“Bridesmaids” Revisited

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.

FAT JOKES

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.

RACE

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?

WHAT’S GOOD

Annie mid-breakdown.

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.

LINK LOVE:

Meet Melissa McCarthy (Megan): Hollywood’s newest leading lady + Another Interview w/ Entertainment Weekly

“Bridesmaids” = vomit + feminism?

Someone else agrees that while the poop/vomit worked, the fat jokes weren’t kosher

How ladies in Hollywood rallied around this flick

Why “Bridesmaids” matters

How “Bridesmaids” got made

The movie suffers a bit of feminist backlash and response

Commentary on the Female Mid Life Crisis

A smart, funny female blogger has 5 Things She Wants to Tell You About Bridesmaids

And finally, NPR weighs in

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

10 responses to ““Bridesmaids” Revisited”

  1. erninlow says :

    Good post! I do love Melissa McCarthy and at times she stole the show. She was on Samantha Who with Christina Applegate awhile back and she was just as good. I agree that they didn’t really give her good enough material. There was an article about her show, Mike & Molly, in Marie Claire:

    http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/overweight-couples-on-television

    It is awful and her apology does not even make up for it. I found it to be bothersome on so many levels.

    Loved the movie and Kristen Wiig. It does get tiring when movies portray that women need a man and a baby to get by. No wonder pressure is put upon us! I also find it annoying that guy comedies, like the upcoming Jason Bateman/Ryan Reynolds movie, just want to portray how “awful” it is to be married. BTW, I refuse to see that movie!

    • tinyheroes says :

      LOL to the Jason Bateman/Ryan Reynolds movie comment. I know we talked about this yesterday, but I just want to confirm I will join you in that boycott! 🙂 And I’m reading through the Marie Claire article right now.

  2. clinegirl22 says :

    I haven’t seen “Bridesmaids” yet but it’s high on my list. I love that it’s a female centered comedy that seems to break the “Girl meets Boy, Girl loses Boy, Girl gets Boy back” formula. I’m also thrilled to see a plus-sized woman getting a lot of attention. It would be nice if she could get the attention without extra attention being paid to her weight. I remember the article in Marie Clare and was sad that someone felt so bad about herself that she felt the need to attack others. I read that Annie Murmolo and Melissa McCarthy are developing a script for McCarthy to star in. I’m glad to see she’s getting lots of good attention and hopefully it signals a trend to follow.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Agreed on all fronts! While “Bridesmaids” has all the pretense of a romantic comedy (including a love interest) and actually does include that formula, it has less to do with the romance between the couple and more so with Annie’s life. It’s a sneaky movie – like an independent comedy with Hollywood style trappings.

      Very interested in following Melissa McCarthy’s career – might have to check out her TV series now that she’s on my radar! I’ll read through the Marie Claire article as well. Though I can only guess at what it says.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Wait – I HAVE seen Melissa McCarthy on another film. It was a really bizarre picture, on Netflix Instant Watch called “The Nines.” At times it was hard to follow (it had some Inception like vibes), but basically McCarthy played the love interest to Ryan Reynolds. You might check it out if you haven’t seen it yet!

  3. Addie says :

    Glad you wrote about this; finally saw the film tonight after traveling all week and had the same reactions to you about it, especially the part about being disappointed that it was over. How pathetic of Hollywood to starve us of real women to such an extent that when we see something more closely resembling the real thing, we actually are aching for more. (But, to be fair, “real” means, in this context, white, middle-class, cis women, as you pointed out with the comments on race, so there’s still a lot of privilege in there.)

    w.r.t. the fat jokes comment – I felt like the advertising for the film was done up in a way to poke fun at this far more than the actual film did. The advertising clearly did try to play up the film as a female Hangover, with McCarthy as the rough Galifianakis complement, and as his complement her confidence could be read more as cluelessness without looking at the larger picture. I think I was most thrilled with her character because she ended up being a lot more interesting than that. The humor in her character, for me, was related to the dissonance created by someone who clearly was meant to be the “loser” being the character who was actually the most confident and comfortable in her own skin (nevermind the one that was really “successful” by standard means – and that they had her being “successful” working a more realistic “job that earns money” was icing on the cake). And that the film utilized her in order to drive that point of “loser by choice” home was not something I had been anticipating at all – I think that it really drove home that the joke wasn’t on her character, but everyone else, by having her point out that she’d decided not to let herself feel as low as the rest of the world was telling her she needed to be.

    I actually have a male friend who that character reminded me a lot of – a bigger guy, very geeky and extraordinarily eccentric, and disarmingly self-confident, in many of the same ways that McCarthy’s characters were. Knowing him challenged me a lot (and tried my patience sometimes!) because he did create that dissonance sometimes, saying and feeling entitled to the sort of things that only the “perfect person” is supposed to be able to vocally want. I think it’s a good challenge and was probably my favorite thing about a film that had a lot in it to love – to take the character in the film who provided the character relief be the one who also had the most of her shit together and the most to teach those around her.

    There were tons of little bits and pieces that were so freaking NORMAL that my mind was really blown, like Wiig’s character hugging her mom and the necessary phone call to the best friend after the accidental hook-up. And I loved that the portrayal of the wedding party was a lot more realistic than anything we typically see – pointing out that the only thing these people had in common was the bride and / or the groom, and therefore they weren’t going to be instant best friends, and there was going to be some rivalry and tension and latent anxiety.

    Also loved the number of downright NORMAL looking women in more minor parts. Wrinkles, chin fat, arms that aren’t perfectly toned – these are things I see in regular everyday (but still beautiful) ladies but never see in films, and what a refresher there, too.

    Related to this, if you haven’t read the New Yorker story about Anna Faris, I still have a copy of it at home somewhere and need to pass it on to you – it’s a “wow, this is even worse than I thought” overview of how hard it is for women in comedy to make films, and provides some insight into why Wiig had to write “Bridesmaids” herself (and similarly Faris with “What’s My Number”, which adopts more formulaic stuff in order to slip in some of the physical comedy that Faris likes to do.) And after reading it, I was even more amazed to see how well women were portrayed in Bridesmaids – kudos to Wiig for using her SNL cache to make such an impact (and all of the people that joined her on the project.)

    • tinyheroes says :

      Ah! Thanks for weighing in! I’m glad you enjoyed the flick as much as I did and were able to spot a lot of those pieces. I’m glad that Melissa’s character is getting so much attention and being analyzed by many minds (more capable than mine). I think there were a lot of subtle nuances that got lost in the poop and fart jokes, and sometimes it’s hard to filter out the intention behind some humor.

      I don’t think many people are used to seeing larger ladies with agency and confidence without them being sex-hungry lunatics. Which McCarthy clearly was not.

      Man, just talking about this movie makes me want to see it again! 🙂

      BTW – have you seen Easy A? It’s on Netflix Instant Watch right now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that film as I really saw it stepping outside of SOME Hollywood Tropes and bringing up interesting discussions around sex and slut-shaming. I think “What’s Your Number” will also cover similar territory and am interested in seeing that when it comes out. It’s an adaptation so it might even be ripe for book club fodder! 🙂

  4. Addie says :

    Should have proofread my comment before I posted it, oops – hopefully you can get from my context where I clearly meant to use other words / tenses / pluralizations 🙂

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