I just got around to seeing Bridesmaids this weekend and it was a riot. The movie was the second of the day’s double-header – I saw Hangover 2 first – and was unquestionably the funnier film. When the movie ended and the nearly all-female audience started pouring out of the theater, I had two thoughts; I better beat it to the the ladies’ room because this line is going to be bonkers and was Bridesmaids a feminist flick?
Although the movie was produced by Judd Apatow, the man behind the (admittedly hilarious) immature dude-bro comedies Superbad, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the comedic geniuses behind the project belong to Kristin Wiig (who also stars in the film) and Annie Mumolo. Both women have serious comedic credits to their name – Wiig is a “Saturday Night Live” alum and Mumolo a former member of well-known L.A. comedy troupe The Groundlings – but more importantly, they seem to have insight into what makes women laugh.
Without giving up any spoilers, Bridesmaids could be a feminist movie not only because it passes the Bechdel test, but because it’s not afraid to go there and chip away at the façade of what a woman should say and do. Women want to be able to laugh at ourselves and the situations in life that we all experience in a healthy way and not be relegated to playing the comic foil, the shrew girlfriend/wife, the good-time gal, or any other stereotypical female character as portrayed through a male-centric lens with no view into where the woman is coming from. Bridesmaids made me stop and think: Can women turn a critical eye on their romantic and friendly relationships and see the humor in our shared experience? Yes. Can women identify with characters who are imperfect and trying their best measure up against the sometimes harsh and unforgiving standards of society? Yes we can, and it’s funny. Will women “get” toilet humor? Hell yes.
Sure, the regular tropes and clichés are present in Bridesmaids like the pretty one who can’t make female friends, girl-on-girl jealousy, competitiveness, choosing the bad-boy over the good-guy, etc., but not once did I feel like they were played for cheap laughs or that the main characters were selling themselves out. It’s not a feminist movie because it sheds every fiber of your average chick-flick – it’s a movie about a wedding! Hello! Contrary to popular belief, feminism isn’t all about burning your bra and castrating men. Like the movie, we can be flawed, different, and vulnerable to the societal pressures around us yet still be feminists.
I think back to smart comedies led by females on television like “I Love Lucy,” “Roseanne” and “Grace Under Fire” and I see a examples of women going for the punch line in a way that allows me to laugh along without feeling bad for having done so later. No, this is not the first nor the last comedy film that could be dubbed “feminist” but I don’t think I’ve seen one in quite some time. The theater was packed for Bridesmaids and looked a lot like when I went to see the first Sex and the City movie – girlfriends going out to the movies together, en masse, and making an event out of it. With SATC, though, I felt like something had been shoved down my throat because it’s what “they” thought I wanted and I felt sorry for having swallowed it. But after Bridesmaids, I was left wanting more.
What do you think? Is Bridesmaids the right step towards better opportunities for women in comedy and the women who enjoy them?