Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pretend Your Happiness (book: Gone Girl)

Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn.

One hopes there are very few people in the world who are actually like the characters Nick and Amy. Nick is a chameleon, attempting to adapt to people and make them like him. He is a blank canvas waiting to be painted. Amy is also a pretender, but she lives to paint the canvas that is another person. You can see how they fit together.

Losing their jobs and then money problems shatters their game of paint by the numbers. They fall into marriage problem clichés. Though, Amy's action is definitely not a cliché. Let's just say their marriage is on the outs.

At the beginning of Gone Girl, and at the end, Nick asks himself the same questions about his wife: “What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other?  What will we do?”  In part he asks because she is hard to read, but as a chameleon, looking to please others is his basis of operation. Nick pretends to be what others want.

Amy the pretender: "I was pretending, the way I often did, pretending to have a personality. I can't help it; it's what I have always done." While you could argue Nick is a good-natured oaf, Amy is pure Black Widow Spider. She has no qualms about tying you up and hanging you out to dry.

Amy and Nick pretended and they were happy together. But, "it's not a compromise if only one of you considers it such." What is pretending except a form of compromise, or even capitulation? One stopped pretending, then the other, to disastrous results. And then they begin to pretend again.

Nick pretends so as save his own neck, and to save any child of Amy's from Amy.

Amy pretends so she can consume, like a Venus fly trap. "I'll turn to face him and press myself against him. I'll hold myself to him like a climbing coiling vine until I have invaded every part of him and make him mine."

In the end Nick realizes there are no answers to his questions. He simply accepts his fate as a canvas being painted by Amy. "I can feel her changing me again ... I can't imagine my story without Amy. She is forever my antagonist."

As for Amy, she has exactly what she wants. "He is learning to love me unconditionally, under all my conditions."

Much earlier in the book Nick laments, “It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can’t recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or TV show. A fucking commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blasé: Seeeen it. I’ve literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can’t anymore.”

This is our modern state of existence. Our lives cannot compete with the lives portrayed in movies and TV. Our lives cannot compete with the perceived excitement of celebrities, packaged and fed to us by the media.  And neither can our relationships. Real life romance pales in comparison. Real life sex is dull and boring. 

What do we do? We pretend. If you pretend long enough then it might just feel real.

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