Being very online means witnessing the very birth of trends and tropes, and getting to watch as they dominate popular culture. The term “good for her” was sparked by an infamous Arrested Development scene that went viral on Tumblr back in the mid 2010s and has since become a monolith in internet meme culture. The first time I saw this meme associated with a film was in relation to Gone Girl. Someone posted a photo of the film’s iconic final shot of Amy Dunne beside the “good for her” meme. Since then, the “good for her” meme has birthed a subgenre of the same name. But what does this genre entail? And what happens when it’s used for the wrong reasons?
Since Amy Dunne’s creation in 2012 with Gillian Flynn’s original novel, the character has become a topic of debate. But this debate didn’t become popular until Dunne—played by Rosamund Pike—graced the screen in David Fincher’s adaptation. She’s striking in the film, delivering her lines with a cold and calculated precision even when she seems past the point of redemption. While she’s beautiful, Amy is also a vengeful and cruel murderer. To get back at her husband for cheating on her and being a shitty partner, Amy frames him for her murder. She breaks him down from afar, watching as the press destroys him, all as she sits back and watches with a smirk on her face.
In the infamous Cool Girl monologue, Amy boasts, “Nick Dunne took my pride and my dignity and my hope and my money. He took and took from me until I no longer existed. That’s murder.” It’s a powerful monologue detailing the lengths women go to when pleasing the men in their lives, which is great—but because of this monologue, cinephiles online now hold Amy up as a symbol of modern-day feminism, which she just isn’t. She’s a symbol of white womanhood: she gets away with brutal crimes time and time again because she’s beautiful, rich, and white. Nothing about Gone Girl or Amy’s character should be celebrated, unless we’re talking about Gillian Flynn and David Fincher’s hand in crafting one of the best modern-day villains.
Most recently, the meme has been abused when referencing Ari Aster’s critically acclaimed Midsommar. When the film was released last summer, plenty of thinkpieces were written about how the film is feminist in nature. Again, the “good for her” meme was used on Twitter as people mused that the film depicts a belittled and traumatized woman slowly regaining her autonomy. While it’s not hard to understand how some viewers came to this conclusion, there’s no doubt that Dani is being heavily influenced by the cult at the film’s center, so how can we celebrate this as a win for feminism? This is fully realized when Dani is crowned May Queen, and the members of the cult begin to treat her like royalty. It’s a ploy to make her feel safe within their ranks, and while some viewers see it as Dani finally finding some sense of control in her life, it’s anything but.
After her boyfriend meets his demise (with her approval), the film ends with a haunting shot of Dani smiling. It’s not a sweet smile, but one Aster himself described as the smile of someone who has “surrendered to a joy known only by the insane.” Dani has clearly been broken down by a white-supremacist cult throughout the course of the film; they’ve groomed her with praise, given her a false sense of family, and ultimately forced her to join their cult by murdering all her friends. This is not a powerful moment of feminist fury: it’s a heart-wrenching example of how cults prey on the fragile and weak. Using the “good for her” meme in this context, thus branding Midsommar as a feminist tale, is quite frankly false advertising.
The “good for her” genre isn’t all bad, though. There are times when it’s used in ways which spark some kind of joy (Brian De Palma’s Carrie, Lisbeth Salander of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise, and the women of superhero films), but this genre and its influences have slowly become something else entirely. More often than not, this genre weaponizes white womanhood and is only interested in traumatized and brutalized women. The conclusions to Amy and Dani’s character arcs are nothing to be celebrated, and viewers have lost touch with what these women truly represent.
I highly doubt Gillian Flynn wrote Gone Girl with the intention of making Amy a feminist hero, as her calculated weaponization of her rage and white womanhood is exactly what makes her a villain. She knows she won’t be caught for what she has done. Dani’s character, meanwhile, is one we should sympathize with rather than hail as a representation of feminism in horror. A woman coerced into a white-supremacist cult is not a woman who is capable of enacting a heroic feminist move. The “good for her” genre is not something I see going away in the future, but one we must reexamine as time passes and cinema’s depiction of women continues to evolve. What started out as a fun signal of powerful women in cinema has slowly transformed into a skewed way to look at feminism in film. Instead of hailing films like Gone Girl or Midsommar as “feminist masterpieces” people should be focusing on films like The Invisible Man and Revenge, which are truly films about women once devoid of power defeating their abusers. Films with feminist undertones are not hard to come by, and we as cinephiles must be sure to not misconstrue the meaning of certain films just because beautiful white women are at the center of them.
By Kaiya Shunyata