From Dexter Morgan to Hannibal Lecter, psychopaths have had a long-standing fascination in the film industry. And while many male psychopaths have become iconic in their own right, it’s easy to forget that female psychopath characters can be equally as noteworthy.
Gone Girl was a mystery thriller released in 2014 that took the world by storm. Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne quickly garnered attention for her menacing portrayal, and she has since become one of the most well-known female psychopath characters in film. HANG UP! is a short film that has many similarities to Gone Girl and manages to capture a similar level of psychological manipulation and terror perpetrated by a female psychopath.
On top of that, both films explore the topic of marriage and what it means when the person you married isn’t the person you thought they were. In this blog post, we look at the warning signs of a female psychopath and how both Amy Elliott-Dunne and Emelia (the female lead in HANG UP!) reflect many of these traits. But first, let’s take a look at what happens in Gone Girl and HANG UP!
Spoiler Warning! If you haven’t seen Gone Girl or HANG UP! yet, we recommend you check them out before reading this article. You can Watch HANG UP! right now for free here.
What Happens in Gone Girl?
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl tells the story of Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck), who returns home one day to find that his wife, Amy Elliott Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike), is missing. As the police investigate her disappearance, Nick becomes the prime suspect. The story is narrated by Amy, who tells the tale of their relationship from her perspective.
As a result, half-truths and full lies entangle Nick more and more in a foggy reality where nothing is what it seems. Darkly satirical and scintillating, Gone Girl forces us to look at the dark parts of ourselves, the validity of our relationships, and society’s propensity to pigeonhole women.
What Happens in “HANG UP!”?
Channeling the great tradition of Shakespearean villain monologues, HANG UP! aims to transport the morbidly intriguing trope of villain asides and speeches of treacherous intent to the modern world by way of our most pervasive and ubiquitous tool; the cell phone.
HANG UP! drags an unsuspecting husband (Robert Nolan) into a secretive and increasingly morbid conversation that aims to rival the dastardly thoughts and machinations of some of Shakespeare’s most boastful and long-winded villains. Simply put, HANG UP! is about an accidental butt dial that provides a curious husband with an unexpected glimpse into the mind of his loving wife, Emelia.
The Female Psychopath Traits Shared By Emelia and Amy Dunne
There are many misconceptions about psychopaths. For one, psychopathy is a spectrum that does not have an official diagnosis, and the term is often used in clinical settings to describe those that exhibit many characteristics of severe Antisocial Personality Disorder. Some of those characteristics include a lack of empathy and a blatant disregard for the rights of others.
Secondly, psychopathy is not a male-exclusive disorder. Women can also exhibit psychopathic traits but the way these traits manifest themselves is usually much different compared to men. Amy Dunne and Emelia share many female psychopathic traits that make them just as dangerous and unpredictable as their male counterparts.
6 Warning Signs of a Female Psychopath
1. Psychopaths are Good at Pretending
Psychopaths are natural-born actors and liars. They are able to put on a false veil of charisma that draws people in. Female psychopaths can excel in this area because of their more subtle approach. Amy Dunne was able to keep up the facade of a doting wife to her h2usband and to the world without anyone knowing her true intentions. Emelia also played the part of a loving wife to perfection, until the moment she accidentally revealed her shocking true colors.
2. Female Psychopaths Develop Relationships With Victims
Male psychopaths are known to target strangers to victimize, especially if they are violent. However, female psychopaths tend to have or form a relationship with people that they victimize. Amy Dunne and Emelia were both married to their husband for years before they began to plot against them. Amy in particular has a history of manipulating her past boyfriends to destroy their reputations and future.
3. They Play The Victim
A common and unique female psychopath trait is their ability to play the victim card as a form of manipulation. This allows them to guilt people into doing what they want or to get sympathy. Amy Dunne is a master at this, convincing the world that she was the victim while at the same time convincing herself that what she’s doing is justified. Emelia also exhibits this behavior after she realizes that she’s caught, which ultimately leads her to do something incredibly drastic.
4. They Use Indirect Aggression
Anger doesn’t only manifest itself in fits of violence. It can also be expressed in more subtle ways, such as emotional manipulation, gossiping, or excluding people. Female psychopaths are known to use this type of indirect aggression as a way to control others.
In extreme cases, they can even commit self-harm. This behavior is seen more overtly in Emelia who butt dials her husband while gossiping about him to a friend and expresses a lot of pent-up anger toward him. Amy on the other hand is mostly cold and calculating. Even in times when she is viscerally angry on screen, she contains her anger until it manifests in another way.
5. They are Narcissistic
Narcissists consider themselves to be the center of the universe and have an inflated sense of self-importance. They typically lack empathy and see their needs as more important than the needs of others. Both Emelia and Amy are shown throughout their films using the people closest to them without any regard for their feelings. Emelia in particular hatches a plot that could put her unsuspecting husband in prison without thinking of how that would affect their child.
6. Female Psychopaths are Emotionally Unstable
Research has shown that female psychopaths are more likely to deal with mood problems and emotions than males. This is actually the biggest difference between Emelia and Amy. Emelia reveals herself to be extremely emotionally unstable to the point of self-harm throughout the short film and Amy is much more controlled in her emotions, which comes from her childhood growing up in a strict household. However, both characters are shown to be able to control their emotions when it suits them.
Female Psychopath Characters Are Equally As Menacing
While male psychopaths have been the face of psychopathy for many years, female psychopaths are just as dangerous and if not more conniving. Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne may have taken the prize for the most fascinating female psychopath in film but Emelia from HANG UP! exhibits many female psychopath traits that make her a truly menacing character.