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Let Us Be Assholes–It’s Civil Rights!

[ 133 ] April 18, 2013 |

This post is currently sitting nearly commentless at my joint. I actually wrote it specifically for LGM, but had not received the keys to the kingdom yet. With all the sucktastic news coming from all corners of country, I thought a little levity might be in order.

In keeping with my tradition of only discussing pop culture phenomenons after they’ve ceased to be relevant, here is my take on 2011′s “Bridesmaids.”

Bridesmaids” was nothing less than a revelation for me because by the time it came out, I was convinced that women would never be allowed to be funny in movies again. Sure they were allowed to be funny on TV occasionally. Sure, Leslie Mann was allowed to steal scenes in her husband, Judd Apataow’s, films. But beyond that, it seemed like Hollywood comedies were destined to be one sausage party after another. I hadn’t seen a comedy where women were featured prominently since “Romy and Michelle’s Highschool Reunion” and “Superstar,” which was made in 1999.

Is “Bridesmaids” the funniest movie ever made? Probably not. But it is incredibly funny and hugely important. Here’s why:

  • It’s women! Women, women everywhere! Being funny! (It should be noted the two men in the film–Chris O’Dowd and Jon Hamm– are also superb and superbly funny.)
  • More importantly it’s women being funny, gross, immature, and assholish. I wanted to write about why this film was so dear to me awhile back, but couldn’t seem to find the time. All I knew was I wanted to title the entry “Let Us Be Assholes.” Because, let’s face it, a major component of comedy is enjoying neurotic idiocy, awkward moments, and even the occasional gross-out moment. And there seemed to be precious few vehicles where women were allowed to be, well, um, gross assholes. In “Bridesmaids” Kristen Wiig’s character, Annie, is at turns goofy, petulant, obnoxious, selfish, and yeah, assholish. IT. IS. AWESOME. Because it’s funny.
  • Melissa McCarthy plays a woman doesn’t wear a whole lot of make-up and is kinda butch. And the joke is not “Ha ha!!!! Look at the fat woman who’s not conforming to beauty norms!!!” The joke is, “Hey, look at the fat woman who’s not conforming to beauty norms, is a little butch, is highly successful, is a great friend, and is sexually successful!” And is scene-stealingly hilarious. Seriously, if you can’t gin up a reason to pop in or stream this movie, do it for Melissa McCarthy alone, because I don’t think there’s any use in pretending she’s not currently one of the funniest people on the planet.
  • Did I mention the women are funny? Well, they are. Even the women who are dealing with the material that’s not broad. Like many comedies “Bridesmaids” gets better the more you watch it. And when you watch it several times, you start to search out the smaller nuggets of comedy gold. Rose Byrne’s performance is one of those nuggets. She is subtly hilarious as the perfect, beautiful trophy wife and friend-thief, Helen. The scene where Annie tries to get her ex’s attention by driving like an idiot only gets funnier if you pay attention to what Helen is doing in the background.
  • The film is called “Bridesmaids,” but it’s not about dream weddings. It’s not about longing for love. It’s not about men. It’s about friendship, and how sometimes we treat good friends like lovers. We get jealous, we get possessive. I think everyone who has ever had a really good friend has had a moment where we’ve felt anxious about letting a new friend of a friend into our life. That dynamic is silly with comedy gold and I’m glad somebody finally decided to mine it. Really, watching Annie flip out over best friend’s new friend is not just incredibly funny, it’s incredibly relatable.

And, thank goddess almighty it’s not ALL ABOUT THE MENZ.

FANTASTIC DANCING UPDATE:

 

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  1. bspencer says:

    “This is the 90′s.”

    Now, I know that some of you will quibble with my assertion that this kid is a fantastic dancer. But let’s get something straight right now: you’re just jealous.

  2. Clambone says:

    “it’s not ALL ABOUT THE MENZ.”

    I thought that the near-complete absence of Lillian’s (May Rudolph’s) fiancee to be fairly striking. I completely understand that that’s not the subject of the movie, and that’s great (please don’t assume that I’m incapable of enjoying a movie that doesn’t put the men at the center).

