Thursday 2014-10-09

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Flynn satires the image-is-everything culture of New York City with a tale of two yuppies who lose their jobs, which with the debts of their financially irresponsible parents forces them to move out of the City and back to the forsaken hinterlands.

For as long as it was possible to maintain the outward fiction of their J Crew lives, the internal fiction of their relationship managed to avoid serious scrutiny. However when they lose the external validation of careers, acquaintances, and clothes, their lives implode and they start to blame each other for what happened. Unfortunately, neither yuppie is as smart as they think they are, and their mistakes begin to spiral out of control.

The heart of the satire arrives when one of the yuppies seeks revenge-solace in a remote campground, and the people there take advantage of yuppie naivete. First, the local store cashier routinely overcharges the yuppie without them catching on ($10 for a gallon of milk?). Second, an abused redneck girl surmises that the yuppie has a stash of cash, and proceeds to relieve them of it (all $8000). Both the girl and the cashier knew a mark when they saw one; however, rather than fix their worldview, the yuppie instead allows their self-delusion to continue:

My parents never bothered teaching me this, and so they left me unprepared for the real world.
-- says the 30-something-year-old

And so the girl with an actual poverty of options in life makes mental mincemeat of the "smarter" yuppie. Twisting the satiric knife, we know that had the same story of job loss and irresponsible parents happened to her, it wouldn't be a story, it'd be just another ignored statistic about underclasses in the United States.

Flynn then flops around for a bit trying to close out the book, eventually settling on a concrete example of the yuppies' failure to learn. However, her knock-out-punch misses because we haven't cared about these characters in a long time, if ever.

Finally, reading around as to what reviewers have thought of the book (and now film) is a one-way ticket to Dismay... the Five Things I Hate about these reviews are:

  1. Some reviewers have been so traumatized that they see echoes of their own lives in this story.
  2. They believe that these yuppies are beautiful and smart when it's clear that the two are self-deluded and not smart. i.e. it's probable that these yuppies think they look like Affleck and Pike, and that only they think they're smart.
  3. Bret Easton Ellis got lynched for American Psycho, and Gillian Flynn didn't for this.
  4. They see satire in one place and treat the rest of the story as completely authentic.
  5. All the corporate bloggers are spewing the exact same positivity about this corporate media satire, and none of them see the Irony.