Guest Post: The Erasure of People of Colour from Sharp Objects.

sharp-objects-episode-6-cherry

This article by Shane Thomas contains light spoilers for Sharp Objects.

One area where Sharp Objects has left itself open to criticism is in the optics of its cast, which is hugely—if not exclusively—white. In recent years, Western television and film has gradually moved away from using male whiteness as its default perspective to tell stories.

Yet I’m not sure it’s wholly fair to upbraid Sharp Objects for telling a woman-focused story that only concerned itself with its white characters, because it also positioned its black characters—on the brief occasions we saw them—in interesting ways. Ways that seemed too specific to be coincidental.

The narrative surrounded the town of Wind Gap, Missouri and the emotionally wretched state of its citizens. It’s a place that’s archetypal small-town America: mellow southern accents, a sunny climate, a community where everybody knows each other, and good ol’ Southern hospitality. In actuality, it’s a space rife with social deprivation, patriarchy, racism, personal misery, and murder.

In Wind Gap, white women are obligated to be dutiful wives and mothers (note the dialogue; “I don’t think a part of your heart can ever work if you don’t have kids”, and, “I didn’t really feel like a woman until I had McKenzie inside of me”), men intersperse lechery in between bouts of drinking, and the social event of the year paints the Confederacy as a plank of history to be proud of. Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to these social norms will be either demeaned, ostracised or exiled. When John Keene cries, Wind Gap doesn’t only look at him as a failure of a man, but it’s indicative of him being a social deviant.

It’s the legacy of Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy”. These people spend their time instinctively judging others for the lives they lead, all the while being miserable themselves, finding it easy to aim their ire at anyone they deem as outsiders. One of the best aspects of Sharp Objects was to demonstrate how aligning oneself to the dogma of oppressive structures also damages those who reap its ostensible benefits.

At one point, Jackie says, “We could do what we always do around here and pretend it doesn’t exist.” In this town, alcohol isn’t just medication, but a portal to oblivion.

It’s ironic that nearby Kansas is disdainfully looked down upon by Wind Gap as the cosmopolitan, uber-lefty, politically correct big city. Not just because it’s inaccurate, but consider the most famous work of art to feature Kansas. Thanks to The Wizard of Oz, its place in the wider cultural imagination is as (white) America’s safe space.

Wind Gap is Oz at its most malignant. Intentional or otherwise, Gillian Flynn has given us a story that centres whiteness, but not in order to enshrine it as society’s ideal, instead showing that as it is currently constituted, whiteness in concert with patriarchy contaminates all. It doesn’t have to be spelled out for the audience that Wind Gap votes Republican. We don’t hear the name “Trump” once. No character ever utters the n-word. These signifiers are superfluous in a place where, to quote Christopher J. Lee, “whiteness has been transformed into common sense.”

It’s not tough to read the map of scars on Camille’s body as a cartography for the psyche of Wind Gap. Nor is it hard to read Adora’s poisoning of her own children under the guise of care and love as a metaphor for a diet of white supremacy and patriarchy fed to white Southerners going all the way back to the Lost Cause.

Sharp Objects’ black characters don’t appear often, but when they do, they operate in a distinct way to add depth to the story. Lacking socialised power, they are impotent to stem Wind Gap’s continuum into destruction, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of their surroundings. They are, to quote Reni Eddo-Lodge in her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, watching as an outsider to the insularity of whiteness.

Note the Preaker’s family maid, Gayla (who was costumed to bear a striking resemblance to Betty Gabriel’s indelible performance in Get Out), especially the couple of moments of unspoken warmth she shares with Camille. It’s not explicit, but she can see the destructive way Adora runs the household.

While Camille’s boss, Frank, periodically checks in with her to see how the assignment is going, Frank’s wife, Eileen, is more concerned with Camille returning to a place that holds so many traumatising memories. Frank can see a great story. Eileen can see just how tender Camille is.

In one episode, Becca—seemingly the only black person of Camille’s age in the town—explains why she doesn’t hate Camille, despite being treated horribly by her when they were younger. Becca recounts the time she noticed that the younger Camille self-harmed. She doesn’t state this in order for exploitative purposes, only to indicate that unlike the rest of Wind Gap’s citizens, Becca can see Camille’s self-destructive tendencies.

