Gone Girl, when I saw it in the cinema last year, was a seminal experience. It was, as many great films of 2014-2015 were, a bit of a life-changer. It made me, as an impressionable, intermittently single young man, think a lot about the nature of marriage, as it should do.
I bought the DVD for my dad this Christmas, and we watched it earlier today. I'd already told my mam the whole plot, so she kind of saw everything coming. Perhaps just as well, for she's averse to violence and since I'd already warned her of the hammer-and-mirror scene and of course the film's blood-soaked twist, she persevered. Unfortunately, my dad, who I'd bought the film for, didn't enjoy it and said that he thought it was probably some kind of attack from "the gays" to destroy the sanctity of marriage. I don't know what makes him an expert- he's only been married once! All I'll say, is, if the Saw Doctors and the Simpsons didn't exist, we'd never agree on anything.
But this is all beside the point. The real theme of this film, I noticed, is the constant mediatization of society. Yes, I'm really showing off where my student loan's gone here.
Differences between the couple's media relationships.
I realize I'm probably pointing out the obvious here, but since when did that ever stop someone on the internet stating their opinion? Here goes.
The central couple of the film both have their faults. Men might side with the man, women might side with the woman. But whichever you side with, if you came away from it feeling that either character's actions were fair enough, you might need to watch it again.
We're never told much about the man, despite him being the main character for most of the film, even if his wife is pulling the strings. He's meant to be the "audience's character," even seeming like a "Mary Sue" at times, I'd say he's almost a Gordon Freeman type in that we don't really hear much about his past before he met his wife, beyond that his parents were divorced, and his sister never heard about their dad's affair. During the first section of the film, we are encouraged to sympathize with him, to the point where I saw the news anchor who was extolling his oh so obvious guilt, and I shouted at my TV: "Oh, I hate that woman!" Not seconds later, the man (Nick) expresses his disdain for the news anchor in a similar way. In this first section of the film, the way that media skillfully manipulate viewers' emotions is shown. There are no shock parts in this chapter: it's done with standard emotional tactics.
Amy, by contrast, has absolutely everything about her past laid out bare- later by the police investigation, but earlier by the "Amazing Amy" books her parents wrote. These are the first example of mediatization. Whereas there is basically no record of Nick's childhood, as his mother is dead and his senile, grumpy father had long since moved house, everything in the Amazing Amy books has some kind of parallel to Amy's childhood. Amy might not like it, but she's been trying to avoid the internalization of the media's good girl values for a very long time- although she has become very good at projecting them, to the point where it enables her to literally get away with murder.
Playing a character so long, he started to believe it.
Obviously there is a communication problem in the relationship. However, it manifests itself in different ways for the two partners. After moving to Missouri, it's pretty clear that poor Amy doesn't adjust well to the housewife life, and that Nick adjusts a little too well to his job as a teacher at the local college, starting an affair. Amy, with all her time alone to twiddle her thumbs and read those crime books (another example of the media in their lives, with weird parallels to Amazing Amy and their library sex scene) that lead to the whole sorry incident, begins to see things as they really are- just as she did with her parents' manipulation of her not-amazing childhood.
She realizes that she's been playing a character all along to impress Nick, ever since the day they met- and when she sees him put two fingers to his mistress's lips she knows he is playing a character too, even if he doesn't know it. (This is actually a sociological concept called the Self, but to explain further is unnecessary)
Even though they have hit tough times in their finances and their sex life, the couple are still projecting a happy, perfect, well-off white couple image to their families and neighbourhood. Amy, who has worked out that they are both playing characters, has also realized that their happy marriage is all an act too. Nick knows their relationship has issues, but he ignores it, plastering up his feelings using the affair. He refuses to communicate with his wife (as seen in their argument)- whether he ever actually pushed her is unclear as all the flashback scenes are only told from the perspective of Amy's falsified diary. Nick, as the one who is out in public relaying the happy couple image to the outside world, and also without Amy's prior experience during childhood of the separation of fantasy and reality, is the one who begins to internalize the image and never really believes anything to be seriously wrong right up until the day she goes missing- the day he was going to ask for a divorce anyway. In his way, he too has become a sociopath- believing things to be totally different than they actually are.
