Despite coming from a psychopath’s mouth, there’s something very spot-on and accurate about the now-famous “Cool Girl” passage in Gillian Flynn’s thriller-turned-cinema-hit, “Gone Girl.”
In it, we discover the root of Amy Dunne’s crazy: She’s sick of playing the part of the "Cool Girl." But what’s even more sickening to her (and to the reader) is that despite Amy’s flawless assumption of the role, her husband Nick still cheats on her -- with a hotter, younger and cooler girl.
The novel’s exploration of the Cool Girl does more than just expose another female stereotype; it shows how being that girl ultimately gets you nowhere.
Flynn, using Dunne as her vehicle, writes,
Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, sh*t on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Later, in an interview with Vulture, Gillian Flynn describes the Cool Girl mentality:
It’s the putting up with machismo bullsh*t, and smiling and nodding when you know better.
This just set women back, like, 40 years. If history has taught us anything, it’s that this grin-and-bear-it attitude won’t get you anywhere.
This won’t get your voice across or make you more of a person or change the fact that your boyfriend still criticizes your appearance.
It gives him the power to keep doing so, and the power to shut women up. As Amy’s character proves, you don’t move the needle by disappearing completely.
While the Cool Girl falsely believes she has the control over the men because she can make them want her, in reality, the Cool Girl is powerless. She may have their attention, but she’s useless when it comes to setting things into action.
By her very nature, the Cool Girl isn’t supposed to make big decisions or offer a different perspective. She’s supposed to take on his perspective.
It takes a certain kind of insecurity to want to go through life living that passively.
Growing up, I was always hyperconscious of the Cool Girl in the room. She was the one playing down her intelligence, wearing a sports jersey the day after the big winning game and smiling while ordering the fattest slice of anything our school cafeteria offered.
Most tellingly though, she was the one whom all the guys praised for being so impossibly f*cking cool.
This girl always bothered me. Maybe it was because I wasn’t her; maybe it was because all the boys surrounded her; maybe it was because deep down I knew it was all an act, but I couldn’t make it work for me.
Of course, I tried to be the Cool Girl. At some point in all our female lives, thanks to high-school male conditioning and the visible attention other Cool Girls receive, we’ve all tried on the Cool Girl role for size.
I randomly started loving the Giants (I had three notable players’ stats on rotation that I would recite). I loved giving blowjobs and "not caring" afterward. I had whatever-he-is-having and then miserably threw it up later to maintain a size 26 jean (but let’s not go there today).
I put up with men insulting my comedic pursuits claiming, “Women aren’t funny” because more than wanting to be humorous, I desperately wanted to seem “chill.” And in the end, I not only lost myself, I lost all my real relationships.
Because the Cool Girl isn’t real. She’s the figment of a man’s imagination, another iteration of the Stepford Wife.
And the men who want her aren’t the right men for any woman who isn’t a robot. (Amy Schumer hilariously touches on this idea in a sketch called “A Chick Can Hang,” where four guys pine over a burger-eating-beer-guzzling-dream-girl and realize they should just date dudes.)
Pretending to be someone else comes at a cost. You’re living in a made-up world and trying so hard to please men in a way that they would never reciprocate. At some point, the Cool Girl has to ask herself, “What do I get out of this?”
Being the Cool Girl has an expiration date. You can only fake-love loaded hamburgers, macho bullsh*t and getting walked all over for so long.
Your inner intelligence soon takes over and realizes this part you’re playing isn’t making you any happier or more successful. Sure, the guys may like you now, but there’s another girl who plays the role better -- and is more attractive, willing to give up more of herself -- ready to take your place.
As Nick’s storyline and countless overheard stories at the nail salon have taught us, even if you’re the Coolest Girl Ever, men (especially the ones who fall for this shtick) will still find a younger, hotter, chiller, more lenient girl.
It doesn’t matter if you know all the Super Bowl stats and let him have his way in the threesome -- these traits are replaceable.
Since the Cool Girl is largely the embodiment of a straight man’s imagination (and one that’s definitely not going away), there will always be a production line of them. What there won’t be duplicates of, however, is you.
Conforming to what you think a man wants is not how you earn his respect. You'll be a glorified doormat at best, and one who measures her self-worth by the compliments given by others and not herself... one who bears nothing deeper than the six-inch chili dog she just digested.
This lack of respect is why the Cool Girl stays where she is while the Other Girls get ahead. Other Girls challenge their men. They bring out more in their partners because they aren’t settling.
The respect Other Girls receive allows them to be leaders, managers and winners. They’re not content being the Cool Girls -- it’s too easy and too stagnant.
You just need to be You with a capital "Y." If you like baseball and beer and fattening foods, great. If you don’t, you shouldn’t have to pretend. F*ck the Cool Girl. To everyone else but the frustrating men who are courting her, she sucks.
Yes, it’s tough to admit there will always be a longer line of men waiting for the Cool Girl than the Other Girls.
The Cool Girl isn’t going away, but she’s also not going anywhere.