Gone Girl/Guy: What movies tell us about Essendon and ourselves

I saw a terrific movie over the weekend.  For the first half I thought “Gone Girl” was a classic, gripping “he says/she says” whodunit.  And then as events unfolded I began to see it as much more an allegory on media and image.  How personality is constructed and deconstructed.  How we tell and understand our stories in an age of instant experts; instant gratification and instant judgement.

“Reality” and “truth” are malleable constructs dependent on our individual needs for comfort, scolding or escape.  Choose your personal narcotic – tv idol; radio sage; internet blogger; politician or fortune teller?  Uppers or downers for every situation.  No fear, prejudice or dream too small or too large to be catered for on our “all you can eat” media menu.

The movie made me think of our local ‘reality’ soaps.  “The Bachelor” where last week’s dreamboat is this week’s scumbag.  We promise the dream, but deliver the mirage and leave contestants (even the “winners”) wandering in the desert.  But don’t complain. That’s where we found you.  What were you (contestant or viewer) expecting anyway?

The more telling metaphor was “the Bold and the Beautiful”/”Ken and Barbie”/”Hamlet”/”Macbeth” or whichever variant of the Hird/Essendon/performance enhancing drugs tragedy you prefer to watch.

“Gone Girl” makes you think about the nature of our own personality; of image and self-image.  How it is formed and shaped, and how we eventually become authors of an identity we haven’t always consciously chosen.

Our hero – be it Amazing Amy or Genius James – can never be ‘less than’.  There is always an identity – a destiny – to live up to.

The trouble with destiny is that it is always something that will happen tomorrow, so we live today in service of that mirage that never quite arrives.  Many years ago I had limited dealings with two politicians – Carmen Lawrence and Brendon Nelson – who both thought their personal destiny was to be Prime Minister.  I remember watching them justify to themselves NOT dealing with some important issues in the Health portfolio because they would get in the way of that destiny.  I am sure that they mentally filed them away as ‘things to come back to’ and deal with when I AM Prime Minister.  Destinies that never quite delivered.

Both were admirable people in many ways, but I always thought it telling that their most important and tangible achievements came after they left politics.  When they lived in the reality of “small steps today” and not the Tomorrowland of politics.  Brendon as an effective builder of our National War Museum’s memorial to sacrifice; and Carmen as a refugee advocate.  Like Al Gore in the United States they could only practically deal with ‘Inconvenient Truths’ once they were removed from sight of the Oval Office.

Back to our local footy hero.  When the Messiah is called on to rescue his suffering people and deliver them to the promised land; he must face up to no longer having the personal  on-field magic to raise the sick and heal the lame.  This is embarrassing and infuriating, but never humbling.  Messiahs don’t do humbled.  They are men and women of action.

Events are to be shaped and bent according to my will.  We can speed up the arrival of the future with a few ‘performance enhancing’ supplements.  What is the crime?  After all everyone else will be using them in the future.  We just got there first.

We broke no laws.  Or none that you can prove.  Those who control the present control the past.  Those who control the past control the future.  Who said that?

Don’t lecture me about immoral or unethical.  Whose morals?  Whose ethics?  They are weak concepts for time wasters and procrastinators.  Not men of destiny.  I have no time for those who get in the way of MY destiny.

When they do, they become collateral damage.  Evans, Corcoran, Robinson etc etc.  There are no friendships.  Just convenient alliances.  Don’t ask me to admit or apologise.  “I am in blood stepped in so far, that to return would be as tedious as go ‘oer.”

We all like a neat ending to our stories; our movies; our morality plays.  But who is to say?  Who is to judge?  Where is truth in this quicksilver of a saga?  Don’t we all have some blood on our hands?  Some skin in the game?

Footy media – Madame Defarge at Fairfax or the Scarlet Pimpernel at the Sun?  Take your pick.

AFL as arbiter of righteousness or marketer of circuses?

ASADA and the courts as searchers for truth or diviners of entrails and tea leaves?

Fans blinded by loyalty or blinkered by jealousy and past indignities?

Where you stand depends on where you sit.

My hope is that you go to see ‘Gone Girl’ and marvel like me at the genius of the story telling.  And that it makes you think about a lot more than whether the girl did it or the guy deserved it.  The truth is in the telling, but make sure you know who is the author of the stories you choose to believe.

Which version of the Hird/Essendon ‘truth’ will be served up at the end of our local best seller?   “Too early to say” as Chou En Lai remarked 200 years after the French Revolution.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King Jnr.





  1. Neil Anderson says

    First of all Peter congratulations on finding a movie theatre in Perth. Three years ago we asked for directions to the nearest movie theatre in central Perth and the person manning the Information Centre booth struggled to find one for us. I think we worked out later they were in the big shopping complexes out in the burbs.
    The Gone Girl movie was impressive story telling. I was trying to link it with the Essendon saga but found it difficult. Your point about ‘there are no friends…just convenient alliances’ was very telling. Amazing Amy ‘cultivating’ a friendship with her neighbour for her own evil purpose was a good example.
    Blood on the hands of the main two characters seemed very Macbeth-like and Essendon-hierarchy-like except there was no sign of a conscience amongst the lot of them.
    Amy turning up covered in blood at the finish was more Banquo’s ghost than anything and the ‘convenient alliance’ that then formed between husband and wife was brilliantly written because it was so unexpected. But as we left the theatre thinking about it, you just knew it was going to be a temporary alliance until one of the main players worked out a way to get the upper hand.
    Maybe that’s the analogy with the Essendon FC as we wait to see who turns on who first.

  2. DBalassone says

    Great film, saw on Sat’day with the missus. Went in cold and almost flipped when I found out Ben Affleck was in it. Very happy to be proven wrong. What a ride!

  3. Haven’t seen the film, PB, but I like the related story and interpretation.

    Reminds me of people I’ve known who have headed overseas/ interstate/ up-country following a tumultuous life event.
    Where you stand does indeed depend upon where you sit.

    But regardless of what happens next, you always take yourself with you.

    3, 2, 1, ACTION!

  4. Bob Speechley says

    The key parties in Gone Girl are both self obsessed although they appreciate their special relationship they each step outside the boundary of moral rectitude inflicting significant pain on their partners in the process. Truth is a victim and close friends and relatives are seriously misled. Many outside observers of the relationship take exception to the Ben Affleck character as the story evolves. I agree with Peter that the movie,which is worth seeing, has many parallels with the Essendon – ASADA – Hird saga which if it ever hits the screen could be entitled ” Gone Boy”!

  5. matt watson says

    The last scene in the Sopranos.
    They’re in a restaurant. People are all around.
    Tony is jubilant. He has won.
    People are looking at him.
    We are waiting for resolution.
    And the screen goes black.
    Amazing finish to a series…
    I wonder if Paul Little and James Hird have watched that scene?
    And wondered what we’d all be thinking if the screen goes black??
    Because we want resolution. Because we have to know. But guilty or not, in terms of law, doesn’t matter anymore.

  6. The People's Elbow says

    SPOILER ALERT: The only way Hird extricates himself from this mess is to sleep with Neil Patrick Harris and slash his throat with a box-cutter.

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