I watched the movie Gone Girl, and it was extremely triggering for me. (This post deals with sexual assault and domestic violence, so you may not want to read it. And of course, don’t read it if you don’t want any movie spoilers.)
I started writing this as soon as I left the movie theater. Since then, I’ve talked to a few friends who urged me to read the book before forming an opinion, but I decided against it. In my opinion, it’s important to consider the movie as a stand-alone piece because many, if not most, of the movie-watchers will never read the book. When I was watching the movie, I also found myself thinking about how it would be perceived by someone who doesn’t know the facts on gendered violence and has never taken a Women’s Studies class. This post is meant to offer cultural context for the movie.
If you saw this movie and walked out thinking, “What a crazy bitch” (as I heard many people say as we left the theater) and found the story even slightly plausible, I urge you to consider the facts.
The scenario portrayed in Gone Girl is extremely unlikely whereas the reverse is not. I know it’s “just a movie,” but movies shape the way we view the world, and I sincerely worry that this piece of popular culture will prompt people to doubt survivors and even keep wimyn from leaving abusive relationships or put them in further danger.
The movie is based on a supremely flawed premise that upholds victim-blaming, abuse-denying individuals who call wimyn brave enough to report sexual assault liars and discredit survivors of abuse by painting them as mentally unstable. The movie even features a womyn getting pregnant in order to control a man. It is like someone took a checklist of all the most awful things people say to cast doubt on wimyn who have endured horrible situations and based a movie on the premise that they were true. Sadly, the assault and abuse of wimyn is very real, and it’s very rare that people lie about it. Consider the following:
Until 1920 it was not illegal for husbands to hit their wives in the United States, and it wasn’t until 1970 that it was treated as a serious crime (source).
Until 1993 it was not a crime for husbands to rape their wives in all 50 states (source).
To date, more American wimyn have been killed by their boyfriends or husbands than Americans have been killed by the attacks on September 11th or in the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (source).
Major news outlets respond by lamenting the jail time rapists must serve and cast doubt on victims, even when the assault is caught on tape and the rapists are found guilty in court (source).
We live in a culture where some people think it’s funny to dress up as a man who hit his partner until she was unconscious (and was also caught on camera) and drag around a doll for Halloween (source).
As for the trope of wimyn getting pregnant and having kids as a way to control men and “steal their money” for 18 years, do you know hard it is to be pregnant? To give birth? To be responsible for a human being? Do you really think people would choose to parent as revenge? And why is birth control seen as a “wimyn’s issue” anyway? If men are really concerned about this, they should always wear a condom (duh) and invest in male birth control.
We have domestic violence shelters for a reason. We have nail polish to detect “date rape” drugs for a reason. We teach girls that walking alone after dark is dangerous for a reason. My grandmother believed it was essential for wimyn to have a way to escape bad marriages for a reason. My mom made me take a wimyn’s self-defense class the second I got to college for a reason. That class was offered at my college for a reason. The term “rape culture” exists for a reason.
Let’s not forget what world we live in as we get caught up in a thriller.