Cool Girl or the Good Girlfriend Syndrome

Within feminist theory gender roles and norms are not only identified based upon the parameter of sex, but into subcategories of these generalisations. Some of the more common ones are the Good Girl, the Madonna, and the Whore for women and the Emotionless Jock, the Sexless but Lovely Male Friend, and the Gay Best Friend for men (as still, feminist theory can’t identify specific roles for people standing outside of the binary frame of gender, since lack of representation for people of non-binary identities). These represent certain roles created from social pressure of gender, and while most people can recognise these patterns, there is one stereotype that is mostly left alone, that I personally only really have come across in Gone Girl (2014), what one of the lead roles Amy Dunne defines as the “Cool Girl”.

Cool Girl is described as a role a woman takes on because of a man, specifically in the frame of a sexual and or romantic relationship, and entails a state of being that exudes ease. A cool girl is not complicated, nor of her own character, but absolutely subversive to a man, in his specific personality. Cool girl doesn’t have standards, but not in the same way as the Whore, but suited for the man of the said relationship. Amy explains this in her monologue in the film as “Nick loved a girl I was pretending to be. Cool girl. Men always use that, don’t they?  As their defining compliment. She’s a Cool girl. Cool girl is hot. Cool girl is game. Cool girl is fun. Cool girl never gets angry at her man. She only smiles in a chagrin loving manner and then presents her mouth for fucking. She like what he likes. So, evidently, he’s vinyl hipster who loves fetish monger. If he likes girls gone wild, she’s a mall babe who talks football and endures buffalo wings at Hooters.

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Image Source.

Cool girl adapts. This is not to state that people should never adapt or compromise for each other, in healthy relationships this is usually a must, since people more often than rare are not perfectly suited for each other, even in the most beautiful stories of love. But adapting, and compromising, for each other, meaning both parties are equal, is different to what occurs in the case of a Cool Girl. Within a relationship where the woman becomes the Cool Girl, the adaptation and compromising comes from only one part, leading the other part, the man, to think there is nothing to adapt to and living after that standard, his standard.

The concept of a Cool Girl can also be extended, exploring relationships in which these adaptations are not only made in the framework of personality and lifestyle choices, but of emotional matters. Goals and dreams in life, fundamental values of the relationship, and emotional work. The Cool Girl has now entered into a much deeper psychological framework of the relationship, what I personally call the Good Girlfriend Syndrome. In my definition the Cool Girl is more of a shallow kind of adaptation, mostly used in rapid, easy going relationships, or in the early stages of a more emotional, committed relationship. This is also the case of the relationship between Amy and Nick Dunne in Gone Girl. Amy present herself as Cool Girl in the earlier stages of the relationship, and even though this charade continues for a longer period of time, the stereotype has now morphed into the Good Girlfriend Syndrome. In the beginning of the relationship Amy adapted to certain lifestyle choices, but moving forward she adapts to deep emotional matters of her relationship with Nick. She follows him to live in his hometown so he can be close to his mother, even though she would have rather not, and she adapts to his extreme comfort in their relationship, even to the point when he stops to put effort into their relationship. But she sticks with it, dragging the weight of the emotional work needed in the relationship. The desire to be a good partner to someone is not the same as wanting to be a Good Girlfriend, while it might seem similar, or even natural. To act as a great partner in life require understanding, emotional commitment, and most of all honesty, while acting as the Good Girlfriend accordingly to the (my) theorem of the named syndrome requires primarily one thing, which stated earlier; adaptation, but also the discipline to do so, which related back to more common grounds of gender generalisations and pressures from society of women taking care of others in spite of hurting themselves.

This is interesting in many layers, but probably mostly because it reveals a lot about inequality among men and women in close relationships, and is a contribution to the question of how men view women. Because even though Gone Girl is a psychological thriller, which reveals itself by altering Amy from the Good Girlfriend into a psychopath, which is not a topic for this time or matter, this film (and book) is my opinion a perfect example of modern inequality and the view of women, both in depicting the first reality of Amy constantly adapting but then later in defining and questioning the paradigm. This is modern criticism of this inequality that is very present of this time, that even though society is becoming more equal, it’s not fully there, especially in close relationships. This films tells the story of the everyday matter of how men seek out what is colloquially called “real women”, in the sense that Amy presented it in her monologue. Women with meat on their bones, who like beer and burgers, and who are not complicated but down to earth. This is the view a lot of men have of women, and sometimes can be praised for, for when a man loves a woman who is not conventional to previous paradigm of women. However, this is wrongfully misleading, since this is not depicting women as real, but just altering the scheme of which women are compared and held up against to. A real woman is a human being, both beyond but also strongly influenced by her gender and those assumptions gender comes with because no one can truly escape society.

Gone Girl is a film that has been praised, and obviously also criticized, for various reasons. It has been nominated and awarded for its technicalities of production, screenplay, casting and actors, soundtrack, and depictions of an alternative for the villain, and has also been ranked upon many top lists of film of modern day. Amy Dunne as a character has been widely discussed, studied, and been viewed in awe, both for being a ruthless psychopath and also being an interesting character in film that has brought something new to the screen. But Gone Girl has also provided the identification and definition of a gender assumption, the Cool Girl, and given representation of a new field of study in the matters of gender equality in close relationships and feminist theory.

Adrian

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