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“Cool Girl” Trope

Cool Girl – The Monologue, Gone Girl (Dir. Fincher, 2014)

A phrase for the amorphous but perpetual insecurities many are engulfed by in popular media, “Cool Girl” was coined by author Gillian Flynn in her thriller novel Gone Girl. Now the term “cool girl” isn’t as self explanatory as you might think: not merely a girl who is cool, it actually describes the way that women often feel the need to play into a “myth created by men, perpetuated by women pretending to be her.” Women are allowed to like “masculine” things if they like them for the sake of the male gaze: for a man’s fulfillment and enjoyment, not for their own. Take video games, for example. Women who like them are seen as somewhat of mavericks, the ultimate male fantasy to both like gaming and fulfill the role of being a hot girl. But when they dare to criticize the gaming community for overt misogyny, that’s no longer okay because it threatens the dominant role of men in deciding what is accepted.

Furthermore, acting “masculine” is only seen as acceptable if a woman fits into conventional beauty standards of femininity. There’s a double standard for how a woman must be conventionally attractive in order to like “masculine” things and still stay girly — because men benefit from objectifying them, not risking any overthrow of ingrained misogyny. She’s held to the same unattainable body standards as the other unhealthy societal expectations on girls, while also needing to seem like she doesn’t care and can eat whatever she wants, participating in traditionally masculine pastimes while maintaining a picture-perfect physique. Amy Dunne, in Gone Girl, perpetuates this character to a T in order to please her man – “believe me, he wants Cool Girl” – and to an extent, she’s right! Cool Girl is a manifestation of the ultimate male fantasy, physically hot and emotionally undemanding, and is a complete myth. However, Amy plays into this role to satisfy Nick, for the source of her fulfillment throughout life has been based upon the eventual perfect marriage with a perfect man; she’s been an independent New York woman for years and has grown tired of feeling unattached. She meets Nick, knows he wants Cool Girl, and voila, they live happily ever after! But not so. You’d think that after all, relationships are all about sacrifice, right? You can only be yourself to an extent, right? Playing a caricature of what a man wants is a small loss in the name of fulfillment, right? However, Amy soon finds it is too extreme to cope with. Being the Cool Girl for years, constantly sacrificing what she wants for herself, all for the sake of a man who doesn’t even reciprocate any of this sacrifice or care? It takes a toll. Inevitably, the the toxic, illusory grounds the marriage has been founded on amp up, and a final betrayal — Nick cheats on her with a college student — causes Amy to snap. After all the sacrifice she’s gone through to please him, playing the role of a perfect wife in their sham of a marriage, she’s unable to reconcile with the fact that he has still gone and found a newer, younger Cool Girl. Not only a betrayal of their marital love, this scathing blow to everything she’s spent so long preventing makes her realize this has all been for nothing, and the “dumb brute” of a man she’s bent over backwards for continues to be just that — a dumb brute, who deserves none of this but still gets all he wants. The fallout? The complex, twisted, downright psychopathic character arc that plays on in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, illustrating the perils of entering into relationships founded on lies, manipulation, and willful deception of others as well as oneself. Self denial and misogyny-fueled delusion make for a cold marital bed and ultimately in Gone Girl, a cold body.

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