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 Feminism. Defending 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.”'