The Future Of Women In Comedy In Hollywood

Why Bridesmaids Matters
May 9, 2011

This feels like another cultural watershed moment for women on screen. A big studio comedy that is about women. We all know the difficulties women in comedy have faced. Gone are the days of Goldie Hawn and Madeline Kahn and Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. Women who were allowed to be stars and allowed to be funny in movies.

But women and comedy is stuck in the romantic comedy genre and it’s about time that we get a film that could potentially break through as a full blown comedy. As I’ve said before I wish this film didn’t have a wedding theme focus to it because I am sick of wedding flicks but I can see it as a bridge film. What I mean is that a comedy about a wedding and a single woman who has to be her best friends maid of honor is probably the only type of comedy that could get made at a studio because of the complete discomfort with women being funny. Remember there is a belief that men don’t want to see women onscreen and it’s worse in comedy.

It’s not like I am making this stuff up. Just a month ago there was the New Yorker piece on Anna Faris’ film What’s Your Number where the money quote was: “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.”

Bridesmaids is directed by a man–Paul Feig and produced by a man–Judd Apatow who told Kristen Wiig that she should write a movie for her to star in and he would produce it after she impressed him with her work in Knocked Up. So Kristen and her writing partner Annine Mumolo have worked on Bridesmaids for a couple of years and now the movie is ready to be released this Friday.

All the players know the stakes. Paul Feig told the NY Times: “If I blow this, I’m going to ruin it for these women for years and years.” And Feig also adds that the film is not the female Hangover (thank god) and that it is not a bloody wedding movie like that crappy ones we have been inundated with recently. (Cue a Kate Hudson film) He says: it is “a nervous-breakdown movie, marked by a balance between outrageous comedy and emotional moments” which was conceived before The Hangover so now I’m going to call the Hangover as the male version of Bridesmaids.

So who has the biggest stakes going into the weekend? Judd Apatow will keep making movies. If this one doesn’t succeed he can go right back to making movies about stunted men with hot girlfriends who don’t say much. And Paul Feig could always go back to directing successful TV comedies.

It’s the women who have the biggest stakes here.

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo could have great careers as writers. Wiig could also become the go to comic actress which would be great especially if she keeps writing stuff for herself and doesn’t get stuck in the typical Hollywood comedies about women which inherently suck.

But also it’s us – regular women who want to see funny movies who have a lot at stake here. If this film does well it could mean we could see more funny ladies onscreen. If it doesn’t, god help us because we will be stuck with romantic comedies for years to come.

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