Friday, January 16, 2015

Gone Girl - Sex, Marriage, and the Perils of Capital

This began as a response in a conversation in a Facebook comments thread. Felt like I needed to preserve it. That's why it has no beginning, and no real end. I may come back and do some rewrites, but if not, know that it's just meant to be a rejoinder in a discussion on the deeper meanings in Gone Girl, hopefully traveling beyond treatment as a mere thriller or questions as to whether it's sexist, and on to its messaging regarding the society in which it is set. I think Gone Girl, to its credit, is about something even more pervasive and abstract of which relationships and their trajectories are only a moving part, and this is where it reveals itself as a companion piece (if we can agree, at least to a point, that an auteur like Fincher can reveal themes that are either outside the realm of its source material or are implicit in other source materials the director utilizes to such a degree that they become the themes of the cinematic auteur as well as that of the literary author) to Fight Club. To me, the realities of being with someone over a significant period of time cannot help but be influenced by, and are influenced in toxic ways by in Gone Girl, currency, capital, and the roles that marriage as an economic arrangement, a contract, pressures us to play. The second a hookup turns into a relationship, the economy is already in bed with you; everything from tolerating each others' preferences to embracing or critiquing the others' clothing styles or shaving habits is about how we earn or spend our currency or how we create and manage our public personae so as to make ourselves marketable. Even child-bearing becomes a way to keep up with the Joneses, a status marker that says you are who society wants you to become. The bad economy exposes weakness in a relationship because the way we tie emotional relations to economic ones, of necessity, in capitalistic society is the elephant in the room of ALL attempts to build a household. In a way, this is just the inversion of the romantic comedy formula, wherein women are asked to be the guards and keepers of the patriarchal/capitalist formula--that men are immature apes who waste their will-to-power on video games and meaningless sexual escapades until a wiser woman, who has internalized the codes of our occidental, anthropomorphic-monotheistic-turned-empirical-social-constructivist culture, shows him that his real duty is, as I pointed out above, to tuck his shirt in, breed, get a job that the current economy considers worthy of reward, and start feeding that money back into the economy by buying a house and car and get on with hiring some help. I don't think we can dismiss that, in this story, the man IS a psychopath, and the woman a sociopath, but I think this is no more literal, thematically, than Buffy being a slayer of Vampires and Angel being her vampire-with-a-soul lover who loses his soul when he experiences a (hot, sweaty, naked) moment of true happiness with his one true love. That is, I think psychopathy and sociopathy are fantasy devices illustrating who we are asked to be, and how that turns to poison when the structure fails us. The expectations on men that twists their love and their contractual promises into assertions of dominance, lionization of self, and acts of brutish violence unleashed upon the world at large; the expectations on women lead to subterfuge, acquisitiveness, and an anxiety about her empty nest, her empty womb. I think that Harris's performance reveals a certain creepier left turn that programming could take when a male combines the two lessons, using subterfuge and violence hand in hand, building his own nest, his own den of sterile trinkets and misdirected fantasies turned into grim sadomasochistic fantasia. So in a weird way, I think Fincher, despite his clinical, cynical outlook, is concerned with some of the same things I am, though from a perspective I'm inclined to call "masculist"--not so much sexist or misogynist as deeply and unrepentantly macho (a position to which I can relate, have at points in my development adopted, and which now simultaneously intoxicates and terrifies me when faced with it, which is why I watch Fight Club at least once a year while wondering if it's really healthy for me).


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