no. 19: Rosamund Pike, the feminist icon

in which Sydney explores the cool girl of the mid-2010s, Rebecca celebrates Rosamund Pike's greatness, and Kati recommends books perfect for any Rosamund Pike fan

no. 19: Rosamund Pike, the feminist icon
Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Sometimes we just need to celebrate the greats. When Thursday Matinee contributor Rebecca Holland approached me about an issue on Rosamund Pike, of course I said yes. From her role as the perfect Jane in Pride & Prejudice to her stunning turn as Amy Dunne, Pike always delivers.

The “Cool Girl” monologue was a feminist movement—but didn’t always have great results

Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne looks directly at the camera.
Gone Girl (2014)

by Sydney Bollinger

I have a vivid memory of reading Gone Girl for the first time because I finished Gillian Flynn’s genre-shattering thriller on a coach bus headed to my church’s annual “camp” where we stayed in a resort in Panama City Beach, Florida. Reading the book felt like its own sin, with the murder, deceit, sex. I was enthralled nonetheless, genuinely shocked at the twists and turns, caught up in the book’s zeitgeist.

There’s a point at which Amy Dunne—in narration—defines the “cool girl,” a concept that became an inescapable cultural phenomenon after David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of the novel. The cool girl was everywhere, its existence a “waking up” for women everywhere, giving word to something we’ve all been doing at some point or another. Suddenly, Amy Dunne became a woman to look up to, despite her questionable actions.

Amy Dunne: the Cool Girl blueprint

At the start of the film (yes, from this point forward we’ll be discussing the film) Amy Dunne—played by the superb Rosamund Pike—is missing. Her husband Nick (Ben Affleck is an obvious suspect and the evidence lines up. Also, he was cheating on Amy with one of his students.

The narrative of the film is one focused not only on revenge, but on the power in relationships. Though she may have acted like it to Nick, their friends, and her parents, Amy Dunne was anything but a doting wife. She had been fit into these caricatures of herself since birth (her parents wrote a bestselling series of children’s books called Amazing Amy, modeled after their “amazing” daughter). Amy is not a woman living without expectations, instead she walks within the claustrophobic confines of conflicting expectations. She’s a model daughter, but also has to be a model wife.

She’s not just a wife, though, she’s the “cool girl.”

What is a “cool girl” anyway?

Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne wears sunglasses and drives a car on a sunny day. She has a bandaged elbow.
Gone Girl (2012)
Nick never loved me. He loved a girl who doesn’t exist. A girl I was pretending to be. The cool Girl. Men always use that as the defining compliment, right? She’s a cool girl. Being a cool girl means I am hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker and dirty jokes, who plays videogames and chugs beer while remaining a size 2, because cool girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool girls never get angry at their men, they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner. Go ahead! Shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the cool girl.

I waited patiently—years—for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, organize scrapbook parties and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, yeah, he’s a cool guy. Instead, women across the nation colluded in our degradation! Pretty soon every girl was Cool Girl, and if you weren’t, then there was something wrong with you...But then it had to stop, because it wasn’t me!...But Nick wanted Cool Girl anyway. Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your soulmate, and having him not like you?

The “cool girl” monologue defined the rest of the 2010s, held up as some kind of feminist social theory about the way women perform in relationships with men in order to gain favor and good fortune. The monologue became the basis for things like the “pick me girl,” reasoning to call out other women who prefer to be friends with men because there’s less drama, or disparage women who are “trying too hard” for male attention.

The effect of the monologue was like a shot heard round the world. Pretty much everyone had something to say—either about the cool girl or Gone Girl’s entire theme. From Bustle and BuzzFeed to Time Magazine and Vulture, discourse about Cool Girl was everywhere. It was a new lens used to look at that annoying girl who hangs out with your boyfriend and his friend, the damage of gender performance, and our favorite celebrities, who were probably just faking the persona to be likable.

We hate cool girls?

When Jennifer Lawrence exploded onto the pop culture scene with the release of The Hunger Games, she was everyone’s new favorite celebrity. Lawrence was relatable in a way that celebrities had not been in the past. Her “just like us” persona was just Cool Girl—she was funny, loved to eat, brushed off criticism, and—most of all—Jennifer Lawrence is hot.

As the theory of the Cool Girl gained popularity, these so-called “cool girls” declined in social standing. By the late 2010s, Jennifer Lawrence didn’t have much of a presence. Sure, some may attribute this to her unsuccessful film releases or her holding more of her life private, but her cultural capital was skewered because suddenly she wasn’t genuine in the eyes of fans and the media.

Whether or not, she was genuine—and I’d like to think she was—the “cool girl” became a label of disgust, a tool used to label and tear down women. Online it’s easy to operate in binaries. We like something or we don’t. We agree with a take or we’re vehemently against it. Jennifer Lawrence is funny and kind of relatable or she’s the chagrined cool girl, with nothing to offer the plight or representation of women.

Cool Girl isn’t so easy. It’s a set of attributes, sure. It’s an act to gain adoration, yes. It’s also, though, a deeply human experience, one that is hard to fully define.

