Gone Girl: The Untold Story of Brenda Chenowith?

Posted: January 14, 2015 in Blogs
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Amy from "Gone Girl," gazing lovingly at her husband. Right?

Amy from “Gone Girl,” gazing lovingly at her husband. Right?

I want to be upfront and mention that the following piece will contain spoilers from both the book and film versions of Gone Girl and the HBO series Six Feet Under. If you haven’t seen either (especially Gone Girl), then stop reading now.

In Gone Girl, Amy Elliott is referred to as a “type A” personality that might make some people uncomfortable. She’s well-spoken and can adapt easily to any situation (referring to herself at one point as “the cunt you married”), despite an internal conflict she may be hiding. Both the novel and film provide two perspectives from our Amy and her husband, Nick, giving a well-rounded view on what their marriage was like, even though both are completely unreliable and the audience is manipulated to feel what the pertaining perspective wants you to feel.

The story tells of her disappearance on their anniversary and all clues lead to Nick being the main suspect. We watch his interrogations as you’re not sure if he’s telling the whole truth and her diary comes to life through voiceover and flashback sequences that led to her disappearance. Amy becomes a national news story as she served as the inspiration of a popular children’s series called Amazing Amy, written by her psychologist parents. Each Amazing Amy story tells of a new accomplishment or lesson learned, always in contrast to the real Amy’s own inadequacies. Halfway through, Nick turns out to be guilty of infidelity and not exactly being the greatest husband and Amy is actually alive, framing Nick for her supposed murder.

There’s a lot more to Amy and Nick’s story, but enough is provided to make it easier to transition to Six Feet Under and the exceptional woman that is Brenda Chenowith. Her parents are a psychologist and psychiatrist who write a popular book based on her called Charlotte Light and Dark, an exploitation of their daughter’s unusually high IQ as a young girl. When Brenda recognized that she was becoming a test subject not only for her parents, but other doctors who were observing her, she studies mental disorders and toys with the doctors by faking symptoms.

Brenda and her seemingly happy family

Brenda from “Six Feet Under” and her seemingly happy family

Her main love interest is Nate, one piece of the show’s central focus: the Fisher family. He is the cool guy who always knows the right thing to say and pop into any situation and become the most likable guy in the room. He is a great inverse character to Brenda, as she refuses to conform to any sign of normality and must dissect every situation, baring its psychology no matter how unnecessary it is. The show lasted for five seasons and follows evolving relationships, through both the good and the bad.

This is where we discuss Amy and Brenda in the same sentence. Amy finds herself isolated in a relationship with, not just her cheating husband, but the environment around her. She looks down on her suburban surroundings, including the people that inhabit it. She tells lies to her neighbors to fulfill her hidden agenda in framing Nick. Brenda has a difficult time adjusting to a monogamous, seemingly normal relationship with Nate. She is an aspiring writer (Amy was a writer) who finds inspiration in aberrant characters she encounters and decides to engage in what one might consider to be dangerous sexual behaviors. It’s in these behaviors she finds what she needs to write confidently and even smiles as she types.

Both characters carry secrets in their relationships, but where Brenda puts it in her writing (unsure if it was ever intended to be published), Amy exploits it to the entire country in her false diary entries to destroy her significant other. In terms of personality, Amy keeps herself calm and collected, no matter how drastic the scenario. Brenda, on the other hand, is out spoken and laden with profanity.

Another funny coincidence is that the recently released Blu-ray of Gone Girl comes with a reproduction of an Amazing Amy book that you can read (between the lines?) and made me smile as I am a huge fan of collectables such as these. With that, HBO released a Six Feet Under companion that includes pages from Charlotte Light and Dark and is an engrossing read if you love Brenda as much as I do.

Pages from "Amazing Amy" that is included with the "Gone Girl" Blu-ray

Pages from “Amazing Amy” that is included with the “Gone Girl” Blu-ray

Pages from "Charlotte Light and Dark" from the "Six Feet Under" companion book

Pages from “Charlotte Light and Dark” from the “Six Feet Under” companion book

This piece is not meant to make any proof of plagiarism. After reading and watching Gone Girl, I kept being reminded of Brenda. I’ve watched every episode of Six Feet Under several times and she’s always been the most fascinating character for me. I wanted to write something about them and am still not sure why. Both stories are completely different (though Six Feet Under does feature a story arc later on about Nate’s missing wife and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it) and I absolutely love and respect both.

Maybe their themes are what intrigue me. Gone Girl gives us a hard, uncomfortable look at American marriages and I can see why it might be unsettling for couples to watch the movie together. It’s very honest and the impression I get from online forums is that some people absolutely hate the book as a result of thinking both Amy and Nick are just horrible people who deserve each other. Both the book and movie also show the aftermath of a falling economy and how that can bankrupt not just a couple’s finances, but their love and respect for each other as well.

Six Feet Under centers around a family dynamic that pushes harder than anything Modern Family ever can. We have a widow who has never worked and has never had the experience of living alone. We have David, the gay, yet high strong son who carries a complicated relationship with a African-American cop with his own family issues. There’s Claire, our Holden Caulfield who scoffs at every adult, eventually transitioning into adulthood. Lastly, there’s Nate, Brenda’s main love interest, who is the every guy she believes she doesn’t deserve.

Both are examples of American women that are rarely seen on the screen. Both are characters full of so many layers and the audience is allowed to either love or absolutely loathe them. These are women who you don’t find on sitcoms, playing cute with line liners that have seen dozens of rewrites to please a laugh track. They are not PG-13 cyborgs. I’ve never met a lot of the female characters I see on TV or in films. Amy and Brenda, however, are women I’ve met.

Maybe that’s why I love them.

  1. I really love this post. Amy e Brenda are sure one of my favorites characters ever!

  2. I made the same connection. Loved the book, Gone Girl, and loved the series Six Feet Under!

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