Every once in a while a line gets drawn in the sand around some issue. Last weekend, that line was drawn in the sand when it comes to women in entertainment – comedy specifically. Crossing that line hinged on the success of a female driven comedy co-written by the uber-popular Kristen Wiig and produced by the Apatow team.
Lucky for teh womenz; the country decided to hop right over it and plunk down enough scrilla to help this film make back its production budget in the first weekend and blow box office estimates right out of the water. It secured the #2 spot, dangling right below the hugely awesome Thor (#1 two weekends in a row biatches, I helped contribute to that!).
Yes, as fate would have it: “Bridesmaids” somehow ended up being a wildly important movie for the future of women. For women in comedies, for women writers and for women who like watching smart, funny movies in which women interact with one other. With so much (nay, all of woman-dom) riding on its success, the fact that the movie made oodles of money and is completely hilarious seems like icing on the cake. Yes, I did make a reference to weddings. No, I’m not pleased this film is wedding centric. But I got over it.
Describing “Bridesmaids” as a female-version of “The Hangover” is doing a disservice to this film. For me personally, “The Hangover” was funny but not something re-watchable or earth-shattering. It seems to be part of this trend of darkly comic movies littered with utterly unlikable characters. They aren’t nice, they clearly don’t like one another, and they don’t experience any growth or personal developments which change either of those two qualities.
So when I hear someone say, “it’s a female Hangover” I kind of cringe inwardly. Whereas I would never pay money for a repeat watch of “The Hangover” – I would consider seeing “Bridesmaids” in theatres again. In fact, one of the ladies in our group said during the Bridesmaids credits, “I can’t believe it’s over, I don’t want this to end.” It’s heartening and sad at the same time that we are so starved for the female experience on-screen we are actually depressed at a happy ending, or an ending period.
I kinda felt the same way though. I wouldn’t have minded being trapped in Annie’s world for just a few more hours. To see if she ever did come back around to baking.
Why is this film eliciting such a strong reaction from everyone? What in the blue blazes is happening here?
Perhaps what we’re seeing is the full realization of a phenomenon that’s been building up for the last decade or so – when the noticeable shift away from lady friendly productions began. Just because we live in a Post-Buffy world doesn’t mean that entertainment automatically embraces strong female leads, lesbians or sex-neutral female bonding. In fact, I would say there was an opposite reaction around the year 2002 or so – and men started reasserting their dominance in all aspects of culture. Which leads us to the sorry state we’re in today, when a rom-com revolving around weddings makes waves for having a mostly female cast. REALLY?
It’s become clear that women-centric films aren’t making it to the screen like they used to. Women in entertainment, comedy and writing have overall taken giant leaps backwards (only 25% ladies in the writing rooms, ya’ll).
But the pendulum is swinging back around again. Times are crazy and the reigns are starting to tighten on the rights and freedoms women have enjoyed for years (access to healthcare, birth control, CHOICES). Ladies around the country are starting to wake up and recognize how much ground we’ve given in all aspects of our lives.
It’s no surprise then that strong female personalities are emerging from the testosterone vacuum of the last decade. And despite the hype that feminists are man/sex hating shrews with no senses of humor, the lads are discovering we are quite the opposite. And we’re fucking funny to boot.
I’d like to think it started with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who are the top-dogs in this current cycle of comedic-femmes. Tagging along behind with their own impressive repertoire include Anna Faris, Emma Stone and Kat Dennings, all managing to hold up against the likes of Seth Rogen, Michael Cera and Jonah Hill.
It’s quite likely that “Bridesmaids” has put Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in the #3 and #4 positions, respectively. McCarthy stole the show as the super confident, quirky, aggressive yet good-hearted friend. And she has her own television show. So there.
I’ll admit to being a little skeeved by what I considered as “fat jokes” or humor aimed at how unattractive the Megan character was supposed to be. Even if the intent wasn’t there – it still played a certain way, and I experienced moments of perplexed silence when others in the auditorium were laughing. I’m not a fan of body humor when it’s mocking someone’s weight. McCarthy herself was hilarious, but not all the material she had to work with was gold. It smacked of the frustrations I felt with the approach to class taken in “Baby Mama.” Comedy works best when everyone is in on the joke. I don’t think weight or class are especially hilarious comedy fodder, unless it’s helping those folks find agency. Otherwise, boo to that.
It’s also worth mentioning that a bi-racial bride marrying a white dude doesn’t have a single person of color in her wedding party. What’s up with that shit? I can appreciate the casting of Maya Rudolph who was underused in SNL but if you’re going to reverse race-bend, you have to make the context for that character, you know, make sense.
Why couldn’t at least one of the other bridesmaids have been a woman of color? What about the saucy blonde house-mother? Her plot-line as well as that of the newly wed were slim enough that it could have crept past the Hollywood border-patrol without setting off too many alarms. It didn’t feel like the concept of having a biracial lead character was effectively carried through in the casting or writing. She had to have some siblings or non-white cousin or college friend or SOMETHING. Am I right? Anyone else notice that?
This flick isn’t so much a romantic comedy as it is charting the breakdown of the main character, Annie. Her life just keeps getting crappier and crappier. And while she’d like to blame it all on one of the other bridesmaids (and she does) or on the other people around her…it’s really her problem. How she deals with it. Annie is kind of a loser. A refreshing loser though, she doesn’t have it all together. And thank the sweet and fluffy lord, she’s not career-focused or shrill either. She’s not a loser by design ala the man-child tropes that are so popular in male-driven comedies. Oh the man-child. Let’s not get into that again, shall we?
It’s rare to find a film that recognizes and deals with the female mid-life crisis or even with the societal pressures that are put on women without talking down to us. Without making it seem like every woman has a fantastic dream job, oodles of money, a closet full of Prada, etc. and the only thing missing in our lives is CLEARLY a man and baby. Annie doesn’t seem to want these things and/or isn’t ready to have them. In this sense, she is incredibly identifiable. I am probably one paycheck and failed business venture away from BEING Annie.
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo get it right. They paint a more accurate portrayal of women than I’ve seen on-screen in a long-ass time. I’m trying to imagine another woman hero I’ve rooted for in the last year or so and the only one that comes to mind is Olive from “Easy A.” She was equally hilarious, charming and had a delightful every-woman quality.
Easy A came out just a short 9 months ago to rave reviews, and yet people are acting as if the fields of female powered comedy are barren and desolate. And then, of course, they attribute that to the stupid fucking myth that women aren’t funny because of natural selection. WTF is that about?
Dudes: Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, Emma Stone, Anna Faris, Kat Dennings, Melissa McCarthy, Aubrey Plaza (Funny People, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Parks and Recreation), Amy Sedaris, AND too many others to count. These folks collect 53 funny ladies right here.
What I’m saying is that you probably don’t know about all these wonderful women, because you aren’t paying attention. If you think the world of lady comedy is sparse, it’s because THE MAN wants you to think that way. Anyone who has their eyes peeled really knows the score.
And I would say that a Woman Powered Comedy Revolution is on the brink. Peeking it’s head right around the corner to entice you with its hilarious wares.
The question is: Are you going to plunk down your dollars to support it? MEN? Ladies are already willing to pay for male comedians to make it big.
Now it’s your turn. Or our turn. However you’d like to think of it.
Bechdel Test: ”Bridesmaids” features more than two female characters with names and DOES PASS the women test, DOES NOT PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters who have names (but do not speak to one another) so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.