Gone Girl, Found: What qualifies a woman as "crazy"?

My husband and I saw the movie GONE GIRL a few days ago. I read the book when it first came out and enjoyed it, so with David Fincher at the helm, I assumed I would like it.

“Like” is the wrong word to describe the experience. Horrifying and unnerving are more apropos (and perhaps, the point). And not because of the Hollywood plot constructs or gratuitous gore designed to do so. The movie was unnerving because through its depiction of the perfect “It” girl (“Amazing Amy”) gone berzerk, it temporarily puts a crack in the lens of what crazy looks like. It causes men to look at women, be it their girlfriends, wives, sisters or mothers, and wonder, no matter how subconsciously, “Could that brand of crazy be lurking in her?”  images

Seven years ago, on the heels of a devastating divorce, I discovered that I had some meshugah lurking in me. It crept up on me slowly. One morning, while vacationing in a big old house in Martha’s Vineyard with a few newly single girlfriends (a sequel called “Gone Girls”?), I awoke early to make coffee and as I stood at the kitchen sink looking out over the Dickensian landscape of gray rolling hills, I pictured myself standing on that hill, my long black skirt billowing savagely in the wind, and I thought to myself: That woman (me) looks mad. What if her husband came home at that moment and saw her there, and realizes, by the subtle way she dips her head or moves her arm, that she is mad, and that he is afraid of her? Would he be right, or is it only his perspective?

I thought of writing a novella about a husband and wife’s alternating points of view of the wife’s descent into madness, which explores the meaning of “crazy” and the moment it springs into being. But then… well… I had some more crazy exploits to tend to, so I forgot. And then “Gone Girl,” the book came out. And here we are.

The questions that plagued me at the time were maddening in their own right. Had my own sense of “crazy” been lurking all along, waiting for a trauma to unleash it? Or, was it just a temporary side effect of that trauma? And how do we even define “crazy”? Is it subjective, depending on circumstances and perspective? Or is it diagnosed only by visible, tangible behaviors? Can we feel crazy but not act or necessarily be crazy?

I don’t know, nor am I equipped or educated enough on the topic to attempt to answer any of those questions. But for me,  it was defined by a feeling that was strange and disorienting – of being lost and off balance; in emotional survival mode, intent on protecting my raw wounds from infection by enveloping them in a prickly shell. I would act impulsively or speak inappropriately, and it was this specific lack of control – which I only recognized after the fact  – that concerned me. (Plus a few instances of being “that” person at the bar, sobbing in public for no apparent reason, and going to a public restroom to pee without noticing the urinals until my exit.)

Filled with shame, I retreated into myself. It wasn’t that I feared going Crazy Amy on anyone. I just didn’t want to be around people who might detect this about me. I wanted to hide until it passed. I was hoping that this was a phase, and not the “real me.”

And eventually, in time, it did pass. As I healed, I emerged from that murky place and left that “me” behind. I got my shit sorted and met the man I am now married to, who is kind, patient, and as sane as they come. Those qualities bring out the stable, rational, and self aware qualities in me and my sense of self and grasp on life feel peacefully balanced. Most of the time anyway.

When GONE GIRL was over and my husband and I walked out of the dark theater, I turned to him and blurted, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t marry a crazy person?”

My question didn’t require an answer, because it wasn’t really a question. I was only seeking validation for what I already knew. That the crazy girl is gone, and the real one’s been found.





6 replies
  1. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Great post. Amazing Amy–not so amazing. Seems to me much of “crazy” is when the mask is so far out of balance with the inner person. Amy would never cry in public, or behave in a way that is out of control, and certainly not talk about it afterward and be vulnerable. Hence, she maintains the mask and hides the true person, leaving herself in the dust as time goes on.

    I couldn’t stand this movie, by the way, although I liked the book. Maybe the inner workings and thoughts guided us along in the book and kept us grounded, and so gave the book Amy a certain dignity–much like the character in No Country for Old men. Even though I didn’t like that character, I was fascinated and had a certain respect. In Gone Girl, (the movie) I couldn’t stand Amy nor did I respect her.

  2. Nina
    Nina says:

    I enjoyed your blog, especially because it was about your own personal experience and how the movie helped you reflect on your own life. I have to wonder if there are women who haven’t gone through a “crazy” period at some point in their lives. I’ll have to check this movie out.

  3. Antonia Saint
    Antonia Saint says:

    Yes, we can definitely FEEL crazy, but not be crazy. Emotions are such an intense thing!! And when not handled right, we can ALL be that woman on the hill you write of. xo

  4. Susan J Tweit
    Susan J Tweit says:

    I think we’ve all been that crazy woman at times in our lives, or we have that potential. Grief and trauma take us to places we might not rather know about ourselves. I hadn’t seen Gone Girl yet, and am sorry that the movie didn’t do justice to the book and its ability to carry us along in a way that we understood Amy and her journey beyond where we usually allow ourselves to go. Thanks for the thoughtful look at the movie through your own experience. Great post!

  5. Judith
    Judith says:

    Your insights into this movie and the behavior it portrays are spot on for me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about women and crazy. Three of my aunties on my father’side (50% of the female siblings) all suffered nervous breakdowns, and I used to theorize that it was more the lives inflicted on them by them men they married, than it was any predisposed tendency toward crazy. In the most stressful moments of my first marriage, I wondered when “my turn” was coming, when would I get my breakdown so forever more I would be treated with kid gloves and finally get a break from all the stress. I didn’t see it until I was out of it – but I literally had what I now refer to as my three year breakdown where my crazy behavior and actions became so much the norm for me that everybody around me ignored and or got used to it. I think that expectation to be perfect and excell, as with Amazing Amy, is the catalyst.I know that I contemplated BAD behavior, just to be rid of the oppressing expectations.


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