Later in the episode, Camille comes across her sister, Amma, and a group of Amma’s friends outside a convenience store. They are heading to a party, and offer to give Camille a lift home. Yet this is a ruse, as Amma plans to drag Camille to the party with her. As Camille reluctantly gets in the car, an unnamed black man pensively looks on. He can see the destruction the white youth of Wind Gap are bringing on themselves.

When Richard walks into Woodberry Hospital—where he’ll discover the truth about Adora’s Munchhausen’s by proxy—two nurses (one black; one white) stand outside. The black one immediately notices Richard, while the white one carries on smoking. It’s as if she can see what Richard’s seismic discovery will bring.

Usually such moments would be nothing more than nondescript cutaways. But it appears deliberate that these moments not only feature black characters, but black characters watching white characters. Fans of Doctor Who will know that the Time Lords are a sagacious race of beings who observe, but never interfere in the affairs of others. With director, Jean-Marc Vallée giving Sharp Objects a visual texture more often found in speculative fiction, it elevates the lesser spotted black characters to more than just bystanders, almost as if they’re Wind Gap’s very own Time Lords, who could do so much for the town if people would listen to them.

If this interpretation feels a bit too meta, a more prosaic analysis would be basic self-preservation. Do Sharp Objects’ black characters have such wary deportment because they are aware of the precarious state of their bodies existing in this town, in America, in the world? Often being black means operating at a heightened level of awareness. And to underscore this, in the show’s shocking reveal, we find out that the one black character who doesn’t have her head on a swivel (which she should never have had to) pays for it with her life.

I’ve increasingly worried that all “diversity” means is that those in charge of our entertainment cast people of colour not to broaden the dynamics of our stories, but to stop the internet being angry. This makes for a very low ceiling for progress, when what’s more important is the quality of fictional depictions rather than just sheer quantity.

This doesn’t inoculate Sharp Objects from criticism, but we should be clear on what terms we criticise it. One can definitely argue that an increased focus on its black characters would have improved the narrative. But I don’t think we should reflexively assume that a minimal spotlight on blackness indicates erasure.

Elsewhere: [YouTube] Sharp Objects Clip: “You’re Making Your Mother Ill”.

[Salon] How the GOP Became the White Man’s Party.

[YouTube] Sharp Objects Clip: “Have a Drink with Me”.

[Africa is a Country] The Global Ways of White Supremacy.

[YouTube] Sharp Objects Clip: “You Just Let It Happen”.

[Smithsonian] How I Learned About the “Cult of the Lost Cause”. 

[Goodreads] Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.

[YouTube] Sharp Objects Clip: “You’re Not Safe.”

Image via Den of Geek.

International Women’s Day: Why I’m a Bad Feminist, or Women Can Be Misogynists, Too.

In honour of International Women’s Day and Roxane Gay’s book, Bad Feminist, which I’m going to hear her speak about tonight, I wonder whether I’m a “bad feminist” for asserting that women can be misogynists, too. 

I could be accused of being a “bad feminist” for the assertion I’m about to make. After all, feminists are supposed to support all women, right? Even women doing unfeminist things, like Sarah Palin, or women in traditionally male dominated industries, like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, and who throw feminism under the bus.

But in my experience women can be misogynists, too. And as I write this I’m thinking of one woman in particular.

A few years ago, one of my closest male friends started dating someone new. My friend later relayed to me that upon stalking his Facebook, as you do, said new paramour stumbled upon several photos of the two of us. Most of them were taken at costume parties or clubs, so my feminine façade was amplified perhaps more than usual. We were probably standing pretty close together in the photos, too, and our natural affection for each other would be evident. This led her to ask about me, “Who’s that slut?”

At first I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I wrote on my blog at the time that I could see where she was coming from: her insecurity at her date’s close relationship with a woman she didn’t know manifested itself as slut-shaming. It was slut-shaming as a defense mechanism, if you will.

Presently, that woman has now become a colleague; not someone I work with directly, but who has contact with many people I do both professionally and outside of work. Through this network I’ve come to find that it isn’t just me she’s made libelous comments about but many a female coworker who happens to fit the conventionally feminine and attractive mould.

I don’t know exactly what was said about these other women, but I’m pretty sure it was as unwarranted as what she said about me (although I am loathe to defend myself against her name-calling as that implies that some women are sluts and others aren’t). One of the women is ditzily endearing and while I don’t really know the other, she seems pleasant despite her bitchy resting face.

