Ramblings on Gone Girl, Authenticity and Social Media

Source: dunksy.ru
I sincerely apologize for my absence, ladies and gents. It's been four months since I've laid eyes on my blog, and as much as I'd love to blast out a perfectly manufactured reason behind it, there isn't one. I am simply lazy. However, my laziness did bring a certain sense of productivity, as I have been reading a lot. In the past few months I have finished off Will Grayson Will GraysonThe Fault in Our Stars (for the third time), Life After LifeDear SylviaThe GoldfinchOne DayThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the topic of today's discussion, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.

A novel I've been meaning to read for a while now, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the hype surrounding it was well deserved. Although the book's primary focus is the disappearance of Amy Dunne, several interesting issues are raised through husband Nick's narration, one of which particularly stood out to me:
"It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative (although the word derivative as a criticism is itself derivative). We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can't recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn't immediately reference to a movie or TV show. A fucking commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blase: Seeeen it. I've literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can't anymore. I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are like most of us, who grew up with TV and movies and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script."
Depressing, eh? It's depressingly true. The reality is, I'm sure there's been a time when a spat with your boyfriend resulted in you lying on the bed crying into your mascara-stained pillow because you once saw Joey do it in Dawson's Creek. Or you buy a huge tub of Ben and Jerry's, call over you girlfriends and watch Gossip Girl on repeat, not because you actually like Gossip Girl, Ben and Jerry's or your girlfriends but because it's just the thing to do. You see it on TV, in the cinemas, on advertisements, even on the radio. Our emotions have become constructed, created right in front of our eyes, and along with them came expectations and presumptions. Jealousy, greed, love, hate, passion, anger, all have a long list of actions (primarily created by the media) that are required to be carried out so that the emotion is effectively communicated.

And let's be honest, the younger generation are all learning what love and heartbreak is through the lyrics of Taylor Swift (but that's okay, because Taylor Swift is perfect).

On a recent trip to Rome, the idea of the visiting one of the most ancient cities in the world had me reeling with excitement, and yet when I gazed up at the wondrous Colosseum the first thing that popped into my head was the scene from Jumper where Hayden Christensen is chased by the police after sneaking Rachel Bilson inside the giant amphitheatre. I know. Isn't that bloody tragic? All of my expectations of this beautiful city were already prejudged and established in my mind due to Hollywood, Google images and Wikipedia.
There was a sense of forced romance about the city; narrow cobbled alleys lined with coffee tables and fairy lights, O Sole Mio drifting through the warm air, couples pacing hand in hand with their guidebooks and espresso cups, laughing at the jugglers and admiring the street artists. I'd seen it all before. And because I had, all authenticity evaporated; I wanted to feel deceived, like everything I had seen and read had been a lie and Rome is really a city just like every other. And yet, it played up to the tourists expectations and provided them with everything they wanted, from Dan Brown's intense descriptions of St Peter's Square to the vast piazzas Julia Roberts is seen strolling across in Eat Pray Love. As much as it was magical, there was something...fake about it all. All that was missing was Audrey Hepburn driving a vespa through the streets, and I would have been in a Hollywood picture.

Have we become the generation that has literally seen everything? Nothing is fresh, exciting, mystifying anymore. Everything is presented to us on a platter; emotions, places, and especially people. Social media has turned us into obsessive inquisitors. The other day I was blasting Blue and Backstreet Boys (CD's I may add, remember those?) in my car and began reminiscing about the days when Twitter was merely something birds liked doing and no one knew (or cared) about what their favourite stars were eating for breakfast. Wasn't it great? The only time I ever knew who Lee Ryan was dating was when I picked up a copy of Top of the Pops in my local newsagents, or watched an episode of The Saturday Show where they discussed their "ideal girl" (even thinking about it makes my uterus wobble). As weird as it sounds, I actually enjoyed the days where stars were distant and untouchable, because that's what made them stars. Not knowing every detail about their personal lives made them mysterious, enigmatic, elusive, something to look at from a distance and admire. Now, with the explosion of Instagram offering an insight into their lives, there is no more mystery, no more secrecy and we are constantly blasted with what Vanessa Hudgens had for tea or shots of Candice Swanepoel on a Caribbean beach, making us even more jealous than we already were. Is it really necessary? I can see the appeal - the celebrities appear close, normal. By viewing their daily routines, seeing them having a Starbucks or standing in a queue they become almost ordinary. But isn't that...boring?

I know I know, I'm a hypocryte. I too have fallen into the trap of following my favourite stars on Instagram but when I think about it now, I have absolutely no idea why. I'm pretty sure it's not because I want to be ripped apart with jealousy at the sight of Kendall and Kylie relaxing by their 7ft pool or Lucy Hale's perfect hair, and yet something always draws me back to my phone, scrolling through the photographs as if I'm searching for a reason to feel shit about myself. Because isn't that what social media is all about? Trying to prove to the people on your friend's list that you have a life, and an exciting one at that? Making them envious of your Parisian get-aways, coffees in unknown east London cafes, lobster dinners and cocktail evenings, surrounded by fairy lights and indie bands? Let's face it; not everyone's life is beaches and dinner parties (unless you're Kim K), essentially making 'you' and 'you on social media' two different subjects, edited to include city skylines and sunshine and deleting the days where you spent 12 hours in your onesie watching Netflix. Instagram pages are an attempt to prove to others (and to oneself) that you are fun, you are exciting, and you are worth following. 

Flynn's description of our generation may be aimed at Amy and her multiple 'personalities', but it is also a bleak, realistic observation of modern society. After reading the passage, a curious thought entered my mind: did people really think and feel differently before they were exposed to television and the internet? Before romantic comedies and soaps, before Heath Ledger singing at the top of a football field and John Cusack holding up his boombox to the window, what were people's reactions to love, death, fear? It's almost terrifying to imagine we are a collection of robots churning out feelings and emotions picked up from televison. But hey, at least if there was ever a zombie apocalypse, I'd know what to do.  


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