The film ‘Gone Girl’ is not misogynistic

Like the rest of America, I watched Gone Girl over the weekend.  I’ve been in post-mortem mode ever since, reading all the think pieces about the book vs the movie, what It All Means, and whether or not that shadow in the shower scene towards the end of the film was Ben Affleck’s uncircumcised penis.

By far the most popular topic in the thriving subgenres of essays that are Gone Girl reactions is what known man’s man director David Fincher did to the cunning antiheroine Amy Dunne. According to both Amanda Dobbins and Nico Lang, Fincher made her the ‘psycho bitch,’ robbing Dunne of the interiority she had in the book and turning her into the demented, batshit crazy psychopath who does ridiculous shit because bitches be crazy.  Lang argues,”One of the refreshing things about Gone Girl is that despite its Fatal Attraction veneer, it refuses to cast Amy as a villain—or worse, another “crazy bitch.” If she’s driven to unspeakable acts in her quest for marital revenge, it’s because Nick drove her to the edge.”

Uh, did we read the same book? Because from the get-go, Amy’s motivation for framing Nick as her murderer was always unclear and frankly weak and unbelievable. He cheated on her with a well-endowed co-ed, he moped around, he made her feel like a shrew—none of that, from a purely objective point of view, makes faking her own murder understandable. Not even close. Dobbins and Lang are right in one sense, Book Amy is simply more interesting than Movie Amy because her rants about society’s double standards regarding men and women are funny and trenchant and scorching. And also kind of irrelevant to the plot of the movie.

If you want to critique Fincher’s portrayal of women in his movies, go right ahead. My first blog post was about how misogynistic The Social Network was. But the difference between that movie and this one is that there are several women in Gone Girl who act as overt rebuttals to Amy’s unique brand of crazy. (Also there are simply more women with speaking roles in this movie than there have been in any other Fincher film). Think aboutt Margo played so wonderfully by Carrie Coon. She’s the most principled character in the film, the voice of reason, loyal but critical, loving but firm. Or Detective Boney, who throughout the movie, even when she is putatively ‘against Nick’ comes off as smart and observant. She’s committed to the objective truth.

Gone Girl the movie is many things. Darkly comic, twisted, scary, chockfull of great acting, crisp editing, performances that simultaneously go with and against type (I’m looking at you Tyler Perry who allegedly didn’t know who David Fincher was, and you Missi Pyle with your cartoon villain face and you Casey Wilson bringing some of Penny’s indefatigability to her role as ‘pregnant idiot’ Noelle Hawthorne). But it is not misogynistic.






A tale of two black guys

This is a story about two men. Two black men. They are both tall. They are both straight. One lives in TV LA, the other lives in TV Chicago.

This is Brad.

This is Winston.

Brad, played by Damon Wayans Jr on ABC’s Happy Endings, an improv-heavy ensemble comedy about six friends in Chicago with lots of that quick, pop culture riffing that has become the tone de jour since 30 Rock and Community, is a metrosexual  with a pair of great, pearly white teeth and a hot, ultra type-A white wife Jane (Eliza Coupe).

Winston, played by Larmone Morris on Fox’s New Girl, an improv-lite ensemble comedy about three men and one girl living in a loft in LA with the will they/won’t they non-tension of imminent copulation always, perpetually on the horizon, is a black man who played basketball in Latvia for some time. He likes the musical Wicked. That’s about it for Winston. Read the rest of this entry »

DC tourists are the best

When I’m trying to exit the Metro station and there’s a barricade of wide-eyed tourists, stepping tentatively on the escalators, bright white sneakers gleaming,  metro maps clenched tightly in right fists,  bra straps straining under faded tank tops– they are annoying.

