Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why I Love The Ending of Gone Girl*

*Spoiler Alert: 
Before continuing, please note that I will give away hints to the 
ending of Gone Girl, a brilliant work by Gillian Flynn recently made into a film. 
If you do NOT wish to discover clues to the ending here, STOP READING NOW.
And for heaven's sake ... read the damn book or go see the film!

At this moment, I am positive my brother is shaking his head in frustration. That is if he even read this far. To say he strongly disliked the conclusion to the novel Gone Girl would be a vast understatement. We ventured jointly into the crazy world of that book about a year ago, promising to discuss as we read and finished it. Our response to the ending was of polar opposites. And, when I saw the opening Saturday night showing of the film and posted that I liked its conclusion, he staunchly announced that meant under no circumstances would he go see it. 

He absolutely hated the ending.

The ending of Gone Girl is the subject of much debate and I'm certain author Gillian Flynn is grinning in Cheshire Cat-like satisfaction. It's no Disney movie.  The language and action is coarse at times. And the ending isn't neat. But the film's closing moment with Amy ... the slow pan of the camera ... the look in her eyes ... the final words Nick utters ... WOW. Just Perfect.

To me.

Let me begin by stating that neither lead character in Gone Girl is of high moral fiber. Both lack core redeeming characteristics. Readers tend to like stories neat, valuing the "good guy" and preferring to clearly identify the "bad guy .. or girl." But, in this story. both of the characters are a bit ... well let's just say shady ... 

But ... and here I know my brother is shaking his head and uttering a cry of horrified frustration ... I LIKE Amy Dunne. I admire her tenacity ... her cleverness ... her foresight ... her creative approach to life and the unsatisfying poker hand it dealt her. I like her Darkness. I like her unwillingness to be manipulated, dismissed, controlled, ignored, limited or beaten. I like how she fights.

See, I like strong women. I admire those who won't go down lightly or trip like one of those silly girls running through a dark graveyard in a B-movie horror film. 

I stand strongly in the court of Anne Boleyn and cheer her clever manipulation of Henry VIII. No, it didn't end well for her. But despite losing her head, she dramatically altered England's religion and established a legacy that left another undauntable woman -- Elizabeth I -- in charge of a country that emphatically rejected her mother. 

I dream to someday perform the role of Regina in The Little Foxes. I've read the script and watched the film with Bette Davis numerous times. And I imagine a day I stand at the top of the stairs and watch Horace -- the weak man that I despise -- collapse and thus finally give me what I want. It's an electric, horrifying and chilling scene. 

Aeschylus' Oresteia is my favorite Greek dramaElectra's darkness and ultimate revenge on her weak mother and stupid boyfriend is dynamic. 

I admire Cleopatra and her passion. I cheer how she contrived her meeting and eventual seduction of Julius Caesar. I thrill at her clever handling of Mark Antony.  I celebrate her unwillingness to be led away in chains by the fool Octavius and her strong choice to determine her own fate and death. 

Though I don't always embrace her politics, I even admire the tenacity of Hillary Clinton fighting her way through the "old boys political club." She kept her head high through all sorts of muck. And she didn't allow herself to be played as a "victim" when Bill's ... "other activities" came into the light. 

So I like Amy Dunne. She's a fighter. She's messy and understands the world. She refuses to comply to limits she doesn't accept and orchestrates the game she plays like a thought out chess match. She writes her own rules and pays the price for them at times. But life goes along on her terms ... not determined by someone else's expectations or rules. She understands the men  -- and women for that matter -- around her and won't allow herself to be underestimated, over-looked, dismissed, anticipated, or pigeon-hold into some behavior model established in Victorian times. 

Sadly, I'm probably in the minority here. But, and this is odd ... Women tend to be less than supportive of other women -- especially strong women. There exists a desire to pull those women down and to blame them or condemn them or reject them for their intelligent use of their mind or sexuality or creativity. Women are threatened by other women and strangely turn on their own kind. When a man wrongs them, they are quick to blame another woman.  And men seem pleased to have the spotlight turned away from them.

