just a psycho bitch lol’. Besides truly horrible and scary she’s also an interesting character to read about. She’s not just a psycho who snaps, and she’s not acting out of self-defence. She acts completely of her own accord and her reasons scarily well thought-out. Which does not make them in any way RIGHT. That’s what makes her character so good. I despise Amy: I think she’s horrible and as I watched the movie/read the book I wanted to have her behind bars as badly as the next person. But she makes a hell of a great character, and I think that is Flynn’s intention. Good female characters don’t always have to be good, inspiring people, because women are not always good, inspiring people. Sometimes they are the villain.

    I did not think the story was intended to invalidate girls and women who were victims or domestic violence. I can see how some may feel that, and I’m not saying they are wrong to feel that way, but I don’t think a story about a female villain invalidates stories about female victims. Gone Girl is simply not the story of a female victim of domestic abuse, nor was it ever intended to be. There are several other books and movies to tell those stories, and they are very important. I don’t want to disregard that at ALL. It’s just that Gone Girl choose to tell a different story. If you approve of it or not is personal, but it’s not misogynistic.


  17. I thought feminists believed in equality. Why is it impossible to believe that women have done this to men? Why is it considered misogynistic to bring that to light? HOW is this victim blaming? All accusations of a crime should be looked at with the SAME, EQUAL level of scrutiny. Asking questions regarding said crime is NOT victim blaming. Just like there are crazy groups of men that do crazy crap, there are EQUALLY crazy groups of women that do crazy crap. I don’t give a crap about any type of statistic. Statistics only give an idea, a sliver of information regarding the entire population. In my honest opinion the movies illustrates that women who do crazy things thrive in today’s feminist society. Lower sentences than men given the same crime, lower level of scrutiny regarding crime accusations, higher level of sympathy than men which consequently = higher chance of getting away with the crime.


  18. I am totally okay with this story. I disagree with you! This story excites me to no end. I guess it’s because I don’t believe that most woman lie about being raped- not at all! This is just a villianous female character. Can we just accept her for being that? The fact that we pick her apart in the first place just proves how we are so unfamiliar with and disturbed by a woman we can’t categorize. God forbid.


  19. It’s a well written and insightful review, but I personally have to disagree. I don’t think this book was intended to be anti-feminist or misogynist at all. It’s a story. More than that, it’s a crime drama, a noir-styled story meant to explore the darkness of human behavior and toxic relationships. It’s a thriller. It’s meant to thrill, not serve as social commentary. I highly doubt that Flynn wrote the book with the thought of perpetuating misogyny and reinforcing the idea of lying rape victims, and if you’re reading into it that way, you’ve kind of missed the point. Amy is not meant to represent women. Amy is just a character. The story is fiction. It’s for entertainment.
    The issue with a lot of stories these days is, whenever it deals with women, people automatically assume the female characters stand for all women, when they don’t. Isn’t that part of the point of feminism? Women are individuals. They are different. They are their own people. Acting like every woman portrayed in books, TV, movies, etc. has to be a generalized, shining example to women everywhere is the exact opposite of what feminism is about. There ARE horrible, bat-shit crazy women out there, just like there are horrible, bat-shit crazy men. There are bad people, period. I like the fact that Flynn decided to do something unique by straying away from what is “politically correct” and “socially acceptable” by allowing a female character to be just that; a character, an individual (mind-you, a psychotic, dangerous individual, but still an individual) rather than another banal example of over-done, female-empowered and generalized paste meant to feed girl-power enthusiasts
    And I understand the argument that artists have to be conscious of the effects their work might have on the world. Some would argue that even if it’s just a story, even if it’s not meant to provide social commentary, it still reinforces negative images of women; the crazy bitch, the manipulative ice-queen, the girl who cries rape. But you know what? Each and every one of those types of people ACTUALLY exist. They do not make up a large portion of the female population, but these types of women ARE out there; that’s reality. If you’re not willing to accept characters that embrace the dark reality that is the behavior of SOME women because of the gender they are affiliated with, then you’re essentially saying that you think women are a group and not individual human beings.

