Having turned 18 at the birth of the Sex and the City era, college and adulthood came at a time when sexual expression and alcohol could be worn like Girl Scout badges, proudly and with accomplishment. It was the best of times (that I could remember) and the worst of times (that were gladly hazy). The graduates of the millennium celebrated leaving the sophomoric comedy of American Pie and blissfully embraced the gratuitous ass shots of Will Ferrell. And just as quickly as we got on “double-secret-probation” in college,” we just as quickly matriculated from it. Now working stiffs and pissed off about having $160,000 in college debt, Judd Apatow appeared to ease our pain with raunchy and outrageous humor.
In the back of my mind, I always noticed the boy’s club atmosphere in today’s comedies, but between attending a college where 70% of the student body were men, being one of the few women on the track team and working in finance, I was always “one of the guys,” so I never paid it much mind.
In appropriate timing, like all comedies, The Hangover came out in the year of my bachelorette party (also in Vegas). Brushing the dust off my Girl Scout sash and admiring a few of my own badges – “Held my own hair back” and “Boot n’ rallied twice” – I reveled in the excitement that this was going to be a weekend of epic proportions, with new badges earned in Seth Rogen-esque fashion. No one threw a mattress from the roof of Caesars Palace, but we would have thrown some rebellious tampons from the Mirage’s windows…if they opened. As ladies, we’ve enjoyed the jokes and vulgarity of Apatow and his predecessors; however, the truth is we’ve been outside the men’s room peering in. Creepy, but true. The film industry has failed to give women a true comedy on par with our male colleagues without the trite themes of dating, childbirth, weddings and fashion. Instead, we’ve resigned ourselves to live vicariously through the mishaps of Jonah Hill and Michael Cera.
So I was more than ecstatic to hear that Apatow was finally putting on a thong and producing a comedy expressly for women.Business Trip, starring Leslie Mann, is set to start production in 2011. Characterized as the female version of the The Hangover, Business Trip features a group of women on a trip where they do anything but business. Having existed in the 9 to 5 world for too long, it’s about time women had their own Office Space; our cubical suffering has reached comical proportions too.
But then my heart sank as I read about the other comedy he’s producing, unimaginatively called Bridesmaids (Click here to watch the trailer. Release Date May 2011). Written by and starring Kristen Wiig, the movie is about “a maid of honor trying to please the snobby, eccentric or really awkward bridesmaids at every pre-wedding event before her best friend’s nuptials.” Given Wiig’s successful comedic record, it’s clear she can hang with the funniest of dudes, and I’m willing to bet she lays down some solid jokes in Bridesmaids, but that type of movie has graced the big screen before with lamer jokes and interchangeable blondes and brunettes – cue the bridezilla, bridesmaid dress fat jokes, Vera Wang and a heart warming, seen-the-error-of-our-ways ending.
Around the release of My Life in Ruins (2009), Nia Vardalos revealed that some studios decided to no longer make female-lead movies because of low financial return. If studios continue to produce “chick-shit” movies with a shoddy script and characters limited to romantic roles, sexy roles, marriage roles, mommy roles or nagging wife roles, of course a movie won’t make any money. The question for Wiig and Apatow is “How will this movie differ from similarly themed ones?”
As women, Wiig and Mann have the resume and the resources to set new theatrical standards for women. But to Ms. Wiig, Ms. Mann and Mr. Apatow – be forewarned, you have some huge hurdles to overcome in order to break new ground and old stereotypes. If Gloria Steinem can tell you anything it’s that we’ve had to work twice as hard to prove ourselves. You’d better add some barbed wire to those Manolos before walking down that aisle.