The first comment about me could be chalked up to the green-eyed monster rearing its head, but when such behavior begins to occur on a regular basis, it’s hard not to wonder whether this woman is actually a misogynist.

It could be that she thinks she’s “not like other girls”, which is inherently misogynistic; she doesn’t buy into feminine conventions that she implies other women do, and she’s “one of the boys”. Like Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s Cool Girl screed, or as Reign actress Caitlin Stasey tweeted, being “‘One of the guys’ implies that to resemble any kind of man is better than actually being any kind of woman.” But the very fact that she’s engaging in the stereotypical feminine act of “backstabbing” makes her just like these “other” women, no?

Whatever the case, though, this woman has serious other-women-problems. And if we can accept that men can be feminists, it would stand to reason that women can be misogynists, right?

Related: Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [Feministing] Once More, with Feeling: Sarah Palin is Not a Feminist.

[Jezebel] Does it Matter if Marissa Mayer Doesn’t Think She’s a Feminist?

[Buzzfeed] Jennifer Lawrence & the History of Cool Girls.

Movie Review: Gone Girls & Nice Guys*.

Gone Girl Nick Dunne smile

The movie version of Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosamund Pike in the title role and based on the 2012 book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, was released in theatres in October. While Flynn’s manuscript gives equal time to its disturbed married main characters in the form of Amy Dunne’s (Pike) dairy entries and alternating chapters from Nick’s point of view, the film adaptation made it clear that Gone Girl isn’t about the gone girl in question at all, but about her NiceGuy™ husband, who is sick and tired of all the “crazy bitch whores” in his life “picking [him] apart”, and how he deals with his wife’s sudden disappearance. Sounds like a real nice guy to me!

Affleck’s early roles in Kevin Smith’s late ’90s odes to man-children, Mallrats and Chasing Amy, are apt precursors to the film directed by David Fincher and adapted for the screen by Flynn herself. Nick spent the majority of the 2 ½ hour-plus movie chasing another Amy when it emerges that his wife’s apparent kidnapping—or, god forbid, murder—was an elaborate, sociopathic ruse to frame the inattentive and at times abusive Nick. Through Amy’s diary entries we see that the oft-mused about “Cool Girl” she’s led her husband, the audience and, indeed, herself to believe she embodies is nothing more than a narcissistic reverse Pygmalion creation. To refresh, Cool Girls are, “Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me. I don’t mind. I’m the Cool Girl.

“Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl.”

Let us study the ways in which Amy and Nick Dunne play right into these fictions.

Much has been made of the abovementioned Cool Girl, and while Amy is by no means an innocent victim in the cat-and-mouse game her marriage devolves into, Flynn—both on paper and screen—also crafted an interesting commentary on Nice Guys and their entitlement to women.

Flynn writes in the book that Nick would “literally lie, cheat, and steal—hell, kill—to convince people you are a good guy” and not the “daddy’s boy” who abuses women. Pages later: “Women are fucking crazy. No qualifier: Not some women, not many women. Women are crazy.”

At the risk of sounding like a misandrist victim-blamer, in a way Nick almost deserves what Amy does to him, not only for shoving her into a wall and calling her and other women “fucking cunts”, but also for his utter unwillingness to take responsibility for his part in his toxic marriage. He even needs to be prompted by the lead detective on Amy’s case, Rhonda Boney (played by Kim Dickens on screen), to notify his missing wife’s parents of her disappearance. Flynn writes that Nick let himself “drift on in the miserable situation, assuming that at some point Amy would take charge. Amy would demand a divorce, and then I would get to be the good guy… This desire—to escape the situation without blame—was despicable.” In his effort to come across as the consummate Nice Guy, Nick becomes a doormat for Amy’s wicked ways. After all, Nick “couldn’t bear to have everyone in this family-values town believe he’s the kind of guy who’d abandon his wife and child. He’d rather stay and suffer with me. Suffer and resent and rage.” And suffer and resent and rage he does.

Using perceived niceness as a scapegoat is also a tactic Amy employs when she frames a second man in her quest for revenge. Desi Collings, played eerily in the film by Neil Patrick Harris, was an obsessive high school boyfriend of Amy’s with whom she’d kept in touch in the two decades since because “it’s good to have at least one man you can use for anything”. When Amy’s initial plan to live off the grid while she sent Nick “to the woodshed” goes awry, she uses the reliable, but equally-as-controlling-as-Nick Desi to shelter her from the storm while she contemplates her next move (hint: it involves a lot of blood). In the aftermath of Amy’s return, she maintains that she just “tried to be nice to [Desi]”. Here Amy plays into the excuse used by victim-blamers far and wide: you were too nice to him, that’s why he followed you home/raped you/murdered you.