    But they (a) cast a somewhat dumpy, but funny and reasonably recognizable, actor as the groom (Tim Heidecker), (b) gave the audience plenty of reason to think that their marriage would be unhappy (since he’s likely to be absent for work a lot, just like Helen’s husband), and then (c) not only didn’t address possible problems in their relationship, but literally didn’t give him a single word to say.

    It seems like a more conventional approach (not that every movie has to be conventional!) would cast a guy who was about as attractive as Maya Rudolph and take 30 seconds to establish that he’s good to her, and carry on. Or, it might treat Lillian’s concerns about her future as a plot point.

    Isn’t that a little odd, or is it just me?

    • bspencer says:

      I didn’t find it weird because I really felt that a.) Lillian was actually pretty happy in her relationship (She had concerns about where her life was going, but I chalked that up to generic cold feet) and b.) the story’s not about Lillian–it’s about Annie.

      I agree, though–waste of Tim Heidecker.

    • Sherm says:

      It struck me as odd that they made him out to be such a putz, but it didn’t distract from the movie much.

      Having said that, I prefer Romy and Michelle’s any day. My wife and I still quote from that movie after all these years. I don’t think that we can go to a wedding without her saying, “this dress exacerbates the genetic betrayal that is my legacy.”

    • penpen says:

      I actually liked it a lot because I thought it was an intentional satirical inversion of typical bro movies like the Hangover where the love interest is a flimsy non entity. I mean, there were opportunities where he could have said something, anything and still he had no lines. That it was Tim Heidecker playing the man only underscored the wink/nod to me.

      • witless chum says:

        I think he did actually have one line at their engagement party. It didn’t strike me as that weird when I saw the movie and wasn’t the idea something like Lillian was still living in Milwaukee, but he was mostly in Chicago due to work? Maybe I filled this in myself, but once they get married they’d probably live in the same place?

  3. LeeEsq says:

    I sometimes like to define myself as a pessimistic feminist. That is, I believe that women are just as banal, buffonish, disgusting, low, and venal as men and that they should have every opportunity and right to prove this. The right to be low can be just as important as the right to be high.

  4. JustRuss says:

    Haven’t seen the movie, so I watched the car clip. Very meh.

  5. tonycpsu says:

    Melissa McCarthy has also been excellent in both of her SNL appearances, despite not being given the greatest sketches to work with. There did seem to be a bit too much Chris Farley-ish “overweight person doing slapstick sight gags” stuff going on for my taste, but she’s a tremendous performer, and I hope there are some up-and-coming female comedy leads out there that can follow in her footsteps. (The career trajectories of Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, etc. have been rather disappointing, IMHO.)

    • bspencer says:

      Melissa McCarthy is a huge talent and I so want her to find more vehicles like “Bridesmaids.” I don’t mind her doing the physical comedy stuff that points her size so long as she’s comfortable doing it. I just don’t want that to be all she does, because it would be a waste of her talents.

      Her appearances on SNL were revelatory for me. I enjoyed the hell out of them.

      • tonycpsu says:

        I don’t mind her doing the physical comedy stuff that points her size so long as she’s comfortable doing it.

        Oh, absolutely, but over-reliance on the “fat people are funny” trope is going to lead to more typecasting. I’m not saying there was any chance of a casting director casting her in a role that would normally go to Katherine Heigl or Jennifer Aniston, but I just don’t see the value in doing more than one of those sketches per SNL appearance, tops.

      • Sherm says:

        Melissa McCarthy is a huge talent

        Now you’re typecasting her too. She was great in Bridesmaids btw.

    • MM is great, though sadly already typecast I think.

      Tina Fey’s most recent movie was promising but a dud. Her and Paul Rudd are so passive, as though both don’t quite know what to do without someone like Tracy Morgan or Will Ferrell to react to.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Wouldn’t it be great if she was cast as a character whose weight had nothing to do with the story?

