Vicious Vengeance: Examining Vindictive Exes In Pop Culture

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Vicious Vengeance: Examining Vindictive Exes In Pop Culture

The narrative of the crazy ex-girlfriend is so prevalent that the CW actually made a TV show about it. Other portrayals aren’t as nuanced as Rachel Bloom’s sitcom, which actually attempts to bring a feminist twist to a mostly misogynistic plot device. But a good “crazy ex” narrative can almost be as entertaining as romantic buzz kill movies. So let’s examine examples of crazy ex-girlfriends in popular culture and find what makes them tick. Be careful, hell’s got nothing on these women!

The Woman in “Bust Your Windows”

Jazmine Sullivan released a hit song “Bust Your Windows” in 2008; a cover by Glee a few years later increased its popularity. In the song, an unnamed woman dishes out vengeance when she sees her lover in bed with another woman. But she doesn’t punish him directly. As the title says, she busts the windows of his car. Oof, better find a shop that fixes car windows. As an added bonus, she carves her initials on it with a crowbar. Double oof. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade, unnamed philanderer?

But as lyrics and Sullivan’s crooning voice reveal, she knows that doing so is futile. She’s only committing vandalism to make the man suffer, and that his pain will only be a small echo of the pain he caused her. The lyrics go on to explain that the woman wants this to be a lesson to the man that he can’t treat women that way. As far as “crazy ex” activities go, not unreasonable but also inadvisable to do in the real world, only, whoops, Jazmine admitted in 2016 that she did bust an ex’s windows. *Happens to the best of us!*

Alex Forrest from “Fatal Attraction”

Glenn Close’s performance as Alex was nominated by the Academy Awards. Glenn Close deserves praise for the amount of research and preparation she did to perform that well, but the actress disagrees how the writers treated Alex. Close explains she portrayed Alex as clearly mentally disturbed, a woman who needed help to break free from her obsessive devotion to her married lover. She wanted to play a tragic character whose dark past is the cause of her disturbance.

But the studio and the test audiences both wanted Alex to meet a grisly end and to ensure it, they turned her into THE crazy ex, attacking her lover’s family with a knife and boiling their pet rabbit. Instead of the cheating man getting punished, the mentally ill woman he took advantage of bites it, instead. Before you ask, yes, “Fatal Attraction” was written by a man.

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Amy Elliot Dunne from “Gone Girl”

Gillian Flynn’s thriller novel “Gone Girl” and the film adaptation that stars Rosamund Pike in the titular role caused a lot of debate as to whether or not it’s a feminist narrative. In the story, Amy Dunne is a brilliant woman who is scorned by her underachieving but charming husband. To exact her revenge, Amy frames her husband for her murder. She also expounds on what she calls “Cool Girls.” According to Amy, and by extension Flynn, women change themselves to be the “cool girl” that pleases their man in every way.

Amy changed a lot about her and maintained her body to keep her husband interested. But he doesn’t live up to his end, neglecting her needs and cheating on her. But the way she enacts her vengeance is way too brutal. Not only does she lie about assault and fake a pregnancy, she also murders someone to further her plans.

What makes Amy a feminist character is that she is absolutely right about the “Cool Girl” dynamic. She’s also a strong, intellectual woman who knows her worth and fights for what she believes is hers. But she is a terrible, manipulative, murderous person. You can’t get a more complex portrayal of female vengeance than Amy Elliot Dunne.

Inspiring or a warning? The only person who can decide whether these women should be looked up to or locked up is yourself, but before you make your judgment, remember that there is a story behind everything. And hopefully, you’ll speak up the next time you hear someone use the phrase “crazy ex.” Who knows, you might be saving the windows of their car!

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