You know that moment when you realize that your relationship isn’t what it used to be. The moment when you think, where did we go wrong? For Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen) it was the moment that she found a dead girl’s driver’s license hidden in a secret panel behind her husband’s work bench.
From the outside looking in, the Andersons had a good marriage. They had a successful business, successful children, and they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary amongst a slew of adoring friends. Even Darcy thought she had a good marriage, despite the nagging notes all around the house and the misogynistic comments by her husband. Notice the title is “good” not great. Early in the film, Darcy responds to all Bob’s notes, saying “He goes but he never really leaves.” We soon come to find out their relationship isn’t all that it appears to be.
A Good Marriage is about what people perceive as an ideal marriage as much as it is about what people will do to maintain that perception. Darcy puts the world in danger by protecting her husband. She does so for fear that no one would “understand.” Furthermore, Darcy can’t bear to ruin her children’s lives. Her belief system says that it is better to stay in a marriage that is perceived well in order to maintain the status quo. So, to her, a good marriage is keeping up appearances especially when it comes to her children and her livelihood. When she discovers her husband’s secret, he knows just how to keep her quiet: “If you turn me in, you have to think about the kids and yourself, and the coin company.” Later, when she is threatened with exposure, she again reiterates, “I won’t let you ruin my children’s lives” and “I needed time, I wanted to spare the children.”
Darcy finds the thought of her daughter eloping more horrific than potentially sleeping with the enemy. To put her moral judgement on trial is not my place, but it is interesting that her child’s not engaging in the public performance of marriage is more horrific than baring her husband’s secret. At the end of the film, when she’s talking to Mr. Ramsey (Lang), Darcy is fine with continuing her husband’s façade as long as she can keep her family and job. She would rather people see her husband for his “good works, and honest life” in order to maintain the appearance of a good marriage and a good family. Like the sign in her house says “Family and friends make a house a home.” Moreover, it is the perceptions of the family by the friends that legitimize the house as a good home.
It is also interesting the way that this film examines the difference in reception of horror film and real life horror. Darcy cringes and exclaims “oh poop” when she cannot change the channel of a televised horror film. After finding out her husband’s dark secret she comes back into the room where the horror film is still playing on TV. She is so aghast at the film (not discovering her husband’s secret) that she screams and unplugs the TV. Meanwhile she has discovered bondage porn, and has set out on the internet to research serial killers and view actual crime scene footage.[i] And finally, Darcy is able to act out some pretty horrific things (and laughs about them) but she cannot watch a horror film.
This speaks to my constant confoundedness at the state of the world today. People continue to bastardize the horror genre yet they watch the nightly news, seek out serial killer stats on the internet, see repeated gory crime scenes on Law & Order, and bask in the nightly stabbings of MSNBC Locked Up. I have no problem with these shows, I actually love them. But I struggle to understand the logic between people’s general dislike for horror when they openly welcome the consumption of many horrific images that happen to REAL people. Without standing on my soapbox too long, I simply found this undercurrent in the film to be extremely thought provoking—and definitely worth revisiting at another time.
In the afterword for Full Dark, No Stars, King stated that the character of Bob Anderson was inspired by Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK Killer”. King said that he felt inspired to write the story after the public outcry against Rader’s wife, Paula, who had been married to him for almost thirty years yet seemed to have no knowledge of his crimes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Good_Marriage Much like BTK, “Beadie” or BD also stands for bondage and domination more likely than Bob and Darcy or Brian D.