        • bspencer says:

          I didn’t think her weight informed her character in “Bridesmaids” much. There was a passing joke about high school being hard for her, but other than that I thought the focus was on her being a good friend and rather sexually aggressive with her new amour.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            The comedy about her sexual aggressiveness was based on her weight. Those scenes wouldn’t have been funny with a skinny actress.

            I’ll guarantee you that the script was written for that character to be heavy.

            • bspencer says:

              I think you may be projecting. I think her weight had little bearing on the comedy. The situations are absurd; they don’t depend on her being heavy.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                I think you may be engaging in wishful thinking.

                • bspencer says:

                  Ya know what? I’m gonna stop this right here because I’ve seen what you’ve done to other threads and I don’t want you to do it to this one.

                  So, OK, whatever you say.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  “What you do to other threads” = argue effectively.

                • bspencer says:

                  I think you may be engaging in wishful thinking.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  And if you wanted to “stop this right now,” instead of make a play for audience sympathy, you would have just not responded.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  So, anyway, the humor in a female character being sexually aggressive depends on her not being physically attractive to the audience. If an attractive woman is being sexually aggressive, even absurdly so, then the audience is going to be torn between finding the scene hawt and finding it funny. Sometimes this is done deliberately, like in old Woody Allen movies, but that is clearly not what the film makers were going for in these scenes. Those scenes weren’t meant to be titillating at all.

                  It’s like the old SNL skit with Chris Farley trying out to be a Chippendale’s dancer. That same scene, with exactly the same dialogue and movements, wouldn’t be funny if the Farley role was played by a handsome athlete.

                • bspencer says:

                  Geez Louise, I want to let this go, but I just can’t because you’re so wrong. I’m not sure if you realize this or not but you often state your opinion as if it were fact. It ain’t.

                  A.) You’re assuming fat women can’t be hawt. (A troubling assumption)

                  B.) You’re assuming that many people will not find an attractive sexually aggressive woman funny. (A weird assumption)

                  Obviously the Chris Farley sketch doesn’t work if he’s not fat. “Bridesmaids” is not a Chris Farley sketch.

                  Don’t you see? Your projecting your preferences onto the conversation. Try to be more objective.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  You make these things far too personal. Write about the subject, not me.

                  A.) You’re assuming fat women can’t be hawt. (A troubling assumption)

                  Man, are you barking up the wrong tree.

                  I’m assuming the producers of the movie deliberately made this heavy character not hawt. BTW, so are you: Melissa McCarthy plays a woman doesn’t wear a whole lot of make-up and is kinda butch. And the joke is not “Ha ha!!!! Look at the fat woman who’s not conforming to beauty norms!!!” The joke is, “Hey, look at the fat woman who’s not conforming to beauty norms, is a little butch, is highly successful, is a great friend, and is sexually successful!” You were quite aware when you wrote this post that her appearance was meant to be unattractive, and that this was part of the joke.

                  B.) You’re assuming that many people will not find an attractive sexually aggressive woman funny.

                  Actually, what I wrote was: If an attractive woman is being sexually aggressive, even absurdly so, then the audience is going to be torn between finding the scene hawt and finding it funny. You have to feel both emotions in order to be torn between them; that’s what “torn between” means. Why, I even gave an example of this being done deliberately. Another would be the “I’m Tired” song in Blazing Saddles.

                  Since you got both of your points completely wrong – since, in fact, you projected a completely made-up preference onto me that is exactly, demonstrably the opposite of the truth – you’ll forgive me if your insistence that I need to be more objective isn’t terribly compelling.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  In point of fact, noting that the generic audience member’s reaction to a heavy actress would be different from my own, and incorporating this awareness into my reading of the film, is more-or-less a textbook example of what someone trying to be objective is supposed to do.

                • witless chum says:

                  I think you’re both wrong in that I took the joke of McCarthy’s character was that she was socially awkward in pretty much all ways.

