Imagine: a swarm of thousands of little silver fish heading your direction. You don’t know where to go or how to dodge them. You swim away as fast as you can but no matter what direction you turn, they are coming right at you. You frantically turn your head underwater, every which way, trying to find an escape route. You’re scared. There isn’t a way to block them; there is no way to shut them out. They are swimming towards you and they are coming full throttle.
To me, that sounds pretty frightening, slick and slimy fish running into your bare skin. Talk about overwhelming. Well, this is the new social media phenomenon, so watch out. They are heavy swimmers. The media is intensifying as time progresses. As this business is becoming a multi-million industry, boundaries, morals and respect of privacy are diminishing. The flashes of camera lights, the microphones to the face and the interviews with their note pad are getting to the point where they will do anything to get the next best story, because that is what sells. They will swarm and you won’t be able to stop them. Okay, it is understandable that maybe the thousands of fish darting your bear skin is over exaggerating it a little, but as time goes on, it will honestly feel like these reporters from the media are swarming in on your life. In the mysterious novel of Gone Girl, the author Gillian Flynn, adds an underlying theme of the manipulative and powerful social media.
Flynn incorporates this theme through setting, experiences and characters thoughts. The social media plays a large role in the criminal case of “missing Amy” and the author relays the message that the media has a way of manipulating people and their thoughts. People heavily rely on the media, more than we are aware of. Throughout the investigation of Amy’s disappearance, reporters have crowded outside of Nick’s house to get photos and information. They stand outside screaming, “Nick, did you kill Amy?” “Was your wife pregnant?” Along with numerous cameras taking shots every time he entered and exited his home. The mass of reporters discouraged him from coming home; there was no privacy or respect acknowledged throughout the devastating time of grief for his loss.
Nick describes the intruding media saying, “the camera crews parked themselves on my lawn most mornings. They were like rival soldiers, rooted in shooting distance for months, eyeing each other across no-man’s land, achieving some sort of perverted fraternity.” (370) The author compares the media to war and the soldier men. This portrays the idea of the mass amounts of men along with the clear determination of these men. “Rooted in shooting distance form months,” shows that the men acted as if they had been practicing this for a long time and were not going to give up. War is act of fighting, it is a group of strong and injurious men who have one goal and are risking their lives to attain it. The fraternity reference portrays the chaos and catastrophe of the group. Flynn chose war and the fraternity as a metaphor because they both have a negative reputation; this exemplifies her disapproving attitude toward the social media. She easily could have compared the media to teachers or mentors, or something portraying a helpful aid but she doesn’t.
The media impacts the population and conforms their opinions. When the media thinks Nick is the killer, and that he is a terrible person, the public are quick to accuse Nick of murder and despise him. When Nick gives that unofficial interview in the bar and shows off his sensitive side by confessing his love and mistakes and acting as though he really, truly cares for Amy and her return, the public rescinds their accusation and realizes that Nick isn’t the bad guy after all. The eyes of the public changed just due to the fact of what the media was saying. People aren’t coming up with their own ideas or theories they are looking for trends. We are just looking for the next bandwagon to hop on and the media provides that for us. This is evident in our lives as much as it is in Gone Girl. For example, a big part of the president elections is how well the candidate is perceived by the media. It is crucial for them to represent themselves as well liked and futuristic so that the media will speak highly of them. The way the news, reporters and other medias talks about the candidates effect on peoples opinion and whether the opinions of the media is good or bad can really affect the outcome of the result. There are other significant examples that portray this idea of the media controlling and altering opinions.
Flynn also creates this idea of our societies dependency on the media. As stated before, it is apparent that we rely on the media and give it the too much power. Nick’s character portrays this idea because he is constantly looking to act. He is looking to act like a character in a movie or television show. He is trying to act the way he “should” act. This problem only arises because of the social media. The media has set an image and it’s an image that people think they have to form to. That is why we have so many issues with eating disorders and girls with no self-confidence. Nick felt like he was suppose to be acting a certain way and kept looking into past movies he has seen or television shows where the spouse looses their other spouse. This was supposedly going to help him act a certain way. There was rarely a genuine act with Nick. He says, “I have no idea how I am suppose to be doing. There’s no ‘When Your Wife Goes Missing 101’” (52) Nick had this idea that there was a way he should be reacting because obviously his reactions weren’t getting the results he wanted. He states, “We were being forced to perform the scene that TV viewed expected: the worried but hopeful family.” (60) Like Nick says, the media forces you to act a certain way to create an image, hopefully a well-liked image. And without turning to movies or actors, Nick didn’t know how he should be reacting to all of this.
The media is creating these impossible images to conform to. This is why being homosexual, nerdy or fat is frowned upon. There is this picture perfect world that the media has created and if your not happily married for twenty-five years and have beautiful children then there will be a story on you. Just think about when a celebrity comes out of the closet, you better know that it will be the cover story in four different magazines. It is getting worse as time goes on. The media is getting more intrusive in personal lives. People aren’t giving consent anymore, the media can say whatever they want. This happened to Nick in the novel when the media was calling him a murderer, cheater, etc. He had no say. He was powerless.
Nick also found it unfair that when a wife goes missing, why is it always the husband’s or males in her past life that the media and police think are guilty. The husband is the first to get questioned and accused, why? Well, on the news, it is more common that a male is the criminal rather than women. In state or federal prison in 2001, there were nearly nine times as many men as there were women, calculating about 5,037,000 men and 581,000 women. It’s guilt by association. The media’s important figures make the public perceive men as the “bad guy”. Maybe it is because of the feminists out there, or past anger from unequal gender rights, or maybe it’s because it’s what people see and know. Probably all of the above. However, this can be detrimental in certain cases. Nick’s for example, he was completely innocent. Clearly he didn’t have the best past record but he wasn’t a murderer, his wife was crazy. In his defense, the media had the power to sway the public and policies ideas and were able to come to the conclusion that he was guilty. If Amy didn’t come back and Nick was sent to prison and then on death row, would it have been okay to kill an innocent man just because we are quick to assume? Why are we giving the media so much power in determining our opinions if it could literally kill an innocent man?
These are ideas to think about and this is why Flynn incorporated it into her novel. She was looking to bring awareness. It is understandable that technology and the media are growing with immense strength but it is our job as human beings to be aware of its impact. Let the media guide you, not change who are you and your morals. Do and be what you believe in, don’t give it that power.