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October 07, 2014


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Huh. And I always thought a "Cool Girl" was a chick who was comfortable with her body and liked Frida Kahlo, not a chick who was essentially a bro/frat fantasy.

But I'm not sure how much of that has to do with 'deplorable evolution' of the meme, rather than how much I, (and you), are societal outliers.

In other words, it's VERY hard to tell how much of this is an entirely justifiable Get Off My Lawn cri de coeur, or if the underlying substance has been there in some form all along. (Pornofication may have just changed the form, but not the underlying substance.)

Or in yet other words, do we really think female self-esteem has precipitously dropped off a cliff in the past few decades? Cuz that would be the signal that something fundamental really has undergone a 'deplorable evolution'.


But I do get off the bus at the Dworkin point. I always tailored my presentation to what might be appealing to be appealing or even ingratiating to the kind of women I preferred. Seems a basically smart strategy for either gender. And I have real doubts I'm an outlier on that one.


Dworkin was right? Tell that to the gays whose concerns over censorship she wrote off as collateral damage, all the while getting into bed (pardon the metaphor) with the Moral Majority.

Glenn Kenny

I was speculating, with some slight rhetorical irony, as to whether Dworkin may have been right with respect to the ONE particular thing I mentioned. But go ahead, extrapolate away if it makes you happy. "Andrea Dworkin booster," I'm putting that on my next business card. Yeesh.


"Dworkin for a Livin': The Glenn Kenny Story."


"But go ahead, extrapolate away if it makes you happy."

So you're saying that all sex is rape? I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your gender theory work there, Glenn.

(I'm sorry. I really was going to resist. But once someone else chimed in, then all my resistance was overpowered. But I'm still sorry.)

Michael Adams

Your comments about pubic hair remind me of seeing Bernadette Lafont's huge bush in The Mother and the Whore. I turned to my wife and said, "Wow. A real woman."


My feeling is that the "Cool Girl" diatribe is like a lot of the rest of Flynn's writing; obvious, imprecise. Along broad strokes, I can understand the sentiment, but what she is criticizing is the norm as presented in beer commercials and Adam Sandler comedies (I know, same thing.) I might be naive, but my impression is that gender and sex entitlements, misunderstandings, and struggles are a lot deeper and more complex than football and chili dogs. To reduce it to sitcom stereotypes is shooting fish in a barrel.

If it really is "that bad" out there (and I do hear the occasional testament to that point, and many of my single male friends report just as much frustration with finding suitable mates as women, although for reasons that are surely different in lots of ways) than I share your surprise and dismay, Glenn.

*This ties in to one of the questions the film raises, intentionally or not. How much can we trust the opinions of this very unreliable narrator? From what we see, it's as though Nick is a bad partner in familiar ways having very little to do with male privilege. It's more that he just grows distant, exacerbated by financial woes. If anything, her version of his shortcomings seems distorted. Besides the ordinary neglect (including infidelity), he hardly seems to fit the mold of the beer-swilling, infantile lout that she describes, even if she's exaggerating. Like with the "man cave" prototype, full to an absurd degree with man-toys right out of Details magazine, meant to be proof positive of his guilt.

If anything, I was dazzled by Fincher's willingness to dance around issues of sexism, while also carefully damning each perspective: both accuse the other of being controlling, deceptive, etc. Only one, of course, turns out to behave like a true sociopath. This seems to me to be a concession to the genre, and Fincher goes a long way to make her seem weirdly admirable. It's a rigged game, but a fascinating and fun one. Finally, a psycho vixen you can really root for!


Off topic: For Petey and whoever else is interested--just got the English dub of 8 1/2 in...threw on a reel and started filming, so this is the totally random result, rather than a cherry picked, ideal section. Worst part of any dub is kids, but left them in, in the 2nd half. First half includes (adult) Guido.



I’ve read “Gone Girl,” and while it didn’t bore me, I don’t understand why it was hailed as a literary masterpiece and the definitive statement about male-female relationships. It’s really just a lurid pulp novel, not much different from the paperback thrillers that John D. MacDonald, Lawrence Block and Donald E. Westlake were writing 50 years ago.

Except that MacDonald, Block and Westlake were better writers than Gillian Flynn. So was Ross Macdonald, author of the Lew Archer detective series, who Flynn has cited as an inspiration.

I didn’t believe anything that happened in the second half of “Gone Girl,” It’s just TOO cleverly plotted. It kept me turning the pages, but so do Mike Hammer and James Bond novels.

I also don’t understand why the movie is being hyped as the most eagerly awaited movie since THE GODFATHER, or maybe GONE WITH THE WIND. Most of the hype is coming not from the studio, but from people who write about pop culture for a living.

Are these commentators so starved for an adult-targeted movie, they’re falling over themselves to praise what is really a pop thriller?


'Are these commentators so starved for an adult-targeted movie, they’re falling over themselves to praise what is really a pop thriller?'

In a word, yes. That's the 'culture' we live in now. Everything's a masterpiece, until it's forgotten a few weeks later.

