By Julie Barber
Got anything special planned for today? Are you going to put Beyonce’s “Run the World” on repeat all day, go see Captain Marvel, or set up a hot date with Hulu and some well-deserved pizza? All of the above sound good to me! But before I look up the showtimes for Captain Marvel, I want to shine a little spotlight on my favorite combat-boot-wearing, Kansas-City-hailing, plot-twisting author: Gillian Flynn. Now, for those of you who’ve never read any of her books, it’s my duty to warn you that spoiler alerts may be ahead.
As for my fellow Flynn fans, you possibly already know why her bestsellers Gone Girl and Sharp Objects are relevant to today. Both stories are packed with mystery, murder, betrayal, and female leads that resist sexist and societal expectations. Now, if you’ve met Amy from Gone Girl, you might be thinking, “Um, she’s coocoo for coco puffs. How does she represent feminism?” It’s true, Amy does fake her own kidnapping/murder and attempt to frame her unfaithful husband for it (I told you there’d be spoilers!), but it’s the lesson Amy teaches her husband in framing him that fuels female empowerment. Amy played the good wife role, she was the “cool girl” for her hubby, she did all the things she was supposed to do—and yet, it wasn’t enough to keep her husband happy. The method to this madness is, even though Amy is the story’s villainess, she nonetheless delivers a good right hook to sexism and misogyny.
Sharp Objects’Camille also delivers a stinging blow to society’s expectations of women. In this story of more mystery, murder, and betrayal, Camille is what you might call an “anti-heroine.” Camille reluctantly returns to her hometown of Windgap to cover a story about two missing young girls. During her investigation, you get to know Camille as a self-destructing alcoholic who was cast out by her toxic family and hometown because she didn’t fit the Stepford Wife mold that was expected of her. What makes Camille an interesting character is that she’s obviously broken and messy, yet you can’t help but like her because she doesn’t try to hide it.
When asked about female leads and feminism during an interview with The Guardian, Flynn said, “Is it really only ‘girl power,’ and ‘you-go-girl,’ and ‘empower yourself,’ and ‘be the best you can be’? For me, it’s also the ability to have women who are bad characters . . . the one thing that really frustrates me is this idea that women are innately good, innately nurturing.” I think that’s what makes Amy and Camille such good characters regarding female empowerment; they’re more realistic than the inherent idea society has for women.
So, through Amy and Camille, Gillian Flynn conveys a pretty important message for women. You don’t have to be Lizzie Bennet, Nancy Drew, or Captain Marvel to feel powerful. Now just don’t go out there and celebrate by framing anyone or something like that! Grab a gal pal, go see Captain Marvel, eat a whole pizza—whatever you do today, just be your awesome self. As for me, I’m going to go watch Gone Girl again.