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LITERATURE: Author Gillian Flynn and Her Strong Female Characters

The Verse’s Kerrie Draghi tells us what she thinks of the author Gillian Flynn and her strong female characters.

Author of Sharp Objects, Dark Places and Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn writes unlikeable women. Her female characters are damaged, dysfunctional, vengeful and sometimes murderous. I’ve watched a lot of ‘vengeful women’ movies like Fatal Attraction and Cruel Intentions and yeah, they’re entertaining (besides the bunny – boiling, which was just unnecessary) but I always yearn for something more when the credits roll. I yearn for an example of female rage which is not immediately dismissed as irrational and unseemly. Because, more than anything, anger is seen as an unattractive feature in a woman. It is unladylike and something that we are taught to conceal, especially from ourselves. Or else, we will be shunned and deemed a crazy, hysterical woman.

We are taught to conceal a lot: our desires, appetites, opinions and emotions. Otherwise we become a burden and a liability. However, our anger is the most shunned and dangerous of them all. Our anger is always portrayed as overdramatic, immature and irrational. Women who show it become jealous, inconvenient, unlovable creatures. Everyone knows that crazy is only acceptable as long as you are equally as beautiful. Crazy is fun for a night, crazy is fun as long as you do not pose a threat. Crazy is one of the scariest things a woman can be because it is a loss of control, something women are forbidden to do.

In Gillian Flynn’s writing, I found something I didn’t know I was looking for. The women she writes are not role models, neither are they victims. Because more importantly they are real, living beings. Who don’t always do the right thing, who hurt and cause harm, are conflicted, and battle with their dark places daily. They are multifaceted and can also be sinister, conniving and not at all what they seem.

Amma from Sharp Objects is all at once; her mother’s angel, the ringleader of the most popular girls in town, a cold, teenage temptress and a psychopathic killer. Camille is the reluctant hero of Sharp Objects, she downs vodka like water whilst blasting music loudly in her car and her skin is covered in words that she has carved into her body. It is more than clear that she is harbouring some serious demons but she is too a competent journalist, a daughter famished for her mother’s love and a complex person full of shame, melancholy and unrealised potential. She isn’t a damsel in distress, she numbs her pain with substances and indulges in casual sex for the same reasons that men do: for that rush of power and pleasure.

When we are first introduced to Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne, she appears as the definition of an ideal wife and daughter. She is a smart, charismatic, beautiful, ‘cool girl’. Although underneath this carefully – crafted exterior, lies a hell of a lot of darkness. She soon reveals to be possibly the most vengeful and vindictive of women. She frames her husband for her murder after finding out that he was cheating on her with another ‘younger, bouncier cool girl’, she even kills a man. Her double personality is reminiscent to me of Christian Bale in American Psycho who appears a charming, handsome, successful man to the public but in truth is, a voracious killer.

Gillian Flynn has an affinity for the outsiders. Camille’s Sharp Objects is the black sheep of her family, Libby in Dark Places is the epitome of an outsider. She is cynical, downright rude and hateful. I found her the hardest to like of all of Gillian Flynn’s unlikely protagonists.

The point is, you don’t have to like any of her female characters, they aren’t nice and easily packaged. They are crazy, wild and untamed. They are tough and volatile. Their pain isn’t fetishised and they don’t need saving. They can be just as crooked, psychotic, depraved and cruel as any man. They aren’t sexy, empathetic or nurturing or anything else that women are expected to be. They don’t cater to or coddle the men that they interact with. They don’t ask you to accept or understand them, they know that you won’t. They don’t conceal their rage, they act upon it. They use it to fuel them, they use it as a weapon. They aren’t afraid to explore their own darkness. And they are certainly not afraid to bring hell to anyone who dares to cross them.

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