“Chick” Flicks + “Bridesmaids”; Sexist Praise is NOT More Beautiful than Cinderella

“If this is only a chick flick, then call me a chick!”. Such is the most prominent text on the back of the DVD case for 2011’s smash hit “Bridesmaids,” written by The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern in his review of the film in May. There are two glaring issues here. The first being the fact that such a statement (no doubt wank to his own clever pairing of words) was made in the first place. The second being the decision of the marketing team behind “Bridesmaids'” chose to feature it in their promo. It’s this kind of gendered pandering (that the marketing for “Bridesmaids” is fully guilty of as well) that unfairly pigeonholes a film like “Bridesmaids” into a categorical hole the critic in question clearly felt the need to dig it out of before he even saw it. It’s got an all-female focal cast. It’s written by two women. Thematically it tackles issues of feminine companionship and coupling–hell, it even concludes with a Wilson Phillips  musical number–most of which are explored while its leading ladies parade in four inch heels.

But it’s elements like that which force a simple “comedy” one way or another into the realm of being “unacceptable” for a male audience to consume and, as Morgenstern would suggest, enjoy. In recent popular culture, critics and audiences alike will have you believe that “Bridesmaids” is only “correct” when it’s trailblazing in the romantic comedy genre; when it’s “women telling really dirty jokes and succeeding” and not just “a really fucking fantastic script written by one of the most endearing comedic writers and character performers of today,” which a more appropriate form of praise would be.

I enjoyed the film so much that it currently sits at #5 on my year-end list, with personal nominations for Actress (Wiig), Supporting Actress (McCarthy), Screenplay, and Ensemble Performance. It’s currently looking at two Academy Awards nominations come next weekend (Screenplay and Supporting Actress), where McCarthy will undoubtedly be one of the first of the nominees in the acting categories to lose (Chastain’s got this in the bag). But I even have a problem with that. The industry is all about “paving the way” and “breaking barriers” when it comes to “female” films they’ve classified “Bridesmaids” as one of, but the female acting categories are still given out prior to the men’s. Would it really hurt to shuffle it up every other year? That’s basically telling the pretty girl at the bar she can sit with you and your boys so you look good, but really you just want her to shut up until the bedroom two hours later. Call me pretentious, but I rather enjoy acknowledging a film for being a great film versus heralding it for “breaking” with my subjective perception of a certain genre or mold as many critics praising the film (the Academy is no different) tend to do. “Bridesmaids” is a film which relies more on the charismatic persona of Wiig to shine both on script and screen. It’s a seamless fusion of her screenwriting talents and her ability to work that script into a physical comedic spectacle. The screenplay for “Bridesmaids” doesn’t succeed on a “Film Studies” level, if you will, but rather simply on being an unpretentious, consistently hilarious vessel for an artist’s infectious talent.

Is it so wrong to champion Wiig and Mumolo’s screenplay for simply being “funny?” Or have we in the realm of entertainment consumption strayed so far into self-important territory that we’re afraid to praise something simply for succeeding on the most basic of levels? (the millions who tune in to “Saturday Night Live” every weekend to watch Wiig’s character creations would probably argue otherwise).  Must we really pad a movie that includes a scene of a woman shitting herself in the street as a defining piece of “feminist” comedy in order to legitimize its presence on the awards circuit this year? Some will say yes, it’s not a high enough form of praise to analyze something on the basis of simplicity.

I’d rather sit back and laugh.

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