Glenn Kenny

I'm a bit of a genre fiction fan—I pretty much worship Westlake, and adore Mr. Block (who's a friend of this blog—even did a guest post here once: http://somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_running/2011/07/from-lawrence-block-no-but-i-read-the-book.html ). Of Flynn's books, I've only read "Gone Girl," and I like it fine. Would I say she's in Westlake or Block's "league?" (I haven't read much of either MacDonald, so I couldn't speak to that.) I think she's up to something different, something more overtly ambitious...and I'm interested in seeing more of it.


Dunno if you've caught up to the collection of Westlake miscellanea in The Getaway Car yet, Glenn, but highly recommended. (And if I remember correctly, you've neglected your Dortmunder - for shame! - but if so, Jimmy the Kid should be where you pick it back up...)


I rather liked Flynn's novel, which like Glenn, I felt had a lot more on its mind than being a good potboiler. It was also often very funny, especially in the sections in the first half that Nick narrates. Flynn really nails a particular kind of guy, one completely incapable of taking responsibility for those times he fucks up, like when he describes how he ended up with a mistress. Fincher and Flynn did a great job keeping the story's dark humor.

The movie lags a bit in the second half, which keeps me from loving this one as much as other Fincher flicks. But it has stayed in my mind much longer than his Dragon Tattoo adaptation. And Fincher just keeps getting better and better as a director. There are so many shots I want to see again on a big screen. That close up very early on of Affleck's rocks glass sliding up to the camera, the later shot of Affleck slamming his glass on the floor when he blows up at the detectives. Desi's murder of course. And Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's score is phenomenal. Been listening to it some more since seeing the movie and a lot of it reminds me of Angelo Badalmenti's work with Lynch.

Grant L

Great discussion here - if anyone hasn't seen it yet, this piece (and the Tom Carson review she links to) have some excellent things to say.



While I've seen plenty of hype, coverage and publicity about GONE GIRL, I guess I'm reading different sources than George is. Is there a Hyperbole Monthly?

But his rhetorical question hit on part of it (as Mark acknowledged, albeit also hyperbolically): A major studio release that doesn't involve tent-poles or superheroes and gives you some zeitgeisty stuff to chew on is catnip to entertainment writers, whether they think the result is a masterpiece or not.

I absolutely agree with Glenn that GONE GIRL is a good book and that comparisons to such forebears as Westlake, Block, et al, only go so far. Whether it can stand up to highfalutin' claims of relevance (assuming these exist and aren't just straw men) is a bit moot -- it works as a page-turning thriller, and its alternating narrators of questionable reliability set it apart from the average beach read.

I'd forgotten that Lawrence Block is a "friend of the blog;" if he's seeing this, I'd like to say I just finished reading the Hard Case edition of LUCKY AT CARDS and enjoyed it very much! I'm looking forward to getting to some of his more recent work.


Having seen it last night, I would say that Fincher's BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING is certainly better than his CHINATOWN, though oddly enough it has the former movie's weakness, a villain lacking sufficient nuance and complexity.

Matt B.

Glenn, I know you love reading difficult novels, but you should definitely indulge in both MacDonald and Macdonald again soon. (Particularly Ross. I haven't read John D. in ages, but I should dig back in sometime.)


IMHO Fincher would've been better off directing something resembling the actual Scott Peterson case. Who needs hyperbolic satire when you've got far-right fundamentalists lining up to defend a smug, adulterous stalker who was (so they insist) framed by Satanists, driving around in some Scooby Doo-style Mystery Machine?


I enjoyed reading this post. As I said via twitter, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, too. It's hyperbolic for a reason, and that bit of the satire is largely missing from Fincher's film vocabulary, which points to a good deal of my problems with the movie, which, basically, I find not funny enough. I may see it again, later, to watch not as an adaptation but as a film (it's of course soundly _made_), paying more attention to just how little air is in it, to see if that might inform the attitude the film has, which feels at this point rather suspiciously motivated, unlike the book, which is as grim a satire as I can imagine, however inelegant bits of its building blocks may be.

Kevin B.

Obviously for me to make the following point it requires talking about blankets of people, and there are exceptions. That being said...

I don't see why it's seen as misogynistic for men to be attracted to beautiful, feminine-looking women with interests that align to the stereotypically male persona (sports, drinks, casualness, etc.). Flip it around...aren't women attracted to beautiful, masculine-looking men with interests that align to the stereotypically female persona (singing/music, fashion, etc.)? I think oftentimes the closest women get to that is gay men (again, stereotypes abound here) and that's why women sing such high praises for their gay male friends. Pretty typical to find a physically attractive female with a close gay male friend.

The point being that if we're being fair, the sexes look for similar qualities in each other.

Same goes for the whole female argument "men are so shallow". I think that's an unfair and sexist thing to say. Women are equally shallow, it just might not entirely be about looks but other shallow qualities (money, for example). In both cases it doesn't seem one sex qualifies the other based on the internal qualities that truly matter like loyalty, respect, compassion, honesty, etc. if only because they aren't able to be judged immediately.

