I'd pick she-monster over the ideal woman
ACTOR Ben Affleck is having a tricky time with his new hit movie, Gone Girl, a twisted and twisty conjugal cage fight that has sparked charges of misogyny, misandry and misanthropy.
Critics complain that author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn's clever creation, Amy Dunne, who punishes the men in her life by conjuring two false charges of rape and one of murder, is cartoonish.
They keen that the sleek blonde portrayed by Rosamund Pike in the movie is the latest in a line of stereotypical she-monsters and vagina-dentata dames, independent women who turn out to be scary sociopaths.
Gone Girl opened earlier this month against the backdrop of cover-ups on National Football League domestic violence, and campaigns against sexual assault in the military and on campus.
But, as a devotee of film noir vixens, I side with Flynn, whose philosophy is: "Dark sides are important. They should be nurtured like nasty black orchids."
Given the choice between allowing portrayals of women who are sexually manipulative, erotically aggressive, fearless in a deranged kind of way, completely true to their own temperament, desperately vital, or the alternative - wallowing in feminist propaganda and succumbing to the niceness plague - I'll take the former.
The idea that every portrait of a woman should be an ideal woman, meant to stand for all of womanhood, is an enemy of art.
Art is meant to explore all the unattractive inner realities as well as to recommend glittering ideals. It is not meant to provide uplift or confirm people's prior ideological assumptions.
"Good God, we're in a lot of trouble if people think that Amy represents every woman," Flynn marvelled.
"Feminism is not that fragile, I hope. What Amy does is to weaponise female stereotypes. She embodies them to get what she wants and then she detonates them. Men do bad things in films all the time and they're called anti-heroes."
Amy may not be admirable, Flynn noted, but "neither are the men on The Sopranos".
"I think part of what people are pushing back on is that Amy's not a dismissible bad person," she said. "She doesn't get punished."
Flynn and Affleck agreed the movie is less about the she-monster than the me-monster, the narcissism involved in seducing your aspirational soulmate.
"The whole point is that these are two people pretending to be other people, better people, versions of the dream guy and dream girl," Flynn said. "But each one couldn't keep it up, so they destroy each other."
Affleck said that, as the father of two young girls, he is acutely aware of the dangers that women face in the world.
"But picking apart the plot architecture in this literal way misses the larger point of Gillian's book and (director David Fincher's) movie," he said. "Just as Kubrick's Lolita was about paedophilia, plotwise, but actually about obsession, this movie is not simply about a diabolical woman or a man getting railroaded. It's an indictment of how we lie to one another until, eventually, the mask falls off. Ironically, it is a movie that's critical of marriage from two people who have great marriages."
So to the Church of Feminism and the Niceness Thought Police, I say: Let a thousand black orchids bloom.