Case in point: the Biblical woman (who is NOT Mary Magdalene no matter what popular culture might suggest) found in the "very act of adultery." The masses want to stone her. But it takes two to tango. Where's the Man? Why not stone him? She couldn't have been discovered in the "very act of adultery" all alone! 

Women are just hard on other women.  Why is that? Shouldn't we stand together and cheer each other on -- Girl Power and all that jazz -- and proclaim female victories? Why is a strong woman who desires to shape her own destiny -- one who refuses to conform -- a "bad girl?" 

But I digress.

Amy wasn't stupid in Gone Girl. Yes, she took an extreme tactic BUT Nick was an idiot and a horrible jerk in SO many ways. Should we truly take His side ... feel sorry for him and see him as the victim? He set himself up for it. I might even suggest that He had it coming. So Amy didn't follow his rules. So she fought back and contrived a game she could control. So she wasn't weak. Why do we point our finger at her as evil ... bad ... sick and twisted? 

Why should we feel sorry for Nick  and want Amy to get some kind of comeuppance? Why does SHE deserve to be brought down? 

Okay, there was the murder, but that guy was crazy anyway ... 

Years ago, I started what I thought would simply be a short story about just such a woman. A woman with ideas and a plan. A woman who wouldn't allow herself to be overlooked or pigeon-hold or limited or dismissed when the rules of society -- or the rules of the men around her -- demanded her conformance to antiquated norms or expectations. It took on a life of its own and became a 40 chapter book. Oh, it's still in draft form. But maybe ... just maybe someday I will finish it and publish it and there will be one more strong woman to create debate. 

I wonder if my brother will like her and the ending of that story ...
                                                                                                                               -  Jenni

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Grandfather's Wisdom

My Granddaddy used to say: "Life it do get tedious." 

As a young child, I struggled with what he was teaching me. He would say this when I would announce that I was bored. Or when I told him I didn't want to do something that I had been instructed to do ... something I was supposed to do but didn't much care to. When it was Quiet. I didn't like Quiet ... still don't.

My Granddaddy was a rather simple man. Of course, I knew him in the retired sense. But that is the man I remember very vividly. He worked at a fish hatchery in a small town in southern Indiana. I try to imagine what that was like. I imagine him standing amidst land and water. No computer or cell phone to connect him or bind him to a desk. I'm not sure if he worked alone or had a partner. But it would have been a quiet business.

He knew lots of people. They called him Sam. It wasn't his name. His name was Willard. His middle initial was S. Didn't stand for anything ... just S. But everyone called him Sam.

When I knew him I don't recall him doing a lot of reading, with exception of the newspaper and the Bible. The house he lived in with my Grandmother -- the only house they ever lived in -- had one bathroom. It didn't have a shower, only a bathtub. There was a golden leather chair with a footstool next to the grandfather clock where I would lounge. Brown carpeting throughout. The master bedroom was on the main floor. Upstairs had the kids room and the guest room where my parents slept. There were toys in that closet. There was a Living Room, for formal company only, and a sitting room. Granddaddy had one brown chair and my grandmother had the other. And there was a TV console in that room with 5 or so stations. We'd watch cartoons there on Saturday morning. He might watch the news. Not much else. Oh, and there was a fruit cellar where all of Grandmother's canned goods -- I mean the ones she preserved and canned -- were stored. I liked that space. 

The kitchen was the center of the household. My Grandmother did a lot of cooking there. From scratch of course. We played card games around the round oak table. There were no big fancy board games or electronic games. Liverpool Rummy was our go-to ... it consisted of 7 different hands of cards using one deck per player. Lots of cards. Then there was Old Maid or Go Fish. We ate popcorn and drank cokes while we played. I don't remember my grandparents ever having wine, beer or cocktails during game nights ... or ever for that matter.

Granddaddy would sit in his brown chair and read the newspaper every day. Grandmother would spend most of her day in the kitchen.

