Even if we insist on pigeonholing Bridesmaids as a chick flick (a term that makes me cringe), it is orders of magnitude better than, say, Bride Wars, which I somehow managed to sit through but not without feeling dirty afterwards. If movies were fast food, Bridesmaids would be Five Guys and Bride Wars would be McDonald's. Neither one is a filet, but that’s not what I ordered anyway. Personally, I am much more upset when I think I’m ordering a filet and get cube steak, like when I went to see Black Swan. It was playing at an arthouse movie theatre; there was Oscar buzz. I thought I knew what I was ordering. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a virgin/whore-trope-riddled, adolescent-boychild-fantasy disaster in which the chief message was “women iz crazy bitches.” Spare me. If I had known that I was getting a B-movie thriller, I might have been perfectly entertained. But anyone who went to see Bridesmaids should have had a pretty good idea of what they were in for.
Now the internet is abuzz with Monday morning quarterbacking. Here are some rough paraphrases of comments I’ve read:
- It was funny, but not that funny.
- I’m tired of all the “Oh, look! Women can be funny too!” Why can’t it be discussed on its own merits?
- Why does the movie present a wedding as a goal to be attained, and portray the entrance into matrimony as the end of authentic female friendships?
- Aren’t we beyond laughing at the weird, fat girl?
- What, now that she finds a nice guy her problems are all solved?
- Is a wedding with a laser show really the happy ending? Really?
As to how funny the film is, it should come as no surprise that men probably found Bridesmaids just slightly less hilarious than women did. If you’ve never been on the receiving end of that oh-so-subtle “I’m waving my penis in the general direction of your face just to see where that might lead” move, perhaps you cannot fully appreciate how hysterically apt Wiig’s pantomime of same is, although you might chuckle at being called out for having dangled it thusly yourself from time to time. Different things tickle different funny bones, regardless of gender. I have yet to hear anyone say that the movie wasn’t funny, so let’s call that one a draw.
But as for the rest of the criticisms, I’m ambivalent. Yes, I am irritated by the pervasive and patently false assertion that women are not as funny as men (thanks so much for that, Christopher Hitchens. I’m still holding a grudge), or that they can’t be funny on their own terms. I’m irritated that we still have to talk about gender in filmmaking at all. I am annoyed that at least two reviews I read before seeing the movie remarked that Kristen Wiig was pretty--as though that were somehow surprising or remotely germane.
On the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair to fault the movie because its characters are not feminist enough. The movie I saw was about real women: flawed, conflicted, complicated, and funny women who sometimes suffer the cognitive dissonance that comes from wanting to be happily partnered but wondering what they might give up in the transaction. Men have been asking that question in films for decades; it is refreshing, for once, to see women asking the same thing.
For once, there are frank and funny conversations between women about men who don’t satisfy their sexual needs or who are frigid or unavailable--stereotypes that have been foisted on the “little lady” since the dawn of filmmaking.
For once, the “big girl” is not funny because she’s fat; she’s funny because she is totally bizarre and self-assured, and because her intense physicality has little to do with her size.
For once, the nice guy is the one who gets his heart broken, and who points out that Annie is not the only one suffering but is also capable of causing real pain herself--because that’s what real people do to each other, both male and female.
And if you really think the laser show and puppies were supposed to be part of the happiness package, then you didn’t get the joke at all.
By virtue of being a Judd Apatow (produced) movie about women, Bridesmaids is shackled unfairly with a double burden. Not only is it expected to be side-splittingly funny, bold, irreverent, and gross (because that’s what Apatow fans want, that’s what he does, and that’s how the movie was billed) but it also has to carry the weight of expectation that its characters “represent” for us women.
Personally, I’m getting worn out by this whole sisterhood bit. Pulitzer prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan implores women to write smart and be brave and gets slammed by other women for being a hater of chick lit (more on this another day). Tina Fey writes about motherhood (and virtually tiptoes around the subject) and is criticized for taking sides in the Mommy wars--or for stooping to have the conversation at all. Women write a movie that is honest and funny and are criticized for what the movie doesn’t do?
It is times like these when I find my own feminism very confusing.
Love it, hate it; see it or don’t. Maybe we all just need to lighten up a little. Watch the movie. You’ll laugh. I promise.