But then you go to the Mall on a weekday evening in late August, when it’s just rained and the weather’s actually cool for once and there’s a nice breeze and you see an Indian family slowly climbing the steps up the Lincoln Memorial and you hear some beefy, red-faced guys speaking in German. You watch the Chinese tourists grasp the black bars of the gate in front of the White House, you notice the Eritrean woman jockeying for space so she can take photos of her four bored-looking boys who do not yet understand the significance of this moment, but will much later, when their mother is gone and they’re selling the house she worked so hard to own and they’re holding the photograph that she stubbornly insisted on printing even though it was on a phone, frozen for posterity. Read the rest of this entry »

I want to be Nora Ephron*

Today, I went to a mega mixer. It was one of those awkward events where you stand in a room full of other media type people, half of them wearing nametags, half of them not and you make eye contact with someone and then force yourself to shake hands and  ask, ‘what do you do?’ and ‘where do you live?’ all while trying to pull down your dress so it doesn’t bunch up awkwardly at your midsection.

Anyway, someone asked me for the hundredth time what my ideal beat would be and I gave off the usual prattle about pop culture, feature writing blah blah blah.

It was only after learning of Nora Ephron’s passing today, that I realized, with sudden clarity, that I basically want to be Nora Ephron.

She’s exactly the kind of writer I’d like to be. Funny, engaging, famous but not too famous, smart without being flashy, self-deprecating in a way that seems honest. She wrote for all the major publications in her hey day and scripted two of my favorite-comfort-rom-coms of all time, You’ve Got Mail  and When Harry Met Sally. When I was going through my hardcore-must-read-every-piece-of-long-form-journalism-ever-written-phase, I stumbled upon her now famous breast essay, and then read a few of the pieces she wrote in New York magazine. Good stuff, man, good stuff.

Condolences to the family.

*with some James Baldwin-esque righteous racial anger stuff though too.

Grantland is interesting

I forget the first time I stumbled across Grantland, a new-ish blog founded by Bill Simmons, of the popular ‘The Sports Guy’ column.  Grantland is a strange  amalgamation of sports coverage and investigative pop culture fare.

Bill Simmons writes this lengthy, comprehensive ode to Eddie Murphy complete with foot notes. Molly Lambert reviews the top ten songs on the Billboard Christian Chart.

Is it weird? Most certainly.

Is it interesting? Yes.

Also, side note, Bill Simmons is the latest member of a group comprised of middle-aged white men who possess an extraordinary amount of racial self awareness for a group of middle -aged white men. This man is also in this group. I would like to meet them someday.

Halloween Haters

I am a Halloween hater.

Not by choice. My parents made sure every October 31st served as a solemn reminder of America’s godlessness.

We are African. And Africans don’t celebrate Halloween. The idea is actually ludicrous. Witchcraft is alive and well all over the continent and the theory goes, you should never flatter witches with imitation. Any attempts to tell my parents that we wouldn’t dress up as evil spirits fell on deaf ears.

I remember my first Halloween.

My sister and I used to take swimming lessons at the Y. Halloween fell on a Friday that year and all the other kids got to leave swimming class early to get ready. My sister and I were literally the only ones in the pool. We got home and I had swimmer’s ear, per usual, and my eyes were red from the chlorine and we had to take our cornrows out. And there was no candy.

Miserable. Read the rest of this entry »

I hate spoken word

Way back in the day, I used to do a little something called forensics. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with CSI and its many children. It was good old speech and debate, with some acting thrown in. Every Saturday, we’d wake up at the crack of dawn to go to some sad little school and perform a 10 minute excerpt from a play or book, dressed in business suits, without the luxury of props or eye contact with our partner. This was called Duo Interpretation. My sister and I did it together. Our first piece was based on the Sefi Atta novel, Everything Good Will Come, a coming-of-age story that we stripped down to become a histrionic tale of rape and sexism. Our second piece, which took us all the way to Nationals in Vegas, was about the Darfur genocide (we milked those tears for all they were worth, baby.)

Anyway, the reason I am telling you this is not to toot my own horn (we were tenth in the nation) or to advocate for forensics (it dramatically helped me master public speaking anxiety), but to lambast spoken word poetry. After two years on the forensics circuit, you quickly realize that spoken word  is more often than not, a cheaper, sloppier, more abstract Dramatic Interpretation (or DI as we called it).  Read the rest of this entry »