The Girl On The Train and The “Woman As A Villain” Problem

Just the other day I was thinking about the lack of fearful lady antagonists in films and television. Off the top of my head I could think of two females that scared the shit out of me. Annie Wilkes in the Stephen King adapted film Misery and Amy Dunne in the Gillian Flynn adapted film Gone Girl.

By mere coincidence, the strangeness of the absence of the psycho female role came up again as I sat down to watch another book adapted into a movie. This time it was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

This film engaged my attention all the way through. But the ending got me back to my original question. Why does Hollywood fear villainizing female characters?

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“Gone Girl” Review

“What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?” 

I’m not the biggest fan of the Academy Awards. Sure, I enjoy watching overpaid actors play nice and revel in each other’s success as much as the next schmuck, but it just seems like the movies that should win aren’t often the ones that take home the Oscars. Considering that any discussion about which film is truly “the best” is a subjective matter, you and I could sit here all day and debate how many truly legitimate winners there have been over the years. We would probably disagree and insults would be hurled back and forth, but that’s normal. As Kevin so astutely pointed out in his Survivor Preview a few weeks back, humans judge one another with little to no evidence to support these judgments. It’s what we do. So if you think that I’m a moron when I say that Gone Girl should have been nominated for Best Picture over many of the films that were, including American Sniper, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel, then I recognize that you are just succumbing to human nature. And I forgive you.

And seeing as I’m putting all of my cards on the table, let me just point out that I thought Birdman was a tremendously directed and well-crafted film. I have no problem whatsoever with it winning Best Picture last week and I was pulling desperately for Michael Keaton to take home that Best Actor award. But more on that later.

Gone Girl is twisted, irresistible and disturbing. It takes great pleasure in roasting the idiocy of the media and the disheveled nature of mainstream murder investigations. I would be cringing during one scene and laughing the next, but no matter what I couldn’t look away. The two and half hour run time flew by. No matter how badly I needed to go to the bathroom or get up for a stretch, I never left my seat. I wanted to absorb every scene and witness every turn of events, and yet, the questions changed every time I thought I had the answers. For this is a David Fincher film, and nothing is ever what it seems. However, the most impressive feat that Gone Girl pulled off was something that previously I believed to be impossible.

It made me feel sorry for all of the married men in the world.

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