She Said, She Said: BRIDESMAIDS Is Excellent. Why Are We Surprised?

Welcome to a new feature at Badass Digest! First topic of discussion: BRIDESMAIDS. Is it the messiah of the chick flick, the female version of THE HANGOVER, or just a really good comedy?

Welcome to a new feature at Badass Digest, wherein April and I make the wild assumption that not all of BAD’s readers are men! First topic of discussion: Bridesmaids.

What’s up for debate isn’t the quality of Bridesmaids, because its superiority is unequivocal (go see it, go see it, go see it) and Devin nailed his review of the movie last week, anyway. Rather, I’d like to address the critical response and marketing of the movie—specifically the fact that it makes me want to stab someone in the neck. “An estrogen-fueled adventure!” “It definitively proves that women are the equal of men in vulgarity, sexual frankness…overdrinking and insecurity.” “It strives to prove that gals can be as nasty as dudes.” Are these…really questions? That people have? “Men should avoid at all costs being dragged into this film with its abundant supply of estrogen.” Too many wimmins! Flee, men, before your testicles turn into ovaries and you start watching figure skating and crying at phone commercials! And most infuriatingly, “‘Bridesmaids’ is a frat boy’s idea of what a funny ‘chick flick’ should be.” No, no it isn’t. It is an intelligent person’s idea of what a funny movie should be. And these are the positive reviews?

Must we marvel at the success of a movie written by SNL star Wiig (with Annie Mumolo), directed by Paul Feig of the terrific Freaks and Geeks and starring some of the best comedic actors in Hollywood today simply because most of those actors are women? Even the word “comedienne” and the implied astoundment when discussing a particularly funny woman like Wiig or Tina Fey play into this perpetuated condescension. No shit, women are funny. No shit, women are intelligent. No shit, women like poop jokes as much as the next guy. Why the hell are we even discussing this? What is the implied converse? That we should be rewarded every time we make a comedy that isn’t utter drivel simply because no one expects it of us? The fact that most “chick flicks” are drivel isn’t because women are idiots. It’s because Hollywood treats women like idiots and therefore the guys with the cash finance and market shitty and inane movies for women. The new marketing dialogue that Bridesmaids over-performed” at the box office with a respectable $24.4 million is just as patronizing. “Sony officials believe they’ll make back their $60 million production spend plus promotional costs.” Well, I’ll be damned. We did it! We’re breaking even! Grrrl powrrr!

Remember when the term “romantic comedy” included movies like When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, Harold and Maude, The Princess Bride or The Philadelphia Story? When did that phrase start applying solely to crap like The Ugly Truth or All About Steve? Reviewers seem awed at the concept of an Apatow-produced romantic comedy, but aren’t all Apatow movies romantic comedies? Or, because they’re funny and well-written, they just get to be called “comedies” instead? This idea that a romantic comedy has to be heinous, or at best, a guilty pleasure, is ludicrous. I love romantic comedies. I love good romantic comedies. Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Princess Bride are two of my favorite movies. Does that mean I’m some mental pygmy who should be spoon-fed pre-chewed garbage like The Bounty Hunter for the rest of my cinema-going days?

Reviewers also harp on the idea that Bridesmaids is a female version of The Hangover. You should know that it’s not, and that’s one of the things I liked about it. The Hangover is funny enough, but it lacks perception, originality and emotional authenticity. When I say emotional authenticity, I don’t mean that I expect (or want) movies like The Hangover to make me cry or squee or gush to my girlfriends about my feelings over ice cream afterward. I mean that I would like to recognize in the characters a legitimate and believable human response to the wacky situations that occur in madcap comedies. You can say plenty about the guys in The Hangover, and they’re funny dudes, but they do not represent actual human beings. The characters in Bridesmaids, particularly Kristen Wiig’s hapless, self-destructive Annie, are authentic and recognizable. They’re also funny as hell.

On the other end of the spectrum is the worshipful discourse baptizing Bridesmaids as the messiah of the chick flick. Salon writer Rebecca Traister wrote a lengthy essay titled “Seeing ‘Bridesmaids’ is a social responsibility.” In a way, I agree. I believe that it is the responsibility of every discerning filmgoer to pay to see unconventional, quality films, thereby ideally convincing financiers that films like Sex and the City 2 or Saw 3D aren’t the only surefire hits. But it’s not the responsibility of Bridesmaids to rescue an entire genre of films that have become a lifeless caricature of themselves. It’s only responsible for being a good movie, and it is. Let’s not ask any more of it than that.

Don’t treat Bridesmaids as a groundbreaking revolution for women in Hollywood. Kristen Wiig herself doesn’t see it that way, listing Baby Mama and Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion as similarly hilarious, female-driven films. She’s not striving to prove that women are just as funny or raunchy as men; she’s not striving to prove anything. I refuse to start listing the number of other intelligent, well-made, woman-centric movies out there, because that smacks of counting how many black or gay friends you have. The more we treat this film as a genre-changing aberration, the more we perpetuate the idea that women don’t make or watch good movies. Sure, the genre of romantic comedy is in trouble, but that’s only because the genre of comedy as a whole is in trouble. Most comedies released these days are lackluster and hackneyed. The only difference is that when a man writes a comedy that rises above the dross, an entire nation of film reviewers don’t bend over backward to express their astonishment.

So yes, go see Bridesmaids. See it twice. But don’t see it to make a feminist statement and damn the man. Do it because it’s a great fucking movie, and you’ll be sorry you missed it.

April, what do you think? Is it our social responsibility as women—as humans—to see Bridesmaids in the theater? Do you think the film should carry the standard of savior of the rom-com? How do you feel about the media discourse surrounding this movie? Tune in tomorrow for April’s take!

Update: April’s response is live!

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