What is the cost of the inauthentic life? Do we limit ourselves if all we ever are is a role?
Recently I saw the movie Gone Girl. In the opening and closing scenes of the movie a blond head rests on a chest, looks up and you hear a male voice asking: “What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other?” The woman’s smile appears sweet and innocent.
I found the movie a bit unusual. For one, in the game of male female relationships, lines like these are usually attributed to the female since relationship building has long been the realm of women.
The title can be interpreted literally since the story seems to be about a husband and wife, Nick and Amy, and the mystery surrounding the physical disappearance of Amy. When signs point to violence, her husband Nick becomes the likely candidate. But gone can also mean figuratively as in: the disappearance of spirit or the self; or leaving behind the child, good-girl persona, those aspects –wanting to fit in, to please and be accepted, that lead to inauthentic behavior — detrimental to the self.
Amy is a triple-threat B: blond, bright and beautiful; the perfect combination of the Madonna/Whore image . She spent her formative years developing a persona that brought vast financial success to her and her parents. As Amy states early in the movie, the imaginary, super- successful, super-cool “Amazing Amy” seems to lead a perfect life, one that is always a step ahead of her “real” life.
Like all of us, Amy has a hidden side to her. She’s learned that real life is both pleasure and pain (she goes to extreme lengths to show just how painful life can be). These are aspects Nick does not seem to want to deal with. A series of disappointments (job loss; inklings that his wife may be smarter than he) leads to inertia and loss of self-esteem and he seeks relief from the harsh world in fantasies (virtual reality games then graduating into the “perfect” arms of a 20-year old college student).
When Amy discovers his infidelity she seeks revenge, plotting out an intricate story that points to Nick in the hope it will lead him to prison and her to kill herself.
It’s easy to dismiss the movie as another “Girl gone crazy” story. In the past, similar movies like Basic Instinct (1992)and Fatal Attraction (1987) showed smart, successful woman who loved, lost, plotted revenge then died. Like those, Amy seems destined, even willing, to pay the price of death because she seeks revenge.
I’m far from being expert on what makes a relationship last. I’ve been married twice. But I do know a bit about the perils of self-limiting roles such as playing the “good girl” role, having paid the price more than once. For example: I’ve not always voiced important things; when I kept mum invariably my body said “I told you so”, both in real life and in imaginings.