The “Blurred Lines” of consent that Gone Girl alludes to here can be seen in the 2013 song of the same name by Robin Thicke. In a meta move on the part of the movie’s casting director, model Emily Ratajkowski, who appears topless and performing suggestive acts with animals and balloons in the “Blurred Lines” video, can also be seen in her first major feature film role as Nick’s college-aged mistress. Long after Thicke ceased to be pop culturally relevant his “rape anthem” is still inspiring sociopaths the world over.

Speaking of, Nick’s lawyer in the film, “defender of white killers everywhere” Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) conjures images of the Isla Vista shooting rampage committed by college student Elliot Rodger in May this year. Rodger’s 140-page manifesto and video messages vilifying “blonde sluts” who “starved me of sex” gave motive to his attacks on both men and women. In an effort to debunk that #NotAllMen are misogynist time bombs just waiting to rape and murder women—#YesAllWomen—and prove that patriarchy hurts all genders the respective hashtags and a social media debate was spawned. The theatrical release of Gone Girl poses more questions as to whether social media campaigns like this are successful: were general audiences unfamiliar with the scathing commentary on gender Flynn crafts on the page savvy enough to pick up on it in the theatre?

Like Rodgers’ misogynistic missive that led to the deaths of six people, Amy constructs a manifesto of her own. Upon the first encounter of Gone Girl, you’d be confused as to whether the internalised misogyny that Amy spews in her fake dairy entries is what Flynn truly believes or a dissection of it. Does Gone Girl perpetuate the all-to-common attitudes that women are lying, manipulative bitches and their male partners “dancing monkeys”?

On the whole, the Gone Girl narrative as told on film is essentially about the Nice Guy who’s judged in the court of public opinion to have murdered and disposed of his wife. At Amy’s candlelight vigil, Nick takes the time to defend himself against the media’s accusations that he’s creepy (“but hot”, as some “groupie whores” deem him to be), socially inept and an obviously guilty spouse instead of, you know, pleading for information that might help lead to finding the “gone girl” in question.

As Amy writes in an attempt to justify her scheme, “everyone loves the Dead Girl”. This may be so, but we have a deeper desire to get to know the white men who abuse the “unwanted, inconvenient,” formerly Cool Girls than the Dead Girls themselves. And unfortunately, Gone Girl doesn’t suggest otherwise.

Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] Jennifer Lawrence & the History of Cool Girls.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Image via Fat Movie Guy.

The Reading Hour.

It’s that time of year again and, in the spirit of tonight’s Reading Hour, I thought I’d tell you what I’ve been reading since last years’ event.

Rookie Yearbooks 1 & 2 by Tavi Gevinson.

I fell in love with Tavi Gevinson at last years’ Melbourne Writers Festival and had to snap up Rookie Yearbook One at the event’s bookstore. The second yearbook I got after visiting the U.S. late last year. They both compile the best of the Rookie website for those who don’t always have the chance to check it out. My favourites were anything by Sady Doyle and Lena Dunham’s interview with Mindy Kaling.

Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger.

My former housemate bought this at a secondhand bookstore in Geelong when we went there for an exhibition and surprised me with it for my birthday. I ended up using some of the intel I gleaned from the book for an article on the dark side of Hollywood that I’m shopping around, and it informed me when I went to the Museum of Death in Los Angeles, to which Kenneth Anger is a benefactor.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

I read this around the time the second movie came out and I think I enjoyed the big screen version much more than the print one. I liked how the film streamlined much of the at times unnecessary plot additions.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

Gillian Flynn has fast established herself as one of my favourite writers, and this is not only my favourite book of hers, but also one of my favourites in general. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. A gritty page-turner that kicks Gone Girl’s ass.

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany.

I was unimpressed by last years’ Stella prize winner.

Inferno by Dan Brown.

I made the mistake of taking this hefty tome on my trip to the U.S., thinking I would get most of it read on the plane but I was still lugging it around for weeks after I returned home. I think because I read it pretty sporadically throughout the trip I didn’t get as into the story as I have with other Brown books. I did like the notions of overpopulation and the need to eradicate part of the population for the greater good of the human race, though.

