The Fate of Funny Women Hinges on “Bridesmaids”

Bridesmaids photoCan you feel the tension in the air? The fate of funny women everywhere hinges upon today’s release of Bridesmaids, the new comedy co-written by Kristen Wiig and produced by Judd Apatow. The media is angsty about it: Will it hit big box office numbers? Will men actually sign up to go to a chick flick? Will this open the door for more female-driven comedies in Hollywood? “I kept thinking, ‘If I blow this, I’m going to ruin it for these women for years and years,’” director Peter Feig told the New York Times this week. It’s a stressful situation.

I wish it didn’t need to be. Let’s face it: Funny ladies are having a moment and finally getting some attention. Kristin Wiig is anchoring a movie that doesn’t involve MacGruber. Tina Fey’s new book, Bossypants, is a bestseller. The New Yorker just devoted ten pages to Anna Faris, the comedienne and movie star whose best known role was the title character in The House Bunny. This is time for celebration, not hand-wringing.

But we all know the landscape. When a film comes out about men doing funny, stupid things it’s called a comedy, but when a film involves women doing the same funny, stupid things it’s called a romantic comedy, which implies women, and as Tad Friend writes in the New Yorker piece about Faris: “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.” And then there’s the oft-quoted Bechdel Test, which looks for gender bias in films: Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? And, if so, do they discuss something other than a man? It’s startling how few films actually meet this criteria.

So, while the Bridesmaids marketing team is on overdrive trying to convince the public that “chick flicks don’t have to suck” and that it’s a movie for “everyone,” we, the movie-going public are also responsible. First, advice to the ladies: Follow Queen Tina’s advice. In the run-up to her book release, she did a Q&A with the Times where she said that for female driven-films to succeed, women have be more aggressive at the box office:

I feel like it’s harder to get women to show up for movies. They can get it together: “Sex and the City,” once a year, all their ladies, they can get together, but just as a mom, you don’t get that out much. And I feel like, just anecdotally, a lot of times when you get out, it’s that point of purchase moment at the theater, if you’re with your boyfriend or your husband, and they go, “Well I want to see ‘Transformers’,” and you go, “O.K.”

Advice to men: Sack up and support funny ladies. Judd Apatow promises “it will not make you grow breasts.” And just listen to Jon Hamm, a co-star in the film: “Funny is funny, it doesn’t have a gender assigned to it.” Just think, it’s possibly the easiest feminist thing you can do.