David Fincher once stated, “I think people are perverts. I’ve maintained that. That’s the foundation of my career.”
Gone Girl lives up to Fincher’s consistent outlook, focusing on the dangers of marriage while embracing the gender expectations media inundates the public with. Nick and Amy both end up cripplingly unhappy when they feel like they’re trapped pretending to be people they aren’t. And they react in the usual ways: with hurt feelings, affairs, and elaborate plots to frame your partner for murder.
The most fascinating aspect of Gone Girl, and a reason it has captured the public’s attention, is it is a movie that demands to be seen with company. The viewing is only half the experience: the conversation with friends afterwards is where the real fun is, and where much of the value of the film is hidden. Gone Girl’s story isn’t pretty, it never transcends its cheap, People Magazine exposé roots. But the film is effective in sparking a conversation about gender roles in our society, and should be credited for that. The characters themselves aren’t that interesting, but what they represent are. The suave guy, and immature husband. The cool girlfriend, and nagging housewife.
As I was leaving the theater last night with a friend, she had a particularly interesting take on Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Desi. He’s obsessed with Amy, and has been waiting for her to return his affection for twenty years. After circumstance leaves Amy effectively homeless while “dead”, she calls him, the one person she can trust to take her in unconditionally.
But herein lies the catch. It isn’t unconditional. After Amy lightly spurns his advances, he whines, “I’ve waited for you.” In Desi’s mind, waiting two decades and giving her all of his impressive resources entitled him to her affection. Amy is reneging on an emotional contract that in reality, she never agreed to.
It’s this character, “The Nice Guy” that my friend railed against the most. Even worse than the threat of a man getting angry or violent, is the one who is “nice” up until he decides to collect on what’s “due”. This entitlement leads to some of the scariest situations women can be in: at best being called a tease for rejecting someone they never had feelings for; at worst, the chance of rape and violence.
What hit me especially hard was the knowledge that I used to be “The Nice Guy”. Granted I was 15, but I remember the frustration so clearly. Getting to know a girl, listening to her problems, and watching her date other guys who didn’t appreciate her, all while passing up the one who obviously did. Over and over again, film, television, and young adult novels show us platonic friends who win out in the end, who really care and are rewarded for their kindness and genuine feelings with love. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This is the lesson I learned in high school, and it’s one I’ve never forgotten: being nice, male or female, doesn’t mean you deserve to be loved. If you keep holding on to that delusion, you’ll end up like Elliot Rodger. Or someone will cut your throat with a box cutter. “The Nice Guys” always finish last. And they should.