Well Read Women by Samantha Hahn.

This is more of a picture book than anything with read substance, but I was gifted it in the States for my birthday after having mentioned it months and months before!

Floundering by Romy Ash.

I really enjoyed this debut novel from Ash, which was shortlisted for many a prize upon its release. If you like evocative Australiana in an alternative style, I urge you to pick up Floundering.

The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper by Dominick Dunne.

A sort-of pictorial autobiography of my favourite author that I picked up from New York’s famous Strand bookstore.

Reel Religion: A Century of the Bible on Film by the Museum of Biblical Art.

I couldn’t tell whether this guide to the exhibition of the same name at New York’s Museum of Biblical Art was propaganda or, as it asserts in its title, a history of the Bible on film. Either way, if you ever have some spare time in Central Parker West, check out the free museum.

How Did You Get This Number? by Sloan Crosley.

Crosley seems to have lost her allure since I last read her work in book form, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, a few years ago.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.

What a horror show this was! I primarily read it so I could watch the Lifetime movie of the same name starring Heather Graham and Kiernan Shipka, but I had been wanting to satisfy my curiosity for it for quite a while.

The Family Law by Benjamin Law.

Laugh-out-loud funny as Law always is.

The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle by Mary Lillian Ellison with Larry Platt.

Another one I got in New York at Westsider Rare Books and, as an autobiography of perhaps the most famous—and certainly the longest active—female wrestler, I had to snap it up.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

This marks the third and final Flynn book I’ve read, and while the colleague I borrowed it from found it boring, I loved it almost as much as Sharp Objects. It features another eleventh-hour plot twist that Flynn has become famous for. Can’t wait to see what her next release will be.

John Belushi is Dead/Hollywood Ending by Kathy Charles.

I’d been wanting to read Hollywood Ending for quite a few years, but little did I know that the book was also published under the title of John Belushi is Dead, so there I was with two copies of the same book and no place to go. It turned out to be a spectacular waste of money as I was sorely disappointed by this narrative.

Tragic Hollywood: Beautiful, Glamorous, Dead by Jackie Ganiy.

This book nicely elaborated on much of what I learned on my visit to the Museum of Death and a Tragical History tour of L.A. but, as a self-published effort, it was riddle with spelling and grammar mistakes and continuity errors.

Audition by Barbara Walters.

While I think Barbara Walters gets kookier and more conservative with age, she was once a pioneer for women in broadcast journalism, and her autobiography was fascinating if, expectedly, long.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Another one I’d been putting off, but it lived up to the hype. I’m excited to see how the story of the last woman executed in Iceland will play out on the big screen as it has been optioned for film.

2Pac VS. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle by Jeff Weiss & Evan McGarvey.

Didn’t tell me what I didn’t already know about Tupac Shakur, but I’d never really been a Biggie fan, so this book did shed some light on one of rap’s biggest stars.

An Inconvenient Woman by Dominick Dunne.

I picked this up along with Dunne’s autobiography at The Strand, and it was quite enjoyable.

Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin.

I always enjoy Maupin’s stuff, and this marks the likely second-last installment of his Tales of the City saga, in which he revisits his beloved characters from 1970s and ’80s San Francisco in the modern day.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates.

You never know what you’re going to get when it comes to Joyce Carol Oates, which can be thrilling and disconcerting. I’d have to go with the latter in this instance.

Changed for Good by Stacy Wolf.

Two of my favourite things: feminism and Broadway musicals. For anyone who’s got an interest in either of these things, this is a fascinating look at both, with a particular focus on Wicked, which I went to see for the seventh time on the weekend!

The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss.

Perhaps the Aussie book of the year, Tara Moss can be seen everywhere promoting her latest book—part memoir, part exploration of female tropes and stereotypes—and talking about everything from the Bechdel test to her rape and miscarriage. She writes in accessible terms and makes strong points.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas.

This book, a present from my housemate, has been languishing on my to-read pile for three years, so I thought it was high time I see what all the fuss was about. I’d watched the series so I was familiar with the premise and its aftermath, but I was quite taken aback by the misogyny and racism of pretty much all of the characters. Whether that was impeccable storytelling by Tsiolkas or the author’s biases I’m not sure; I guess I’ll have to read more of his work to find out. Next of his on my list: Barracuda.

The First Stone by Helen Garner.

