“Here is a part that blows the whole door of femininity wide open and says this is a new way you can look at the modern woman,” said Rosamund Pike. The British actress was describing her Amy Elliott-Dunne, the protagonist—or antagonist, for the sake of spoiler-free ambiguity—of David Fincher’s crafty mind-fuck of a film, Gone Girl.
One of the ways Fincher and his screenwriter Gillian Flynn accomplished this feat of “femininity” was to give Amy agency. She isn’t a shrill shell of a woman yearning for male validation, a backwards archetype that’s force-fed to cinemagoers with all the subtlety of a Gitmo guard; rather, she is anything but. Another was to corrupt what feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey famously referred to as the “male gaze,” wherein women serve as passive “erotic spectacle” to accommodate active “male desire” on film. So, the first time Amy and her future husband Nick, played by Ben Affleck, make love, it’s he who has his massive noggin buried between her legs performing cunnilingus. The camera slowly pans over to Amy’s face as she writhes in ecstasy.
In the past, a scene like that—depicting a woman well on her way to achieving orgasm—would have earned the film a big, ugly NC-17 rating from the relentless prudes at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a shadowy trade organization that’s long deemed any degree of corporal violence as far more acceptable than female sexual pleasure, and has done more to shame male-to-female oral sex than Michael Douglas. But recently, the MPAA has loosened the stick in its collective ass and allowed women to go there whilst maintaining an R rating. Last year’s The Counselor, directed by another longtime champion of female protagonists, Ridley Scott, opened with a scene of swingin’ dick Michael Fassbender giving mouth service to Penelope Cruz. And later this year, Reese Witherspoon plays a badass hiker who receives head from a male stranger in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild.