On the Female Characters in Bridesmaids (2011)

Wow. I’ve been reading these praising reviews of Bridesmaids for the past few weeks, getting excited about finally seeing _that_ comedy film where the women are uncensored, funny and free of stereotypical bounds. With a 7.5 from IMDB and an astounding 90% at RT I had high expectations from this Apatowian Paul Feig production.

Despite a few lagh out loud moments the film could’ve done with at least a 30min shorter running time and less clichés, but all in all Bridesmaids is pretty harmless and funnier than most comedies centered around women. I don’t really have a problem with the film, the plot or the acting in itself, but rather the praise it’s been getting as some sort of revelation of real women and their behaviours.

Here’s What Went Wrong

The Characters
– The neurotic and slutty Annie (Kristen Wiig), Lillian, whose life is finally complete after having founs the perfect man to marry (Maya Rudolph), the bitchy socialite (Rose Byrne), the hypersexualized, overweight and somewhat trivial Megan (Melissa McCarthy), the raunchy, hypersexualized soccer mom (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and the virginal prude (Ellie Kemper) let their respective hair down before the wedding. Which depiction doesn’t sound like a stereotypical character to you? How is this not Sex and the City with less money and glamour?

– Just because women talk like actual real people, curse and discuss sex it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re breaking any stereotypes here. Sure by giving these girls diarrhea you are desexualizing them but if in the next breath you have one of the characters openly throwing themselves at strangers, sleeping with someone they hate and making out with eachother (I mean who doesn’t want to see some girl-on-girl action!) I was starting to expect an skimply clothed pillow fight! You left me hanging with that one Feig!

– A unique approach to women in a comedy shouldn’t equal “Hey let’s look at these women as a group of men!”. Even though the writers (Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo are indeed solely female, it doesn’t make the characters automatically ‘female-friendly’. The comedy is very much influenced by the likes of SNL, which is very hit and miss with all of its characters, especially with the women.

– The fact is, that women aren’t considered funny. I, as a woman, rarely enjoy comedy by women and avoid seeing female stand-up. This is in no way a reflection of the gender itself, just the slightly narrow framework women have been left to work with. Most of the time they other do the “I’m unattractive!”-bit, the “fat and jolly” bit, or the “I hate men, sarcastic”- bit. Thankfully there are women out there breaking that stereotype, but I didn’t really see them here.

– One thing I absolutely hated in the film, is that even with the super ridiculous stuff guys do to eachother in comedies, the way they diss is eachother and even get violent with eachother, there’s always an emphasis on camaraderie and ‘bromance’. Here, especially the central characters, handled friendship as a posession “SHE’S MY BEST FRIEND” “NO MY BIEST FRIEND” and addressed eachother in a caddy, profoundly unfriendly and selfish way.

On the Plus Side

– Equal treatment for equal sexes
This is a film that handles women in the same crude, obnoxious manner as guy-centric joints like The Hangover. That’s absolutely fine and some installations of that genre are very succesful and funny. Bridesmaids doesn’t have the same appeal as the before mentioned surprise hit, but is still a solid 3-star comedy. Go ahead and present women as dudes in a film, but don’t call it something it’s not.

Kristen Wiig
Having gone on (and on) about the illusion of unstereotypical characters, I have to give some leeway to Wiig’s Annie. As the only character that’s given time to grow and is placed outside of the wedding scenario, Annie kept surprising me. Her self-depricating, passive agressive and witty demeanour was endearing and relatable to a borderline cynical realist like me. Conversations between her and Lillan, her childhood best friend seem genuine and real.

Rebel Wilson
So frikkin’ hilarious. Even when sprinkled with blatant English stereotypes she handles them well and presents a uniquely funny sidebit.

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22 responses to “On the Female Characters in Bridesmaids (2011)

  1. I hated this film. I got so irritated watching it! It was way too long with the comic set pieces were extended to a ridiculous limit! I liked Wiig’s performance, however. O Dowd’s too!

  2. yes yes yes. good comment on the whole female comedian thing. Sadly, they aren’t that funny. They need some new material, yeah? Tina Fey has some really great thoughts on it in her new book, definitely recommend reading it’s a super quick read. totally pro-Bridesmaids. Just because I’m pro-Kristen Wiig :)

    • I saw this one really good female comedian once, she was from London and did a really sarcastic bit, but can’t for the life of me remember her name. I really dig Charlyne Yi.. She’s good. Kristen Wiig is great! Probably the best thing in the film.

  3. I liked the film. Sure it wasn’t completely devoid of feminine stereotypes, but is any human being? This felt far more real than any film centered around women (with the exception of The Kids Are All Right & Winter’s Bone).

  4. I found this movie to be quite funny. I didn’t rave about it like so many people but I did find it to be an above average comedy. I do agree it runs overlong but ultimately, I was happy to see a female-centric film finally succeed at the box office.

    • You’re right about that!

      My point here is mostly that it was promoted (or reviewed) as something revolutional in regards of female characters, which I really don’t think it was.

      I’m warming up to it a bit after a week !

  5. I still haven’t seen this movie. I really want to because of all the good praise it has been getting. It is nice to see another side of the story!!

    Thanks for putting this together Anna, a great and insightful read!!

  6. The stereotypes are there alright, but I still enjoyed this film more than I expected (I just usually hate comedies). I think it had something really fresh in it. Although I didn’t really analyze the female characterism in it, just took it as a movie.

    • Yeah, I usually do take movies as movies but I just felt that this was branded as some genre transforming piece it totally isn’t.

      It’s not like I deliberately try and find something shitty to say about films, I mostly write reviews of films that I want to recommend, but with this I didn’t really want to comment on the film, just its reputation and characters.

      In my eyes 6/10 for a comedy is pretty good.

  7. I have no interest in seeing this for some reason. I dunno, somehow I didn’t think the trailer was all that funny which probably reflect how I’d feel about the entire movie. I still might see it, just not in a big hurry to do so. Nice writeup, Anna.

  8. I was really pleasantly surprised by how funny I thought this film was.

    I definitely agree that it could have had a tighter cut (30 minutes is right on the money).

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  11. Can I really comment on a film I haven’t seen. Well, yes! I mean, I saw the preview. And women acting like men acting like 13 year old boys is not funny. Neither are 13 year old boys (though I’m constantly being accused of acting that way myself by my wife and I think I’m funny). Oh, and three of my favorite funny women are Paula Poundstone, Ellen Degeneres and Rita Rudner.

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  13. Interesting perspective. I think Bridesmaid was a step in the right direction, although i am not sure i would call it a feminist revolution either. I do think it is important to note the exact definition of what is and isn’t feminist is subjective can be subjective. What is empowering to one person may come off misogynist to others

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