How about we all make an attempt to stop this war of the sexes by trying to be less shallow and by giving people more of a chance before putting them in the "no" box?


"I haven't read much of either MacDonald, so I couldn't speak to that."

Glenn, the first two Lew Archer novels were filmed, with the hero's last name changed to Harper, as HARPER and THE DROWNING POOL. Gillian Flynn has said she wishes she could get more people to read Ross Macdonald.

John D. MacDonald wrote the Travis McGee series (21 books over 21 years). A couple of his non-McGee novels were turned into good movies: "The Executioners" (filmed twice as CAPE FEAR) and "A Flash of Green."

I'm fond of the paperback originals MacDonald wrote in the '50s and early '60s, before Travis McGee came along: "The Damned," "Border Town Girl," "The Neon Jungle" and many others.

jbyant said: "I'd like to say I just finished reading the Hard Case edition of LUCKY AT CARDS and enjoyed it very much!"

I just read the Hard Case edition of an early Westlake novel, "The Cutie" (1960), and had a great time with it.


"I think she's up to something different, something more overtly ambitious...and I'm interested in seeing more of it."

I doubt any male writer would have written the "Cool Girl" passage, because the average male would not have noticed such a thing. But it obviously happens in real life. We've all noticed smart women who have moronic jerks for husbands or boyfriends, and wondered what's going on there.

Flynn is a good writer, and "Gone Girl" held my interest all the way through. I just don't think it's a great work of literature. The pop-culture writers who are gushing over the book also tend to regard "Mad Men" and "Girls" as the greatest artistic achievements of the last several decades ... which indicates how little art (or entertainment) they're consumed.

I'd guess a lot of these commentators identify with Flynn, a former Entertainment Weekly writer who made good. (Maybe someday THEY'LL have a best-selling novel, too!) They probably also identified with the passages that mourn the decline of print media, and magazines in particular. How could they not love the book? It was written by one of their own.


george: I've read "The Cutie" as well, plus "Someone Owes Me Money" and "Lemons Never Lie" (two other Hard Case titles by Westlake) and loved 'em all.

I've enjoyed a couple of John D. MacDonald books a great deal, but I haven't tried Ross yet. I'll get on that.

Claire K.

Just to clarify my waxing example that you mention above, Glenn, I wasn't saying that those $50 go out of a woman's pocket and INTO a man's, in the direct sense that women pay MEN for this service. Plenty of salons are female-owned, and the vast majority of waxers are female, so in that sense one could argue that this little health & beauty microeconomy actually benefits women, in balance. Though on the other hand again, you could argue that increased demand for professional grooming merely creates more service jobs for women, and women are hardly underrepresented in that sector. I'm not sure what the answer is there.

Anyway, my point was just that as these previously-optional services become cultural norms for women, those expectations are claiming ever-larger portions of our disposable income--even if they're expectations that I feel we had very little to do with setting in the first place. And when there are fewer parallel expectations for men's disposable income, this is just one more thing that keeps the economic scales tipped in men's favor.


When I heard that young men were demanding that their girlfriends shave their pubic hair (apparently so they could pretend they were having sex with a 12-year-old), and the young women complied, I knew things had changed since the '80s.


George, if you don't think the first few seasons of MAD MEN are at the very least superb entertainment, what TV shows do you like? The "TV is the new cinema" crowd needs to check out some films by Pedro Costa, Tsai Ming-liang and the productions of the Sensory Ethnography Lab - and probably read some books published by the Dalkey Archive and reprinted by the New York Review of Books - but let's face it, most Americans' frame of reference for culture doesn't extend much beyond pop culture. It's very hard to lecture them that this is bad without coming off as a snob. At least MAD MEN and GIRLS are very good pop culture.

I don't think GONE GIRL is great literature either, but I do think it has some insights into contemporary gender relations.


I thought a lot of "Mad Men" episodes were superb, but there have been superb TV shows in the past, going back at least to "Twilight Zone" in 1959 and "Route 66" in 1960.

It irks me when pop-culture hipsters dismiss all TV before "The Sopranos" as worthless trash, while (at the same time) insisting that current TV offerings are better than any movies. Funny how these people never write about the "CSI" and reality shows that are actually the most-watched programs.

I don't understand how TV critics get away with ignoring the top-rated programs, while writing yet another essay about how "Breaking Bad" is the greatest work of art produced in the last 50 years.

Movie critics are expected to review superhero movies and other current blockbusters, whether they find them interesting or not. They're generally not allowed to restrict themselves to indies and art-house cinema. But a lot of TV critics only write about "quality TV," giving the impression that we're in a wonderful golden age where everything on TV is superb.


"Similarly, in 2010, considering Lena Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture, in which Dunham’s character, Aura, is treated like a doormat with a vagina by at least one male character"

Shouldn't sympathy be reserved for guys who have to tangle with that unsightly beast?

Michael Dempsey

"Shouldn't sympathy be reserved for guys who have to tangle with that unsightly beast?"

What a sickening -- indeed, depraved -- remark.


In recent days, the world has heard enough about Lena Dunham and vaginas to last a lifetime.

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