Rosamund Pike

Rosamund Pike in I Care a Lot. She wears a navy suit while standing outside in front of a car.
I Care a Lot (2021)

by Rebecca Holland

Gone Girl was somewhat of a revelatory film for me. Not only was there this mind-blowing twist that genuinely knocked my head into an entire other headspace, but there was Rosamund Pike – this bold, determined and infallible woman of my twisted dreams. Her portrayal of the character of Amy Dunne was breathtaking in itself, and rightly earned her a nomination for Best Actress at that year's Academy Awards (where she lost out to Julianna Moore in Still Alice), but it transcended the movie for me in so many ways. Here was a character who was strong, in a powerfully feminine way, and she awed and terrified men in equal measure – none more so than her husband, Nick. Amy Dunne grew up as a girl both applauded and ignored, a pretty face to be seen and not heard, who reshapes societal expectations to get what she deserves in her pre-assigned role as daughter, wife and mother. And that’s what shocked and surprised me – Amy Dunne is a female character breaking the stereotypes of what a woman should be, without a script writer resorting to simply renaming a male character and saying “look, here is a strong female”. And behind the portrayal of this complex, deeply hated and loved in equal measures character, is Rosamund Pike – an actress I now revere. Pike also starred in I Care A Lot, where she plays a crook, a gangster, a criminal who takes money from the elderly – not unlike the masses of men in real life before her at the head of corrupt retirement homes. Her portrayal was sublime – startling in its deviousness. I hated her, like I hated all those men who had taken advantage of the elderly before, but this movie showed that not all women are the same, women can be the ones in charge too – even if that power is used for nefarious means. Not all women are inherently caring, and it smashes that misconception with sharp-witted precision. That role won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress, and I couldn’t agree more. Rosamund Pike’s portrayals in recent visual media challenge what female characters can be – she can be a mother, a wife, a boss, but she is certainly no-one’s damsel in distress, and I adore her for it.

Screen Break

Left to Right covers for books: Gone Girl, Watership Down, Jack Reacher: Killing Floor, Tales from Moominvalley

by Kati Bowden

I'll admit it: Before this week, I really didn't know anything about Rosamund Pike aside from her role in Gone Girl. After a quick IMDb search, though, I realized that Miss Pike has been in quite a few book adaptations throughout her career. She's played protagonists and voiced background characters; she's been historical figures and brave rabbits. From beloved kids' series to blockbuster thrillers, Rosamund Pike has worked hard to make herself a name in the world of literary film. Today, I thought we would take a look at a few of the books that her work has been based on, starting, of course, with the one we all know best:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Rosamund Pike plays the titular character, the disappeared Amy Dunne. On the fifth anniversary of Amy's marriage to her husband Nick, Amy simply disappears into thin air, vanishing somewhere between the wrapped gifts and the meticulously planned dinner reservations. Naturally, all eyes turn to Nick, a golden-child-turned-suspect who doesn't know where Amy has gone, but knows that he's got to cover his own tracks if he doesn't want to be blamed. Nick quickly spins a web of lies around himself to avoid nervous family, nosy neighbors, and, of course, the cops, but the longer Amy is gone, the worse things look for the husband she left behind.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

A classic story of survival, Watership Down follows the wild rabbits Hazel and his brother Fiver as they search for a new home safe from the intrusion of the dangerous humans. With former friends, hunting dogs, wild foxes, and other dangers on their trail, Hazel, Fiver, and a few other brave rabbits hop bravely out into an unknown world. With dynamic storytelling, shocking emotional punches, and intensely-detailed worldbuilding, Watership Down has burrowed its way into the hearts of many generations.

Jack Reacher Series by Lee Child

Known as one of the most prolific action series of the past thirty years, Lee Child's Jack Reacher character is everything that makes an action star. The ex-military lead character has a muddled, bloody past, full of secrets that he holds tight to his chest, even when the walls close in around him. And he's always searching for justice, even when he doesn't find it extended to him in return. In the first book of the series, Reacher arrives in the town of Margrave, Georgia, on a whim to research a deceased musician, and within an hour, finds himself arrested for a murder that he didn't commit. Somehow, he's stumbled into one of the largest counterfeit schemes in the country, and he finds himself unable to leave the mystery unsolved.

The Moomins Series by Tove Jansson

A classic Swedish children's series, the stories of Moomintroll, Snufkin, and their friends and family have enchanted generations. Charming characters in magical lands live out lightly fantastical stories in Moomin Valley. From the Moomin family's first post-hibernation Christmas, to finding the last dragon; from finding misplaced relatives, to tracking comets across the sky; there are always adventures to be had in Moomin Valley, and always a friend to be found in the many creatures that call it home. Moominpapa, Moominmama, Moomintroll and their neighbors have appeared in the original illustrated books, as well as in cartoons, kids movie, and audio-productions, and always retain their humor and hope in every iteration.

Rosamund Pike has led an illustrious career in film and media, and I know that, no matter where she next finds herself, she'll always have her heart somewhere between the pages of a book.

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A Reflection on Romcoms

Pitch Sydney by January 27

The season of love is here, which means it’s time to snuggle up with your S/O and watch a romcom. These are movies we know will have a happy ending, where love overcomes all. Most of our favorites are from bygone times and outside of holiday movies, romcoms have not been as popular as of late. For this issue, we want pitches on why we all still love our late 2000s/early 2010s romcoms, the terrible representation of diverse sexualities in romcoms, why everyone should watch your favorite romcom, the role of a romcom in the age of dating apps and TikTok lesbians, and how the plots of romcoms influence modern dating.

Howl's Moving Castle

Pitch Sydney by February 3

Thursday Matinee will be hyper-focused for this issue. We want to hear all of your thoughts on Howl’s Moving Castle, anything Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli, why kids movies aren’t just for kids, and the future of animation in film.

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