(trying to avoid directly but inevitably skirting on the edge of SPOILERS)
Gone Girl is mostly well acted, tightly directed, ridiculously suspenseful pop entertainment. Taken in a vacuum, detached from the concerns of the real world, it’s a great time at the movies. And I think I kind of hate it.
I don’t think artists need to take blame for dangerous interpretations of their work. J.D. Salinger didn’t kill John Lennon, John Lennon didn’t cause the Manson family’s murders. And David Fincher, the director of Gone Girl, has his own entry in the canon of good art embraced by horrible people with Fight Club. But artists can unintentionally present awful messages in their work, and need to take responsibility for that. Fight Club‘s message, satirizing the angry dudebros who fall for Tyler Durden’s psuedo-fascist philosophizing, is crystal clear to anyone who actually paid attention to the last hour of the movie rather than drifting off fantasizing about how kewl it would be to start their own fight clubs. The text directly contradicts the misinterpretations idiots have made. Gone Girl, on the other hand, presents a text that reads as practically an MRA manifesto.
How did this go so wrong? I don’t think Fincher intended the movie to be misogynist. I seriously doubt Gillian Flynn, the writer of the source novel (which I haven’t read) and the screenplay, did. She’s defended her book as feminist in the sense that there should be more powerful female villains in literature. I agree with her in theory, there’s nothing inherently sexist about having a female villain and there is something sexist about not being able to portray powerful female villains, so why does her screenplay have to paint its villain in the broadest most sexist stereotypes?
Think about Magneto. Everybody loves Magneto. Great Jewish villain. Jews love him. Nobody to my knowledge has accused Marvel of anti-Semitism over Magneto. Now imagine if Magneto’s metal-bending powers only controlled metal in coins, and as such he hoarded coins as weaponry, and had a conspiracy to control banks. Even if the X-Men still had Kitty Pryde and some other token “good Jews”, having such an anti-Semitic caricature of a villain simply would not be acceptable. You can have great female villains, like you can have great Jewish villains. But if your female villain’s sociopathic plots consist mainly of faking and lying about rape and marital abuse, you’re pretty much illustrating every “Red Pill”-er’s fantasy of how “feminists” behave in the real world.
If the movie’s not actively trying to present a misogynist message, what message is it trying to send? Some have defended it as generally misanthropic, but the claim doesn’t totally hold. Yes, Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne is shown to be flawed, but the movie still paints him as the victim. He has an affair and is shown to be a bit sexist himself, but these flaws are nothing compared to what the movie’s villain does, and given the movie’s general tone of sexism justifies his sentiments it’s arguable if the latter is even recognized as a flaw. Maybe it’s a commentary about the craziness of the media circus? That makes more sense, especially given Flynn’s past working at Entertainment Weekly, and has some value, but it doesn’t detract from the sexist messages (if anything, it’ll give further fuel to the tinfoil hat wearing “feminist conspiracy” crowd). There’s a hint of a feminist message in the villain’s speech about “the cool girl” and men’s expectations of women, but that’s pretty much this movie’s equivalent to Shylock’s “hath not a Jew eyes?” bit. It’s a well written speech, but its themes are underdeveloped and surrounded by too much messed up ugliness to work half as well as it could.
Maybe this is supposed to be just pure pulp absurdity. On that level, the movie’s twisty entertainment value works. If this was presented as a fantasy, clearly detached from real world concerns, I’d probably be highly recommending this movie. But while the movie stretches believability at times, it always acts like it’s rooted in the “real world.” And on that level, it’s a disaster. Maybe you can see something in it I didn’t that cancels out the problems I saw in the story, or maybe you’ll enjoy the movie in spite of those problems. It was too much for me, but I understand if you like it despite that. Just don’t be that guy who likes it for THOSE reasons.