Gone Girl (and the Cool Girl)

By Signe

Gone Girl (2012), a thriller novel written by Gillian Flynn, is possibly her most famous novel. I’ve read multiple of her other titles, but none have moved me as much as Gone Girl. Admittedly, I do find myself ambiguously loving and loathing (although loathing might be too strong a word to use here) this book, but, in retrospect, Gone Girl was also one of the books that I’ve read the fastest because I simply couldn’t put it away. Let’s be honest—any book lovers out there—is there really a better feeling than that? As I finished the book, I also physically threw it across the floor (possibly scaring my then-roommate a bit) because that seemed like the only rational reaction after reading that ending. Now, I won’t spoil too much of the book (admittedly, I probably will), as I’ve decided to focus this review on the function, notion and concept of the “Cool Girl”.

Amy and Nick Dunne are a dysfunctionally married couple. None of them are supposed to be reliable sources (the book is divided into three—Amy, Nick and the truth), and so when the perfect wife Amy disappears the reader automatically believes that Nick killed her. However, when Nick tells his side, we learn that he cheated on her and so our picture of him crumples, and I found myself asking—did he really do it?

  What is at the epitome of this novel, however, is why Amy disappeared. She lived a seemingly perfect life in a perfect suburb with a perfect man, and I realised that maybe this perfection drew her to commit such a crime. Because in truth, framing your husband for the murder of yourself is one of the cruellest acts (especially if we consider how she did it—for instance, she wrote a fake journal depicting her life with a violent man), and so, nobody believed Nick when he said he didn’t kill her. This might propose that what Flynn is actually trying to say is that when marriages or relationships fall apart we might resort to crazy things to keep up appearances or get out of it as the superior one. However, if you’ve read the book, you’ll also know that nobody gets away from this marriage. And why is that?

Perfectionist Amy is obsessed with being a “Cool Girl” (and this is also my absolute favourite quote from the book!):

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: ‘I like strong women.’ If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because ‘I like strong women’ is code for ‘I hate strong women.’)”

And although I deeply apologise for such a long quote, it’s also important. Thus, Amy’s obsession with being a “Cool Girl” is a result of the direct opposite—she’s tired of being a “Cool Girl” because there’s no substance to it. As much as she tries to be, her husband doesn’t value her efforts (or doesn’t care), and so a “Cool Girl” is the reflection and performance of being a perfect female. And so, I think we ought to look at bit more at Amy’s actions and try to abandon the manipulative aspect—because she herself was manipulated into being someone that she’s not.

Amy Dunne grew up as “Amazing Amy”. Her parents wrote a children’s novel based on her, and so, for all her life she’s been fictionalized and an object, and so, when her marriage to Nick reached a critical point and a realization that her objectification was inescapable, she decided to write her own story and give up the “Cool Girl” act—because she no longer found herself willing to put up with Nick.

As mentioned in the introduction, this is such an ambiguous book to me because I really loved it (although I hated the ending—which to be honest, I probably shouldn’t—and so maybe I’ll revisit it after this post). But what I loved most was how on-edge Flynn puts her readers and it’s almost like I was an active part of telling this story, and I find that to be very unique and I cannot recall if I’ve ever had that sensation or experience after finishing Gone Girl again. As such, I’ll give this book four out of five stars.

****

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