Sunday, October 5, 2014

GONE GIRL the movie and the real-life perils facing women.

From Wesley Morris' GRANTLAND review (SPOILER ALERT):
The movie doubles as a snide contradiction of the serious conversation Americans have been having lately about men, women, exploitation, and violence. Gone Girl isn’t complicating that conversation. It gets off on thumbing its nose at it, using a vengeful false accusation to exploit an old trope of the terrifying femme fatale.
One of the ladies in Nick’s life happens to be played by Emily Ratajkowski, a model made notorious for appearing to enjoy herself while frolicking nude in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video. Ratajkowski doesn’t have a large role here, but it’s significant to the plot. Her presence reminded me how much of the song and the video, like a whole strain of rap and R&B, hinges on a woman being a “good girl,” which in turn hinges on a kind of permissiveness toward the performer who’s paying the compliment. In the music, the good girl is also a “bad girl.” There’s virtually no difference.
The debate about rape and “rapeyness” in pop isn’t a new one. But it has new resonance on college campuses, where protests, vandalism, and lawsuits have challenged the long tradition of silence and slow action in issues of sexual assault. A Columbia University senior named Emma Sulkowicz has become a symbol of the refusal of assault survivors to be cowed: She’s been dragging an actual mattress around campus and vows to continue to do so until the school expels the classmate who raped her. This isn’t the first time that female student activists against assault have insisted on being heard (one need only recall the Take Back the Night rallies of the 1990s), but the protests have gained broader resonance. They’re more confrontational and less tolerant of what can seem like patriarchal or, at best, bureaucratic foot-dragging and opacity. They’ve swelled beyond campuses to include criticizing even the conduct of once-untouchable professional athletes. The release of the Ray Rice video brought men into a conversation that for so long happened mostly among women. Recent investigations into domestic violence and assault in the military, police force, and even small-town Alaska have created a feeling that maybe, just maybe, the country is turning a corner on a serious and divisive issue. And then along comes a major work of Hollywood fiction based on a huge best seller written by a woman about a woman whose greatest power is to cry wolf.
It’s probably the case that Flynn just wanted to tell a fun story about a “complete psycho bitch,” to mock the shallowness of some chick-lit heroines by having all of that frivolity and idle time and man-hunting mutate them into film-noir monsters. It’s also possible that there’s a strain of ideology that could locate the heroic feminist in Amy’s master plan, an argument that the most radical thing Amy can do to avenge her sex — or just herself — is to make a man spend the rest of his life with a woman he despises and distrusts. I just don’t see Camille Paglia asking to get an Amen for that.
And from Tom Shone's blog THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS:
The movie’s many twists and turns eventually reveal a sociopathic villainess who is the architect of Nick’s downfall and whose m.o., when she is not framing innocent lunkheads for murder,  is fabricated charges of rape. It is this that landed Flynn in the cross-hairs of feminists critics who have charged the author with peddling “misogynist caricatures”, and “a deep animosity towards women”. “Gone Girl is the wet dream of every misogynistic men’s ‘rights’ activist,” alleged Interrogating Media in a post entitled Gone Girl and the Specter of FeminismDefending her book on her website, Flynn wrote, 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… 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.”  
Certainly, the movie’s timing could not be worse — or better, depending on your point of view — coming as it does in the middle of an ongoing conversation about sexual assault in the US military and on college campuses, where what Millenials quaintly refer to as ‘rape culture’ has prompted petitions demanding the cancellation of a Robin Thicke concert because the lyrics of his song “Blurred Lines” allegedly celebrate “systemic patriarchy and sexual oppression”. (The song has already been banned by more than 20 British universities.) Activists at Wellesley College, in Connecticut, recently demanded that administrators remove a statue of a naked sleepwalking man they said could “trigger” memories of sexual assault for victims.  “To bring up a conversation about rape sets off everybody's discomfort buttons,” says Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women. “Rape is one of those crimes that generally includes only two witnesses, which makes it very fertile ground for imaginative fiction, especially when you're talking about interpersonal drama. It's like two-person Rashomon — it’s the ultimate he-said-she-said.  To see the monster we all have within us, to show our little sexual monsters, is uncomfortable.   We can have our brand new feminist ideas about workplace economics, equality, about reproductive rights, and so on, we can have all those ideas, but still have this voice within us telling us these really old ideas about how sex works between men and women. I’m not condemning the book. It’s a page turner, sold a zillion copies, I read it right to the end.   You're going to have troubling gender elements in fiction, because these are the troubling gender elements in life, but it becomes far less liberating when you understand that they are trading on very, very old ideas about the power that women have to sexually, emotionally manipulate men. When you boil women down to only that, it's troubling.” 
At the same time, says Traister,  “Gone Girl explodes marriage,” says Rebecca Traister. And it explodes precisely the one kind of marriage that is still idealized, between white, urban sophisticated people that meet in mid-life. There are many marriage models out there but this is the one that is still viewed aspirationally:   between white, beautiful, privilege educated New Yorkers. That is the picture of marriage that is sold to us, the one we all must desire. And that is the one the book vandalises. So there is a subversive argument being advanced about marriage in the film, that it's not an institution that can tame women any longer.”'  

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