I remember Granddaddy working in his vegetable garden. I would sit outside on a concrete bench reading a book or coloring while he worked in the dirt. Granddaddy tended an amazing garden and I fondly recall the tomatoes and green beans it would grow. It grew so many that he stopped eating them -- claimed he was sick of the taste he ate so many. Well, I've never grown sick of the taste of home-grown vegetables!

Sometimes we would sit together on his back porch when he smoked his pipe. We'd talk there. We'd shuck corn. He'd tell me stories. We took lots of walks together too. And drives for picnics and hikes. We'd sing on the way in the car. They only had one car between them. And we always went to church on Sunday mornings. I remember Granddaddy wore a light blue three-piece suit. Don't know if he had others but that one stands out in my mind.

His life was simple and relatively quiet. And he was content ... he was happy.

In our modern world of "social media" with constant electronic communication, computers and smart phones, those days of Granddaddy's might seem rather tedious. They weren't hectic and busy. He didn't have lots of evening activities. He didn't avoid coming home by becoming overly involved in some organization or another. He didn't do plays like I do. He didn't schlep kids places and have to check a calendar each day to remember who had to go where and when and where he was supposed to be. I'm pretty sure he volunteered and served as a deacon at the church. I know he sang in the choir for a while. But he didn't head out with friends to the bar to watch any games or to grab a drink and chat. He went to work and came home. And when he retired, he stayed pretty close to home. For all intents and purposes, he lived a simple life. But he didn't seem to mind.

I've always been a rather restless spirit and I struggle with inactivity. I like to have something to look forward to. I like to have a project ... to go out and about. I enjoy that lifestyle and the people I meet along the way. It's part of who I am and how I grow, live and love. But my life recently has slowed down, which is a personal challenge for me, and I've disconnected a bit. I've lost touch with people who were once very special to me. Life is like that, I guess, and people come and go just like activities come and go.

Some days I'm good with the slower pace ... some days it makes me crazy. Some days I miss people. Other days I'm fine on my own. I work out and go to yoga. I write. I knit a lot and work with my daughter on times-tables. I drive a lot and take my son to play practice. And I read a lot. I'm in the middle of a book series and even the book I'm reading has "slowed down." The characters are more sedentary. Settled. Their life is quieter at this point in the story-line.

At first that bugged me. I tend to read for the adventure a book gives me ... the glimpse into another reality and bit of escape. And here a book has characters I adore as bored as I feel right now! But then ... well, I realized there might be a lesson the Universe wanted me to hear. Perhaps I was meant to realize that Life it do get tedious. That there was a different kind of joy in their day-to-day normalcy and that might just apply to me too. That I might find if I was open to it. 

I'm learning and accepting the reality that Life isn't a series of passionate encounters and adventures. Oh, there are moments. But it's not a soap opera or episode of night time TV. We watch that kind of action on TV and expect it in our lives. There are times we choose to leap from project to project and show to show and activity to activity in an effort to avoid the Quiet that stalks us should we slow down. We struggle with nights of avoidance and re-entry into "reality." The dull, non-glamorous nature of playing house or sitting at home. We seek noise and distraction. We revel in it. 

And when the merry go round stops and the tempo changes, we literally don't know what to do. We get bored. Or restless. We fill our hours with whatever noise we can find to avoid the mundane ... to avoid looking deeper into our own selves.

But, the mundane has a rhythm of its own. And when we get bored or restless, we have the option to seek joy in the disconnect ... in the Quiet. Sometimes the soul needs that ... to grow and find strength and a new direction. Or to learn to better appreciate the shimmering being we are right then and there.

Are you spinning? Are you avoiding through volunteer or project over-commitment? Are you struggling with your own restless spirit? Has your life gone Quiet? What do you do with the white noise ... allow it to nourish you or fight to add another item to your calendar?

Life it do get tedious. That's what Granddaddy said. He didn't seem to mind it. He found rhythm and contentment in his life. But, can we find our own joy when life gets tedious? In today's busy, over-communicative but less connected world, can we rediscover the simple joys of friends and family and home? Can we slow down and re-connect with each other and our selves? Can we learn something in the Quiet? 
                                                                                                                                  -- Jenni