What does the Bob Bashara Murder Trial Have to do with Gone Girl?
As I follow the Bob Bashara murder trial in Detroit, I can’t help thinking about the current hit movie “Gone Girl.”
I doubt that the Bashara trial is getting much media attention outside of southeastern, Michigan, but it will – guaranteed – be showing up on various television networks that feature true crime documentaries. It’s absolutely a made-for-media-sensation trial. It’s got the murder of a woman, sex, sadomasochism and bondage, and treachery. Perfect, eh?
The similarities to the movie “Gone Girl,” starring Ben Affleck and adapted from Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, are striking.
Both feature a suburban married couple who have the trappings of financial and marital success; both have a couple who have a level of status in their community; and both have (or at least had, in the case of Jane Bashara) a missing wife; and the most important similarity is that beneath the facade of middle class respectability each couple had enjoyed are extramarital affairs and flawed marriages. Given these similarities, the stage is set in both the fictional marriage and the real marriage for treachery and murder.
Certainly that’s what seemingly has happened in each. Bob Bashara, who lived with his wife in the up-scale community of Grosse Pointe, just east of Detroit, is on trial in Detroit. He is accused of engineering the strangulation murder of Jane Bashara. In “Gone Girl,” Ben Affleck’s character, Nick, is a suspect in the disappearance and suspected murder of his wife, Amy, played so very well by Rosamund Pike. In both, the husbands have had affairs and the motive seems transparent; Nick and Bob probably did away with their wives to clear the way for carrying on an illicit or alternative life style.
But there the similarities may end. Bashara, as the witnesses in the first two weeks of the trial have revealed, is a man who aside from being Rotary Club president is the master of domination in his secret sadomasochistic world. The prosecution says that he hired a man to kill his wife because he wanted to avoid splitting money with her if they were to get a divorce. Bashara’s defense sees it a different way: Bashara was a guy who loved his wife, but the guy who actually killed her is a dangerous man who decided on his own to kill Jane. Besides, how could the president of the Rotary Club do something like hire a handyman to kill his wife?
Nick in “Gone Girl” is something of a heel, too. He is having an affair, drinks too much, isn’t working and is presumably living off of his wife’s trust fund, and may be abusive toward her. He doesn’t deny being abusive to the detectives investigating her disappearance, but still he claims he loves his missing wife. We’re just not sure we believe him, although we want to. Ben Affleck’s Nick seems like a decent enough guy.
But in both the movie and the Bob Bashara case, we are forced to confront some uncomfortable aspects of marriage: The secrets we keep from each other; the rather sleazy affairs; deceptions; resentments; betrayal; and violence. It’s also very uncomfortable to admit that we don’t really know that much about our spouse. Maybe we are married to a psychopath and not even know it.
Being a magazine writer or Rotary Club president doesn’t guarantee that the person we sleep with isn’t a sociopath capable of trumping up rape charges, framing us for murder, or even carrying out a murder-for-hire scheme. “Gone Girl” and the Detroit case force us to face a most inconvenient question: Do we really know who shares our bed?
But, let’s not stop there. Let’s go a step farther and ask the real question: Is marriage really possible as a lasting relationship? Both the movie and the Bashara case are troubling because we have to examine ourselves. Sort of takes the fun out of a mystery/thriller movie and a sensational murder trial, doesn’t it?