Speaking of ingrained misogyny, Garner attempts to unpack the alleged sexual assault of two female students by a male authority figure at Melbourne University in the 1990s. What she actually ends up with is an out-of-touch, victim-blaming, second-wave VS. third-wave piece of misogyny. I would direct all readers away from this and towards Anna Krien’s Night Games: a much more balanced take on similar events.

Animal People by Charlotte Wood.

I’d been wanting to read this since I saw Charlotte Wood as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival a couple of years ago, and I devoured it in the space of the day. (I was without electricity so there wasn’t much else to do!) Pretty easy reading with a nice juxtaposition between human idiosyncrasies and animal mannerisms.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I’ve already read this book, but I’m rereading it currently as research for a piece about the upcoming film adaptation. This is the third Flynn book I’ve read in the past year.

What are you reading for the Reading Hour?

Related: The Reading Hour 2013.

The Reading Hour 2012.

Tavi’s World at Melbourne Writers Festival.

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple: My Guide to New York City.

Cherchez la Femme Fatale, Take 2.

Stella: A Prize of One’s Own at The Wheeler Centre.

The Slap & Men Who Cheat.

Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” in the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Night Games by Anna Krien Review.

You Animals.

Elsewhere: [Rookie] Sady Doyle.

[Show & Tell] Tara Moss On Ner Latest Novel The Fictional Woman & the Bechdel Test.

[SMH] Under the Skin.

Event: The Reading Hour 2013.

It’s that time of year again—National Reading Hour—and last year for the event I chronicled the books I’d read and what I thought of them and thought I’d do something similar this year.

Without further ado, here’s an incomplete list (I threw out my day planner from last year in which I’d pencilled in time for reading certain publications so some of this is from memory) of the books I’ve read since then.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Outrageous Acts & Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem.

A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling.

The Life & Opinions of Maf the Dog & of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andre O’Hagan.

Marilyn: The Passion & the Paradox by Lois Banner.

Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

After the Fall by Arthur Miller.

Sweet Valley Confidential: 10 Years Later by Francine Pascal.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander.

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.

The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Undisputed by Chris Jericho.

Night Games by Anna Krien.

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan.

The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers.

Under the Dome by Stephen King.

Feminism & Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler.

What books have you been reading in the past year?

Related: The Reading Hour.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Review.

Marilyn: The Passion & the Paradox by Lois Banner Review.

Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf Review.

Night Games by Anna Krien Review.

The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

For the last few months, literary circles and feminist blogs have been raving about Gillian Flynn’s latest mystery, Gone Girl. I recommended it to a friend after reading a favourable review of the book, and it’s been sitting on my pile of “to read” tomes since she finished it.

With all the abductions of young, pretty women of late (Jill Meagher, Sarah Cafferkey), Flynn hits what we want to read on the head, both figuratively and literally speaking.

Gone Girl deals with the disappearance of a thirty-something wife in Missouri and the husband is the prime suspect amid marriage and money troubles. One chapter is written from the point of view of the disappeared Amy, the titular character of her parents’ iconic series of child psychology books several decades ago and all around “cool girl”, while the next is written by the husband-in-question, Nick Dunne, and so on and so forth.

There’s not much more I can say without giving away the myriad twists and turns up until the last third of the book, when the mystery seems to stall and the ending lacks the lustre of the rest of Gone Girl.

In the acknowledgements at the end of the story, Flynn thanks her editor for pushing her to move beyond being “82.6 per cent done” forever, and I have to say that doesn’t surprise me. The rest of the book is so well crafted, both from a plot and character point of view, that it seems like Flynn couldn’t figure out how to end the story or just rushed through it in order to meet deadline.

It’s disappointing because Gone Girl really had me thinking about the acts women put on and how sometimes we never realise who we truly are and what we want; how men see women; and whether the book was a feminist or anti-feminist one.

While some of the language used by Nick denoted a deep-down hatred of women despite his best efforts to be a “good man”, unlike his father, and Amy’s slut-shaming, rape-crying, graphic descriptions of sex and violence and her obsession with revenge questions whether victims are completely blameless, I think Flynn ultimately painted a picture of just how ugly humanity can sometimes be.

There’s a difference between writing misogyny for misogyny’s sake and pointing out that misogyny exists and is as insidious in fiction as it is in the real world, and that’s what Gone Girl gets right.

Related: Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

Image via Good Reads.