                  Too open about her sexual interest in air marshals, puppy stealing, willing to intrusively search for weapons on said air marshal, expressing her deserve to be a good friend through wrestling, etc. Megan isn’t embarrassed to be fat, certainly, but she also isn’t embarrassed to be loud and weird. She would still be funny if she was skinny, but not funny if she was conventionally made-up and didn’t act weird constantly. Her weight informs the character, I think, because it reads like her wardrobe and lack of makeup as someone who doesn’t care or may actually be unaware of conventional beauty standards, but it’s not the whole package. Kristin Wiig would probably play that character, so long as she was de-glammed completely, maybe Ellie Kemper, too. Probably not Rose Byrne.

                • witless chum says:

                  I meant Kristen Wiig “could” play that character, not would. Mya Rudolph, too, now that I think of it.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Her weight informs the character, I think, because it reads like her wardrobe and lack of makeup as someone who doesn’t care or may actually be unaware of conventional beauty standards, but it’s not the whole package.

                  This makes sense. Her weight is used to make her unattractive and awkward, but they also give her the hat, the haircut, and the wardrobe.

                • Stag Party Palin says:

                  I just thought you might find it interesting to learn how people with class act.

                  ROTFL! Joe, you make me believe in the Oozlum Bird.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  witless,

                  There’s another aspect of her character that the actress’s body type reinforces: she’s supposed to be physically intimidating, a tough guy, a strong person. For instance, in the scene on the airplane, the air marshall is supposed to be not just uninterested, but a little bit threatened. The character depends on somebody with a robust physical presence – which, in turn, reinforces the inner strength that she talks about when she describes overcoming the bullying in high school.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Stag Party,

                  I can’t say that you have ever made me think of anything at all.

                  I’m glad you saw an opportunity for that internet forced-laughter thing. It’s always good to jump into an ongoing conversation with that.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Not that you will; I just thought you might find it interesting to learn how people with class act.

                  Joe, if you want to be able to continue to comment here I’d cut this out very quickly.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  What’s particularly awesome is to see someone who chooses an internet handle based on demeaning a female major-party vice-presidential candidate by comparing her to a stripper hold forth on who gets to discuss classy behavior on a thread about female image and empowerment.

                  And…and this is the best part…to do so with a quip intended to accuse someone else of making an ironic statement based on a lack of self-awareness.

                  You’re like performance art.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Typical, Scott.

                  Baseless personal insult? Fine.

                  Objection to baseless personal insult? Watch it, joe, or you’ll get banned.

                  Typical.

                  You do whatever you consider appropriate.

              • bspencer says:

                Actually, what I wrote was: If an attractive woman is being sexually aggressive, even absurdly so, then the audience is going to be torn between finding the scene hawt and finding it funny. You have to feel both emotions in order to be torn between them; that’s what “torn between” means. Why, I even gave an example of this being done deliberately. Another would be the “I’m Tired” song in Blazing Saddles.

                So then you’re admitting that the airplane scene is not funny because she’s fat, then? Please to be making up your mind.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Not my problem that you can’t follow a nuanced point.

                  BTW, someone with class would be apologizing for the completely baseless accusation you threw at me, now that you’ve forced to confront how wrong you were.

                  Not that you will; I just thought you might find it interesting to learn how people with class act.

        • Wouldn’t it be great if she was cast as a character whose weight had nothing to do with the story?

          Fey?

      • Djur says:

        I just don’t think movies are Tina Fey’s vehicle. She does a decent job writing them, but her style fits TV a lot better.

      • bspencer says:

        witless, you’re kinda making my point for me. The character is not contingent on being fat.

        Also, I think you have insight in the character I didn’t ’til now. Well-played.

        • witless chum says:

          Thanks, ex-Dr. Rereading your original post, I think I overstated the differences between what I was thinking and what you wrote cause I didn’t read it that gud.

          Were you a Gilmore Girls person? I’m trying to remember if they ever played her weight for laughs on that show? I’m thinking not. Non-Fairy Sookie was funny for being a little ditzy and neurotic and a comical perfectionist in the kitchen. It was actually a pretty different character than Megan.

          • bspencer says:

            I never watched that show, no. I had no idea she was on that.

            • witless chum says:

              Yeah, she plays Lauren Graham’s best friend/coworker/business partner. She’s probably fifth or sixth or so in screen time, has a few storylines of her own, but mostly a supporting character to the titular girls.

              My wife and I both liked the show, until the universally reviled final season. Depends on your tolerance for quirk and whimsy, I’d say, which gets often slathered thickly on.

              But in terms of the post you wrote here, it does do a pretty good job of letting the lead actresses be people in that they’d sometimes make bad or assholish choices. Lauren Graham’s character especially is sometimes outright evil to her rich, controlling parents, who are not quite as bad as she often thinks they are. And she does a fair amount of obviously wrong dude picking.

              I’d say worth checking out, but I’ve also recommended Finnish death metal to people on this website.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          The character is not contingent on being fat.

          So the theory here is that a Hollywood movie was made in which a female character’s unattractiveness was a core comedic element.

          The actress cast to play that role is overweight, and dressed and shot in a manner intended to make that fact clear.

          But that’s as coincidence, and neither the character’s nor the actress’s weight was important to the comedic effect.

          Hokay.

    • (the other) Davis says:

      There did seem to be a bit too much Chris Farley-ish “overweight person doing slapstick sight gags” stuff going on for my taste…

      My girlfriend and I both cringed all the way through her “monologue” during her most recent appearance on SNL because of this.

      She completely dominated every sketch she appeared in during that episode, though. One of the few SNL weeks where even the sketches near the end of the episode were worth watching.

    • Johnny Sack says:

      You have to ignore 30 Rock to call Tina Fey’s career trajectory disappointing.

      • tonycpsu says:

        It’d be much more disappointing without 30 Rock, but I stand by my original statement. It’s that we’ve seen what she’s capable of on 30 Rock that makes her movie roles so disappointing.

        • Johnny Sack says:

          I agree completely, but this is not something unique to Fey or Wiig. Fey is just further proof that the television to film jump is very difficult. Most highly successful TV or movie actors/actresses don’t have cross-medium success. There are numerous examples you can point to, but it’s not terribly common.

  6. Joe says:

    I’m not a gigantic fan of the style of humor of this movie so would try to find women being funny elsewhere. There is also other ways for them to act like assholes etc. But, since some like this type of thing, it’s great when it is equally provided. See also:

    http://bechdeltest.com/view/2123/bridesmaids/

  7. Bridesmaids was a surprise for me as well, but mostly because it was a comedy movie aimed at women that actually went for big laughs. Most comedies directed at women don’t really attempt that. The studios have figured out a way to crank out the same movie over and over again, and really with romcoms the jokes are confined to the first two acts, and you know which types of humor to expect in each. (1st act=some jokes and wordplay, 2nd act=awkward/cringe comedy as they start to go on dates, and then the 3rd act=speeches about what the characters are feeling and no laughs)

    Bridesmaids turned this on its head. The first two acts were funny. The third act really didn’t lose any of the slack, comedically, even though it was emotionally darker. The script alternated bigger and smaller laughs, which is what you have to do for a hilarious movie. What made this happen, in addition to having actually funny people in a movie rather than Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl or Gerard Butler, is that they actually had comedy pros make the thing rather than the hack factory. It was actually trying to be a hilarious comedy, and lo and behold, men went to see it in droves too.

    There’s no reason why romantic comedies can’t go after big laughs, or shitcan the third act “I’m learning things” pabulum and find something more interesting and truthful. A lot of older romantic comedies are incredibly outrageous. The Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedies, for instance, regularly go for big laughs. The only reason they’re not now is because Hollywood has a license to print money because a certain audience will see these movies regardless of quality and apparently doesn’t demand humor in their comedy.

    • bspencer says:

      Well, yeah. “Bridesmaids” is not a romantic comedy. It’s just a comedy. MOAR PLEASE.

      • Ian says:

        It’s so far from romantic comedy that I was a little surprised that they ended it with Annie and Nathan getting back together; I could see it on a narrative path where, as in reality, sometimes there’s just too much bad history for a relationship to work out. The ending was thus a little too deus ex machina for me.

  8. joe from Lowell says:

    It really does get better with repeated viewings.

    The comedy is – I don’t know how to put this – broad comedy done delicately?

