Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gone Girl (2015) 2.5 of 4

** this review contains spoilers **

As a movie, this is an effective potboiler, if hampered by length, and the now-inevitable orange-and-teal, stone-washed photography.  The aspect of Gone Girl that most interests me is the parable about white Americans, our fortunes over recent decades. 

When we meet Nick and Amy, both write for lifestyle magazines: he writes for a male audience, she, for women.  This evokes the entitlement of white America, presuming to define what makes a good or successful man or woman.  (When Amy wonders if his job means that Nick "is an expert at being a man," he shrugs it off, but that doesn't make her wrong.)  We'll learn they are both pretending to be better than they are, for each other, but then what's white good for if not a lingering, guilty-but-relieved suspicion one is automatically better than other people? 

In recent decades, this supremacy has been hit with a twofold problem: white Americans are accused of benefiting from a history of oppression; as they attempt to tame or elude that charge, they're losing any immunity to economic collapse.  It's getting so the Nicks and Amys of the world can't complain about the Recession without being charged with white entitlement. 

Nick's mother's cancer prompts a move to Missouri, where the couple will start a family; this move repeats the immigrant's journey: New York City, then West to set down roots.  Financially, their salvation is Amy's trust fund, thanks to her parents' Amazing Amy books, a romanticized version of her own childhood.  We hear disparaging comments about this childhood "exploitation," but really, Amy's parents were doing the same as Nick and Amy, packaging the (white) American fairy tale for mass consumption.  They're just more successful at it, until Amy shows what she's learned. 

Assuming financial stability, the problem of white America is a public relations problem, created by brute force, very much a male specialty.  It's exacerbated by the fact that most people still marry within their race.  These facts dictate that women play a central role in any solution, and considering their own history of victimization, it's no surprise white women want to be well-compensated for any fix.  They want to call the shots. 

In this sense, Amy's scheme isn't crazy, it's clever.  Amy knows it isn't hard to make people revile a straight-white-male in today's world, they just need a little help.  Notice how Nick seems twice the size of any other white man in the film: white men are shrinking and big, virile Nick sticks out like a sore thumb, at least until he hires a black lawyer to block for him.  Nick's not as smart as Amy, but he's not a moron

Amy knows her gender takes the curse off whiteness, which is why "missing white women" is  ratings gold for TV news and TV talk shows.  People of color may find it hard to resist these stories, because compassion for white women implies the world will get around to people of color, in time.  To think otherwise would be awfully cynical, right?       

Amy's been paying attention.  She gives Americans a narrative they can understand.  She also proves herself, not only with guile, but with some brute force of her own, dispatching a straight-white-male who's too weak to be of use except as a corpse.  (Note that her worst setback comes when she trusts a woman; the blowback removes her last sentimental weakness, feminism.)  Nick is horrified, and afraid of her, but so what?  Why shouldn't the husband be afraid, for a change?  He'll get over it, as he appreciates that his wife has used changed social standards and technology to immensely improve their financial prospects.

In these difficult times, why shouldn't women take their turn, like good sports?  Amy only does what so many white men did when they built this country: connive, lie, steal, exploit, and kill.  They tamed a frontier, Amy dares the digital frontier. 

What's the matter, are you threatened by a powerful, successful woman