The misogynist men of David Fincher
Writer: Casey Lee
When genders collide in David Fincher's movies.
David Fincher movies are never one that is easy to sit through (except maybe "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", unless you have a phobia against shriveled babies). Not only does Fincher ramp up the tension in his thrillers to nail-biting levels, Fincher's filmography has so far mainly been dominated by bleak pictures of human nature; a pet subject that the director loves to explore. More often than not, Fincher's films have become the subject of gender politics and studies, especially on his treatment of the fairer sex, and his latest adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel has become his next piece of work that has put on the frontlines of gender debates.
So to put the gender issues inside Fincher's works to a larger picture, we look back through his catalogue to see how the men have treated their women and in what directions does Fincher want to provoke more discourses about gender equality. As a disclaimer, this article is not meant to be taking sides for feminists or the alphas, but exclusively looking into how Fincher depicts them as food for thought.
It's easy to point at John Doe for being a misogynist for his repulsive ways of killing women while his male victims had more dignified deaths. The real question, however, is do the leading men in "Se7en" actually do care about the welfare of the women close to them? David Mills forced his wife to move into the corrupted city but does not provide her with any sense of security that she is unsure if she should tell him that she was pregnant (and look how that turned out in the end). Even Sommerset isn't completely clean of treating his woman right when he makes her go through an abortion, overcame by the dread of his vulnerability of living in the city with a family, rather than choosing to protect them.
Much like John Doe, the Zodiac Killer also has many evidence against him that he hates women, when taking into account the survival rate of his male victims versus his female victims, but the detectives of Zodiac did have fairly stable marriages. However as soon as Robert Graysmith 'takes over' the investigation to crack the case, his deep seeded obsession over it that started since he followed it from the fringes puts a crack into his marriage. Even when his wife Mel pleads for him to stop and think about how this could affect the safety of their children, Graysmith can't lose his obsession and delves even deeper by getting his children involved to piece the clues together, and going on television to tell the world (and the killer) that he was on the case, when the killer once threatened to murder a school bus of children. Guess that explains why he was divorced before?
The Social Network (2010)
While "The Social Network" may be a cautionary story about the price of success, it is how success is defined here by the eyes of its would-be entrepreneurs that is problematic. From the first scene of Zuckerberg getting dumped by his then girlfriend who he patronises for not being to see his awesomeness, Zuckerberg went on to write a programme for college students to compare female students on campus based on their appearance. Not that Fincher's portrayal of women here really helps to stem the idea that women are trophies of success rather than as equal companions. Other than Zuckerberg's ex and Rashida Jones' lawyer, the women that only Zuckerberg and Sean Parker sees are fire-starting, crazy and loose to the allures of success.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
If "The Social Network" was a mentally degrading picture of women, then "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is its physical counterpart. It's no wonder with the amount of rape and sexual violence being done against women (and some men) here had not only flinched our censors away from letting this Fincher movie into our cinemas, but even as Blomkvist's investigation unfolds, it slowly becomes fact that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" just generally holds a low opinion about women in general. Even if the rampant patriarchy of the Vangers is to be blamed, it is the unwitting affection that Blomkvist throws around that really deals the most damage to Lisbeth Salander, who already has been dealt far too much sexual damage.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gillian Flynn's novel may paint a stark picture about marriage, but it is not one that could be done without the flaws of Nick Dunne. Nick Dunne represents the ego of men that puts their capabilities above their partner, even if the results prove otherwise. Jealous over his wife's success while he steps over the deep end, he performs a career equivalent of scorched earth by moving both of them to his hometown, disconnecting her from her means to walk down her path while resetting the game for both of them. While he claims to love her and promises to provide her with the good life, he is a cheat and mainly subsists his livelihood (and affair) on the expense of Amy. Nick may actually believe that behind a successful man is a woman, as long as the woman stays in the background and maybe even make him a sandwich in the kitchen where he thinks his wife belongs to.
Cinema Online, 08 December 2014