    Also, I’d like to address one major thing:

    “The value feels even more suspect when the result is a character so outlandish and over-the-top that she is less villain, more supervillain.”

    ” 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.”

    I think that if this is the way you read into Amy’s character, you allowed your feelings towards her perceived affronts to feminism to falsely color the book in a way it was never intended to be represented. Amy is an incredibly believable character; one of the best written ones I’ve ever read actually. The issue is that you’re looking at her like a the super-villain that every misogynist wants to use as fuel for their hatred. That’s not who Amy is. She’s not a misogynist stereotype, or even really a villain. She is most certainly not outlandish or over-the-top. Amy is a very realistic portrayal of a very real mental illness: Borderline Personality Disorder.
    I dated a Borderline for 4 years before I picked up this book; a girl who acted and thought just like Amy does, who was an intricate liar and master at manipulation, who even had a history of framing or spreading life-damning rumors about the people who upset her sense of self-perfection. Ultimately, when we broke up, she attempted to falsely prosecute me for assault. (She wasn’t quite as smart as Amy, and ultimately had to drop the accusations due to earning the contempt of the court and possible malicious prosecution charges. She’s now being professionally treated.) It’s not murder, but it’s a disturbingly similar story and style of behavior. Every time I read even the faintest glimmer of a paragraph dealing with Amy, it was like I was being teleported into the mind of my old Borderline lover. It’s incredibly accurate, disturbingly realistic, frighteningly real. People like Amy do exist, and personally, I think Flynn did an excellent job at portraying how Borderlines think, feel, and behave. I think maybe, just maybe, if you took the time to read up on Borderline behavior and sociopathic tendencies, and then re-read the book, you’d find that Amy isn’t intended to be some super-villain out of the nightmares of misogynistic men. She’s a compelling portrayal of a victim of untreated BPD.


    1. I’m a little late in catching all of this kerfuffle, so it’s doubtful that you’ll ever read this, which is why I’m comfortable telling you to kindly shut the fuck up. Sorry about that. But your claims are actually quite offensive.

      I’m sorry you had that experience with your ex, but you are still not qualified to make that sweeping assessment. I am a person who lives with BPD, and I get so discouraged when I see armchair shrinks speculating on the mental health of people – both real and fictional, and throwing borderline into the fray, thus contributing to the already enormous stigma associated with my disease. I’ve seen people associate public figures like Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, and James Holmes, to name a few, with BPD, to the point where it has become the go-to explanation for someone’s frightening actions and unexplained behavior. It’s on its way to replacing catch-all, but clinically unrecognized terms like “psychopath,” or “sociopath,” as the casual observer’s favorite pop-psychology term to throw at a “psycho bitch.”

      We already often find ourselves fighting for treatment. Even professionals in the field disparage us at times. We share traits with individuals with narcissistic and antisocial personalities, but the brunt of the stigma rests on borderline shoulders.

      This isn’t to say I condone Amy’s actions in the slightest. In fact, I have to applaud the OP for crafting my hazy, partially-formed thoughts on Amy’s characterization into an insightful post. As a rape victim, (yes, real, actual rape. My rapist wasn’t an alpha male either. He was a scrawny little son of a bitch who cried when the Waynes die in Batman Begins) I am disgusted by anyone who would fabricate these claims, and also by authors who perpetuate the very untrue stereotype that women frequently lie about being raped.

      If you think that some of Amy’s traits could possibly mirror some of the experiences you had, fine. But you do not get to say that “Flynn did an excellent job at portraying how Borderlines think, feel, and behave.” It isn’t some mystifying disease where we plot and scheme and twirl our cliche villainous mustaches. Most of us just have difficulty regulating our emotions. Don’t add to the stigma we face. Please. Because even if you think your experiences are universal, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.


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