October 15, 2014
The exception to the rule that males aren”t terribly interested in female malefactors is of course the femme fatale, whose appeal peaked during the 1940s. That was a consciously pro-male era when soldiers were resolved not to let women and Protestant preachers play them for saps again, the way they did when the poor doughboys went off to the Great War and came back to Prohibition.
But femmes fatales have been draining out of our movies in recent decades, even though they can be tremendous roles for actresses. (My suspicion is that this has less to do with feminism than with movies increasingly being aimed at boys too young to be suspicious of the opposite sex.)
The Amy Elliott Dunne character in Gone Girl, however, isn”t a femme fatale, but instead is a fairly original villainess. I sense in her a bit of that woman most polarizing to other women, Martha Stewart (who, as you”ll recall, got sent to prison because there weren”t any real bad guys on Wall Street for the feds to track down). Amy is a cold-blooded blonde with near superpowers at planning and organizing, who hates her husband (played by Ben Affleck) for making her move from her Brooklyn brownstone to his native Missouri. (Flynn is from Missouri.)
There is something a little comic bookish about Flynn’s Amy character. Amy even comes with a fun origin story explaining why she is so evil: her insufferable child psychologist parents wrote a bestselling series of children’s books called “Amazing Amy,” in which her alter ego enjoyed a wonderful childhood (as opposed to the fairly nice one she was stuck with).
The notion that Gone Girl is influenced by comic books is not implausible. Flynn wrote movie reviews for Entertainment Weekly, and it’s hard for anyone these days not to be affected by the growing role of comic books in popular culture. Indeed, Flynn recently penned the short comic book Masks, about a vigilante army of housewives who take vengeance upon schoolkids who bully their children. In it, a concerned anchorman asks: “The Masked Mums” crusade”Is it female empowerment on steroids … or helicopter parenting gone too far?”
Granted, the crime against her husband that Flynn has Amy craft so elaborately is silly, but Gone Girl is a lot less self-serious than director David Fincher’s earlier crime fantasy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which almost nobody noticed was insane.