Gillian Flynn and Marti Noxon Dissect Sharp Objects’ Female Rage
BY ARIANA BACLE
The two executive producers discuss why they brought a story showing women’s anger to the screen.
When Gillian Flynn noticed there were plenty of books about men and violence, but far fewer about female rage, she decided to help rectify that imbalance by writing a novel about women’s anger. That experience is front-and-center in the HBO adaptation of Sharp Objects, which just concluded with a haunting finale that exposed how deep Adora, Camille and Amma’s wounds run.
“There’s a really valuable conversation about people who outwardly seem like they’re functioning, who are actually hiding a lot of pain,” executive producer Marti Noxon says of Camille (Amy Adams), who cuts words into her skin and struggles with alcoholism. “For her, she needs to go and face her past in order to really face what’s chasing her and driving her to do these things to herself.”
From the start, Flynn — who, like Noxon, serves as an executive producer and writer on the series — trusted Noxon partly because Flynn saw how much she cared about the complicated character of Camille. “I knew that she understood Camille in a very keen way and that she wasn’t going to exploit her,” Flynn explains. “I knew she wasn’t going to have Camille do wild, insane and bad things just for pure shock value; she was going to be careful with this character.”
Being sensitive didn’t mean they shied away from showing the uglier parts of Camille, Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and Amma (Eliza Scanlen), though. Instead, Flynn, Noxon and the rest of the Sharp Objects team decided to showcase just how flawed each character is, and how they came to be that way.
“Women have been told forever that their anger is unattractive and that we should always deal with it really constructively,” Noxon says. “When we can’t, it comes out in these really toxic ways. You see it in both of Adora’s daughters: Amma’s living a split life, and Camille has dealt with it by hurting herself.”
Flynn agrees and notes that each of the three women represents a different era of feminism and how that affects their behavior. “I wanted to write about women who grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, where women were supposed to be primary caregivers and nurturers,” she says, referring to Adora. “With Camille, she’s of my generation, which was kind of the first one to really be brought up under the new freedom that feminism was fighting for, but was still very new and tenuous. And then Amma, who’s of the social media generation.”
But no matter how different Adora, Camille and Amma are, they all have one thing in common — besides their DNA, of course. “There’s a lot of raising up of female qualities right now because we’re all waking up to the ways in which women and all marginalized people have been oppressed,” Noxon says. “But one of next levels of that is acknowledging our faults and our humanness.”