Long ago, in the Before Time, there were funny women. Or rather, women were allowed to be funny. Their names were Katherine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Jean Arthur, Irene Dunne, Shirley Maclaine, Thelma Todd, Mae West, Lucille Ball … and those are just the ones that I can think of at the moment. And they played opposite men in comedies and were allowed to be just as funny, sometimes even funnier, than the boys. They were ‘dizzy dames’ and ‘madcap heiresses’ and ‘newspapermen’. They were powerhouses of screwball comedy.
Somewhere along the way (I think it really started in the 90s), it became taboo for girls to be funny. Men were funny. Men were gross and ridiculous. Men got to be childish, get drunk, get high, get laid. The Apatow Factory has produced girls that aren’t allowed to be funny. They have to calm, sedate, the sober counterparts of those wild and crazy guys, who would put up with the madness and eventually, inevitably, stand by their men. And, in those moments when the women got their own films, all they really wanted was a man to take care of, lord over even. They were foils, straightmen, at the most people to be laughed AT, not with.
But there is hope. Great hope. With the release of movies like ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Bad Teacher’, the girls are getting some of their own back. Girls get to be funny again.
‘Bridesmaids’ is not, as some have remarked, a female version of ‘The Hangover’. It’s a whole new thing called ‘Bridesmaids’. And it’s funnier than hell. Probably one of the few movies I have seen to accurately represent adult female relationships, in all their weirdnesses. It’s gross, it’s profane, it uses words that us girls are apparently not supposed to know (unless, of course, we’re sluts). It’s real. There are no shopping montages, no hair-pulling, no vicious back-stabbing, no battles over hunky men. The lives of these women are not fixed by a makeover or a marriage. And these women do not act like men. They act like women, real women. I mean, hell, they act like my friends.
‘Bridesmaids’ doesn’t turn the tables on the guys; it goes off and gets its own table. Marriage, although it is a central concern of the film (much like ‘The Hangover’, let’s be honest), is not the end game. Love, friendship, companionship, the trials of being an adult, regardless of sex, are the complications that run through the movie. There are no easy answers and everything does not get wrapped up in a neat little package. But the women of the movie — and there are many, of all ages — hold together, fighting, swearing, destroying, rebuilding. Growing up. The men are not excluded by a long shot, but it is adult relationships that are celebrated in the most hilarious way possible. Everyone flounders and everyone, in some measure, perseveres. ‘Bridesmaids’ gives me hope for the future of comedy, and for the future of gender relations. The girls get to play as much as the boys, and they do it without being sluts, fashion plates, or that hilarious class of unmarried female who just needs a man to loosen her up and make her life worth living.
Nearing the end of ‘Bad Teacher’ (another recent case of women getting to be profanely hilarious), Jason Segel makes a very *ahem* lewd gesture at Cameron Diaz. Her reaction is not to get 1) offended or 2) secretly turned on. She just smiles. She smiles because she’s found a person, a friend, a man, to be herself with. A man that won’t save her, or change her, but simply be with her. A man just as disgusting as she is. And really, isn’t that all we’re looking for?