Nowhere is the importance of this image's projection more important than in the scene when a blood-soaked Amy returns home, and Nick quietly curses her as they embrace in front of the cameras.
Nick never once talks to the public directly- it is always done through the media (mainly the television, though this may be for purposes of it being easily integrated into a film format). This includes when he is holed up in his or Margot's house, avoiding the mob outside, where his only communication with the outside world is through the vitriol that is thrown at him from the chat show hosts. Later, he meets the presenters and talks to them himself. Perhaps he has been scared off public discourse by the woman who posted his selfie on the internet, causing damage to his increasingly managed image. The only other times he communicates with the public are when he talks at the launch of the search campaign, and when he is heckled whilst talking at the bandstand. Even then, he doesn't falter in his speech, finishing what he was saying and then leaving, refusing to comment on the pregnancy accusation. This all draws parallels to Amy, who never waivers throughout the whole film. When she supposedly makes a mistake of losing her money, and has to switch to Plan B of finding the ex boyfriend (although some fans think this to have been a part of her plan all along), she has still planned for it. This is because she always, always controls the situation mostly due to her standing as a "beautiful blonde white woman" with supposedly rich parents. Only near the end, when she is questioned by Detective Ronda, does she begin to lose the puppet-strings, as she is questioned over some small plot-holes she left in her well-constructed story. However, the doctor is on her side as she asks for no further questioning. Neither partner can handle NOT being the primary definer in a debate- which might be one of the reasons they're so ill matched.
The more obvious media representatives.
There are plenty more things worth thinking about. The whole motif of the diary narration throughout the first section of the film assumes that everything she writes is true, right up until we realize what she is really up to when the perspective switches solely to Amy, tearing up the road in her Craigslist banger. The audience is led to assume that what she wrote in the diary is true- because we saw it acted out, because it was during the relatively innocent first chapter, and because we are empathizing with Nick during this section. However as the diary is later revealed to be false there is no way of knowing exactly how much it was grounded in reality, especially as Nick refuses to talk about it much.
There are more obvious things such as how both of the pair find out most stuff about their own case via television, such as when the mistress goes public and dresses innocently to do it. There's Tanner Bolt, whose entire appearance is based around making the best out of the legal and media systems- he has no real interest in the truth. It could even be said that by having him around Nick starts to utilize the media himself- cheekily calling Amy home during an interview- and abandons his former pursuit of the simple truth. Pointing out most of these things is quite pointless though as they are the more obvious tenets of mediatization in the film.
Amy can't escape the media. Her poor friends can.
One perhaps less obvious example is that Amy's idea of the world as she sat at home alone became almost single-handedly shaped by the media. She, as a rich white woman, is the kind of person advertisers want to get to and therefore is most visible on TV as networks pander to her. This can be seen in the way the police so easily dismiss the "local idiot", a lady from a more disadvantageous background- worrying that her presence on the "crime scene" may cause problems. When Amy has her money taken by the desperate couple, she begins to see a side of the world not represented by the media, the underclass of society that was previously invisible to an elite woman like her. It is at this point she realizes how much easier it would be for her to just return home to her husband- though, without money, a final piece of deviancy is needed in order to make it work. At Desi's house, after being plied with the promise of more television than she could ever watch, she becomes literally trapped in a media circus- with cameras watching her every move. However, like Nick, she finally figures out how best to manipulate the media perception of her situation (or, alternatively, she had planned it all along).
The possibility of a Gone Girl 2 might be somewhat ironic- as we've seen with the new Star Wars, a sequel can completely change your perception of the original's ending. And wouldn't that be a great example of media framing... just as any negative comments below this post will completely change any further readers' opinions as to the post's quality. Hint, hint.