David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Critique Heteronormativity on Screen and Reality
David Fincher’s 2014 Gone Girl adapted from the 2012 bestseller novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn who also wrote the screenplay of the film is a ‘box-cutter autopsy of a marriage which is forcibly dismantled’ that exploits and, subsequently, thwarts film noir basic narrative tropes to attack heteronormative patriarchal attitudes and criticize ‘pop psychology.’24
Not a genre nor a style, noir represents a set of narrative strategies that, in Peter Labuza’s words, ‘conjures specific images of dangerous men, and femme fatales, of lost souls in darkened streets or violence in its most gruesome moments.’25 Gone Girl not only displays this particular story features, but engages with them extensively, to the point that it encapsulates them to serve the purpose of social commentary and, more piercingly, it endeavours to criticize Hollywood’s discourses of sexism and stardom. Gone Girl’s caper plot revolves around Amy (Rosamund Pike)’s disappearance under mysterious circumstances and the following police investigations that lead, backed by the media and public, to the investable accusation of Amy’s husband Nick (Ben Affleck). Although David Fincher’s mastery of cinematographic trappings and built-up tension intermingled with seemingly but purposely unfussy use of the camera to resemble Hollywood-ian simple narration methods, mislead the viewers to take Nick as the baddie of the film, when it will be clear later on in the film that Amy orchestrated the murder in order to make allegations fall on Nick, in an act of extreme defiance against the fakeness of their relationship that was based on the conventions of marriage, and that stifled their voices. Only Amy could see the triviality and dismal of the relationship; Nick dumbly rejoiced in routines and Amy’s effort to behave like he wanted her to (see Figure 1). In fact, Gone Girl can be seen as rebellion against the idea of the ‘cool girl’, in favour of a ‘femme fatale’ that does not play fair game, but cheats and murders.
‘Nick loved the girl I was pretending to be. “Cool Girl”. Men always use that, don’t they? As their defining compliment: She’s a cool girl. Cool girl is hot. Cool girl is game. Cool girl is fun. Cool girl never gets angry with her man. She only smiles in a chagrined, lovely manner. And then presents her mouth for fucking. She likes what he likes, so evidently he’s a vinyl hipster who loves fetish Manga. If he likes girls gone wild, she’s a mall to be who talks for football and endures buffalo Wings at Hooters. When I met Nick I knew he wanted “Cool Girl”. And for him, I’ll admit: I was willing to try.’26
She adds, ‘we were happy pretending to be other people.’27 Aided by Gillian Flynn’s writing creative flare, Gone Girl’s Amy defies Nick and his masculinity by embodying his fetishes and desires of an ordinary conservative married life and brutally rejecting them when she realizes the comfortable position Nick experiences in a relationship where power is unfairly distributed and where she must adapt to his desires and neglect her personal identity to be loved and accepted. In this regard, Peter Labuza states in his video essay that noir is a ‘necessary response’ to Hollywood and its narrative conventions, and that ‘it counterbalances Hollywood, even if it resembles Hollywood itself.’28 Hollywood’s conventional style and prominent themes of heterosexuality, masculinity and femininity are boldly defied by David Fincher’s Gone Girl. As exemplified in Figure 2, when Amy’s plan to backstab Nick is about to fail because of his (unexpected) wit, she meticolously plans and murders her ex-lover Desi (Neil Patrick Harrison) in order for her to make public appearance again as the victim of abduction.
Her white underwear that signals purity, a shocking strobe sequence in which Amy slits Nick’s throat open and blood dies her body inside out are devices employed to mesmerize and shock the viewer into ‘the crumbling framework of masculinity in a late capitalist society.’29 The scene seems to suggest the reliance on, as Celestino Deleyto puts it, ‘the narrative and visual conventions of classical Hollywood cinema scenarios basic to the formation of gendered subjectivity in a way that transform the threatening or unpleasurable effect of the sight of female sexual difference of the male spectator into a pleasurable experience.’30 In fact, Desi’s killing remains the most gripping and involving scene of the film, and perfectly illustrates the idea that the leading female character of noir films, or Femme Fatale, is ‘defined through the almost “natural” association between her provocative sexuality and her criminality.’31 In Gone Girl, Amy is the femme fatale who exploits her sexual power on white heterosexual males for her own interests but, noir film conventions notwithstanding, she will force her husband Nick to live by her rules at the end of the film. In fact, the two deceive the ‘hunger’ of the media and public by re-enacting the loved married couple that has gone through a lot of pain due to Amy’s seeming abduction and sexual abuse.32 They mockingly embrace the patriarchal order of society as they already did before Amy’s disappearance, but with another awareness. They both are conscious of the deception and conventions of marriage, their triviality and public relevance. The couple in Gone Girl represents every heterosexual couple that plays by society’s game, and, using Amy as example, repression and oppression that ensues such a commitment will lead to mischief and delusion, apathy and alienation.