Credit: (c)Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection.

Sometimes I wish I could just watch movies like a fun person, a Cool Girl who's not too uptight, the kind of someone who paradoxically believes that culture doesn't influence culture. I mean, I don't really wish that–my inability to watch movies without grinding my teeth over oppressive subtexts is a foundational part of everything I hold most dear and couldn't be excised from my identity as a human being without removing my entire brain and replacing it with a can of Mountain Dew–but it'd be bomb to just Spicoli my way through some blockbusters now and then. Alas, I am too much myself.

So, right now, Gone Girl is a struggle. (Heads up: Spoilers throughout.) My heart says it's pulpy and fun–all my heart needs are some tasty waves and a cool buzz–but my brain can't stop forecasting all the ways that Gone Girl's pitch-black, gendered fucked-upedness is going to echo back at me (and other women who write critically about gender, and even women who don't) from the internet, forever. Because beyond being a mostly tight, elegant, gleefully bananas thriller–the mechanics of which you can read about in Tom Carson's excellent reviewGone Girl is a misogynist's full-body, quaking firehose of a wet dream.

Briefly, Gone Girl concerns failed novelist Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck, using his hulking physicality to great Scott Petersonesque effect) dealing with the sudden disappearance of his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike, white witch)–a satisfying procedural supplemented by entries from Amy's diary, which prove eerily incongruous (both happier and darker) with Nick's account of their relationship. The film takes a wicked, fanged look at marriage, that great lie; at the way that romantic partners of all genders try to bind and design each other; at how resentment can ferment into rage and horrible people deserve each other. Deciding whether or not we can trust Amy's narration is as satisfying a mystery as how and why she disappeared, and when the floor drops out in Act Two–revealing Gone Girl, thrillingly, to be more than just an above-average Dateline episode–I was ready to follow David Fincher pretty much anywhere.

Where he goes (courtesy of author Gillian Flynn, of course) is deep into the psyche of a sadistic, diabolical, murderous psychopath, who just happens to be a woman. Which isn't, in itself, a problem–female villains often have more personality, and more fun, than snoozeville heroines–but Amy isn't just your average stabby black-widow criminal mastermind, she's the ultimate crazy bitch trope, a validation of every hysterical misogynist lie (or, to be more charitable, every fluttering male anxiety) currently on the books. And the problem is, in our present culture, that "a woman" is always interchangeable with "women." Taken as a fable about modern gender relations, which isn't a particularly far-fetched reading, Gone Girl confirms what so many woman-haters have long suspected: that women readily use rape accusations as a tool of revenge or escape; that women take some perverse pleasure in weathering rape kits and intrusive interrogations; that when a woman says she was victimized, she deserves suspicion as much as support; that women have some privileged, almost mystical sway over law enforcement; that women take things too far, that we are ungrateful, we are controlling, we are ruthless, we manipulate, we drive men to cheat and then punish them for it, we chew men up and spit them out, on to the next one, the next one, and again, and again.

It's the naif's understanding of "misandry": women are cruel, women are scary, women are trying to destroy you, women must be stopped. If that seems like a goofy overreach, take a look inside of any female writer's Inbox or Twitter mentions. Take a look at the men's rights crowd crowing over Gone Girl's big brave truths. Take a look at the comments underneath this post, I bet. Amy isn't just "a woman," she's the same vicious caricature that I see angry men constructing online, over and over, just so they can burn her down. So they can continue to justify harassing and threatening women. She is as much a specter of male rage as female rage. She is self-perpetuating. She is good entertainment, but she is dangerous. Sure, Fincher's Nick is kind of a bumbling dickhead, but Amy is a gorgon. There is no comparison.

And, yes, Gone Girl was written by a woman, and, yes, women can perpetuate misogyny too–often grievously so. But I don't want Flynn to change a hair of Gone Girl, as it's hardly her responsibility to rearrange her narrative choices because some internet babies are too scared of girls to remember the difference between fiction and reality. I just wish that the film could exist, as it is, without being inevitably weaponized by a toxic culture. I wish we could have conversations about how to process media responsibly, how to balance escapism and critical thought, without being dismissed as Tipper Gore wet-blanket killjoy turds.

I wish that stories about bad women could just be stories.