    The characters are extreme and bufoonish, but in the way a real person who is extreme and buffoonish would act, not like an extreme buffoon who is just there for the joke. It reminds me of “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

    • witless chum says:

      That’s a great way of putting it. Thinking about other movies that would fit the same thing, Dazed and Confused kinda works the same way. It’s not as funny to me and isn’t trying to be, but it has a similar relationship to the cartoonish antics of the characters. It’s going more for a vibe than big laughs, so it’s really pretty different, but has that same quality I think you’re zeroing in on.

  9. virag says:

    wait, bridesmaids was funny? really? no, it was awful. insipid and insulting judd apatow dreck is just as terrible when it stars women. melissa mccarthy is a hell of an actor for sure. the movie sucked. atmo.

  10. This post is currently sitting nearly commentless at my joint.

    I can’t keep up with anybody any more. Boo hoo.

  11. oldster says:

    On the basis of this write-up, I’d like to see Bridesmaids.

    But I thought “Romy & Michelle” was really mean-spirited towards its two leads. They were made to seem entirely witless and un-admirable. I thought the movie clearly instructed us to laugh *at* these two women, rather than *with* them.

  12. I wish to thank Noisewater-Spencer for defending my right to be an asshole.

  13. OmerosPeanut says:

    Even the women who are dealing with the material that’s not broad.”

    Not sure if intended or not, but this caught me as funny because the joke introduced by the emphasis also dovetails with the point of your post. It’s not “Women are funny when talking about the concerns of women,” it’s “women are funny.”

    I, for one, support our soon-to-be female comic overlords.

  14. bspencer says:

    In point of fact, noting that the generic audience member’s reaction to a heavy actress would be different from my own, and incorporating this awareness into my reading of the film, is more-or-less a textbook example of what someone trying to be objective is supposed to do.

    How the fuck do know what the generic audience member thinks, though? Don’t you see how shockingly arrogant that is? Arrogance is something few can get away with. You have to be incredibly smart and incredibly funny. (Helps to be great-looking, too.) Since you are none of those things, you need to take it down a notch.

  15. Dave says:

    It wasn’t really my cup of tea comedically. But I appreciate that it was women doing that type of comedy instead of the typical cast of men that usually do it. I will not, however, forgive ripping of Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle when they sing that ridiculous song at the end of the wedding.

    • dave says:

      +1. Especially on the Harold and Kumar thing.

      Although I think I should see Bridesmaids again before I pass final judgment on it as “meh.” I laughed pretty hard at the above clips.

      Also too, I am a different dave than the “Dave” I am replying to.

      Wouldn’t that be the most poorly hidden sockpuppetry ever though?

  16. I now wish to see a post from Doctor Bunny ears reviewing the Future History documentary Iron Sky.

  17. herr doktor bimler says:

    This post is currently sitting nearly commentless at my joint.

    Heading there now to explain how you’ve misunderstood feminism!

  18. Julia Grey says:

    I guess I have a different sense of humor, because the two clips barely made it up to “mildly amusing” on my own scale.

    Maybe I would have found them funnier in context.

    There’s no telling with me. I usually hate violent humor, bodily fluid humor, etc., yet this was one of the few scenes that has made me howl out loud:

    Tropic Thunder Landmine

    • bspencer says:

      Tropic Thunder definitely had its moments. I thought the best part of the movie was the fake previews in the beginning.

      There are lots of funny movies featuring men.

  19. Ed says:

    I’m happy that female comics have cashed in on the grossout comedy craze, but apart from that “Bridesmaids” has little to recommend it.

    The “Sex and the City” ensemble were very funny at their peak. The first SATC feature film was hardly if at all better than “Bridesmaids” but was a smash hit that showed a comedy aimed at a mostly female audience could open big without an attempt to cater to boys and men. (SATC was also comedy based on sharp dialogue; Michael Patrick King resorts to poopy jokes only when desperate.)

  20. [...] because as I’ve said before, it’s important to the health of comedy that we enjoy watching women act like idiots and assholes. And normally I do. But something about this particular brand of idiocy is not working for me. [...]

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