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Is “Bridesmaids” A Feminist Milestone, Or Just Another Dumb Comedy?

Is “Bridesmaids” A Feminist Milestone, Or Just Another Dumb Comedy?

Bridesmaids, the new woman-centered comedy, performed far better than expected on its opening weekend, raising the question: what does this movie’s success mean for comedy in general, which is overwhelmingly dominated by men?  The stakes were high for Bridesmaids from the moment the trailer came out earlier this winter.  For the most part, critics seemed to feel that it lived up to the hype.  New York Times critic Manohla Dargis claimed that the film offered “irrefutable proof that along with producing and starring in a hit TV series (thank you, Tina Fey), women can go aggressive laugh to aggressive-and-absurd laugh with men.”

An Entertainment Weekly piece, though, pointed out that there’s no reason that we should expect this film not to do well.  Daniel Frankel asked, “Why would a major comedy produced by Judd Apatow, heralded by enthusiastic reviews, featuring a breakout performance by a venerable Saturday Night Live star, the whole thing pitched as a funny, soulful date movie to an audience that regularly turns the worst sort of pandering chick-flick crapola into major hits … why would that movie surprise anyone by making as much on its opening weekend as The Bounty Hunter or Failure to Launch?”

Even so, the movie’s success might disprove prevailing assumptions of what male viewers want.  In a piece for the New Yorker last month, Tad Friend explained, “Studio executives believe that male moviegoers would rather prep for a colonoscopy that experience a woman’s point of view, particularly if that woman drinks or swears or has a great job or an orgasm.”  While male moviegoers’ tastes clearly should not be the main force behind which film projects are greenlighted (even though sadly, they usually are), the popularity of Bridesmaids could show that this perception doesn’t give men a lot of credit.

The film is not perfect.  And I wonder whether, in our desperate searches for a raunchy feminist comedy, we have overstated Bridesmaids’ successes.  Mary Elizabeth Williams pointed out some obvious flaws: ”In a movie that may prove a benchmark for female comedy, it’s ironic that the filmmakers made Annie a baker who has to get her groove back by returning to the kitchen.”  Another character, who is not only socially awkward, personally unpleasant (if occasionally well-meaning) and — surprise! — overweight, shows that sizeism is alive and well in the film industry.

Then too, we have to remember that this is — yet another — wedding movie.  I saw 27 Dresses recently and was reminded, when I saw Bridesmaids, of just how tired the genre (and it really is a genre) is.  Do we need another movie about women acting crazy during friends’ weddings, even if its female characters vomit and melt down instead of daydreaming about babies and melting down?

And although Williams claims that the movie shows that “women can be disgusting and raunchy and winningly heartfelt just the same,” I left the theater disliking most of the characters, especially Kristen Wiig’s.  What grown woman really refuses to sell a “best friends” necklace to a teenage girl in a jewelry store?  

What two friends upstage an engagement party by competing to see who can give the most lavish toast?  And while there certainly are disgusting moments, the women in the film don’t seem realistic in the same way that the sloppy men who populate Judd Apatow’s films do.  Instead, they seem plastic, and a little pathetic.  Ultimately, Bridesmaids was entertaining and in some ways better than the alternatives – but in our search for the milestone feminist comedy, is this really the best we can do?

Have you seen Bridesmaids?  Are you planning to see it?  And what do you think?  Is this a feminist milestone, or a flop?

 

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50 comments

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4:20AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

I saw this last night with my uber-picky boyfriend- he always has to 'search for' motivation/apraise the director (without really knowing the function of a director)....in short, simply looks for reasons to dislike almost every film I like....not this time, though.....he was laughing along with me, and there were so many little moments when I just had to hug myself because they rang a bell......yes- I loved it- and would buy it on dvd! A genuine feel-good movie, where those that SHOULD get their comeuppance..and that's only great!

4:20AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

I saw this last night with my uber-picky boyfriend- he always has to 'search for' motivation/apraise the director (without really knowing the function of a director)....in short, simply looks for reasons to dislike almost every film I like....not this time, though.....he was laughing along with me, and there were so many little moments when I just had to hug myself because they rang a bell......yes- I loved it- and would buy it on dvd! A genuine feel-good movie, where those that SHOULD get their comeuppance..and that's only great!

10:19PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

bridesmaids is a comedy playing on typical stereotypes like all comedy's do. Its hilarious and shouldn't be taken so seriously.

9:41AM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

Not interested, cos looks like those guy movies I dislike, about people being crude, drunk, etc, played for humour. Don't want to sit next to these people, why would I pay to watch them onscreeen? It might actually be funny but not finding it enticing.

10:58AM PDT on May 28, 2011

Why go and see a film about gutter girls...dont see the point really.

12:43PM PDT on May 24, 2011

Funny movies are there to make us laugh ... not make a statement! I can't wait to see it!

11:49PM PDT on May 22, 2011

Whatever.

4:04AM PDT on May 19, 2011

I did see it. Yes, is was "junk food candy" but I did laugh, really laugh. Brainless, ticklish, laughing. There really isn't a story or if there is, don't ask me what it is but yes, I did laugh.

9:06PM PDT on May 18, 2011

I have zero interest in seeing this movie,or any like it (27 Dresses,Bride Wars,etc.).Just not my kind of movie,"chick flicks",for the most part anyway.Does that make me weird?

8:26AM PDT on May 18, 2011

Saw it last night, and there were moments that were amusing. It felt like an extended Saturday Night Live skitch, could cut the movie by half an hour. And look at all those shoes those women are wearing! Platform plus 5 inch stiletto heels, ridiculous

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