"Gender: To Be Determined" is collaborative, interactive blog brought to you by University of Denver students in Lindsey Feitz's "Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies" class.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Bridesmaids": A Feminist Flick (Unit III)


              When I first started researching about the movie "Bridesmaids" I ran into a very interesting (but disturbing) article from the magazine Vanity Fair.  The title of the article is “Why Women Aren’t Funny” written by Christopher Hitchens.  He ends his introduction by asking the question, “Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?”  I think we can all agree that we still live in a “man’s world” so what could Hitchens be thinking when he says women have the male world at their mercy?  Considering it is a proven study that women are still struggling against gender oppression (such as equal pay and gender equality in the workplace) I could only assume he was alluding to the sexual relationships between men and women.  My theory was confirmed when he later stated that women have no need to be funny because, “Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way.  They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.”  As ridiculously skewed of an outlook Hitchens has he is not alone, and the number of people who share the same opinion is reflected in the media today. This is why I praise the movie "Bridesmaids" because it is breaking down the barriers into a male dominated industry.  What a relief to finally watch a movie where the women were not only the main cast not being pushed aside as secondary characters, but more importantly women were represented in real perspective.  As writer Elizabeth Williams puts it, "Bridesmaids" is the “first female black president of female-driven comedies.”

              Why haven’t more movies like "Bridesmaids" been produced?  "Bridesmaids" grossed a total of $169,106,725 exceeding movies such as “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.”   Consider switching the cast of Bridesmaids with a group of males… Would you doubt it would have been just as great of a success?  Our nation is obsessed with dividing gender and many gender stereotypes have resulted from this.  As explained in the article, “Ladies and Gentlemen Femininity, Masculinity, and Identity”, when it comes to the media, a common notion is that women and men will always consume movies that are about men, but men will not consume stories that are about women or “chick flicks.” Maybe people actually do believe that women are not funny but it could also very well be that it is hard to see the truth exposed that women do partake in “guy humor” or “bathroom humor.”
               The producer of "Bridesmaids", Judd Apatow, was hesitant and considered they were “drifting into territory we should leave to the men.” Although it may seem all that needed to happen was to add a few explosive diarrhea and vomiting scenes to a movie with a female cast, there is much more to “Bridesmaids” that makes it a revolutionary movie.  Yes, the humor is grotesque and raunchy but the characters are still acting as modern day women dealing with problems in the female world.  The plot of the story revolves around a wedding with realistic female relationships.  The lead character, Kristen Wiig, is not a glammed up Reese Witherspoon or Jenifer Lopez.  Wiig’s character, Annie, and her other co-stars expose the side of women never revealed in chick flick movies (a few examples: Annie fixing herself up in the morning before the man she slept with wakes up, Wendi McLendon-Covey’s character, Rita, lamenting about her semen covered home).  The characters of "Bridesmaids" let women be seen as what we all have the potential to be… raunchy, gross, but at the same time humans with heart felt emotions. 

              How can we help to reform the media? One way as a consumer you can help women in the movie industry is by simply giving positive reinforcement.  Applauding the works of women can be done through buying tickets and increasing the box office results.  A high box office income can serve just as well as a protest.  If we want to compete for media structural reform we must encourage the head figures of the industry (who are usually men) that we want to see more of women in a comedic, but still realistic, representation.  Women have already proven that they can have a great impact on the industry from other successful female driven shows, like "Sex and the City".  All the media officials need is an economic incentive for reassurance and encouragement to create more female focused movies. 

“How to Reclaim, Reframe, and Reform the Media, A Feminist Advocacy Guide” by Jennifer L. Pozner.  “BITCHfest” 2006.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Feminity, Masculinity, and Identity” by Lisa Miya-Jervis.  “BITCHfest.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams.  “Bridesmaids”: A triumph for vomit, and feminism.  Salon.com 

Rebecca Traister.  “Seeing ‘Bridesmaids’ is a social responsibility”.  Salon.com


  1. I loved your post. I thought it was interesting that you brought up the article by Christopher Hitchens. In my high school's newspaper last year, a guy wrote an article on how women aren't funny, and brought up pretty much the same examples as Hitchens did.

    I do agree there are a lot of female comedians who don't appeal to the vast majority of people, however Ellen Degeneres, Tina Fey, and my favorite, Lisa Lampanelli are just a few examples of extremely funny and extremely successful women. I feel like men don't find women funny because they don't know how they really act when they're not around men. It sucks to say it, but women do hold back a little on the bathroom and grotesque humor in front of men because obviously "women don't poop or fart". I have to admit when I'm with my friends who are girls I talk with a lot more freedom.

    But back to your argument, I think it was great that you gave a solution to help the success of women, and you're spot on in my opinion. Great ideas!

  2. HA! OMG! I totally love this movie BTW! I love that you decided to write about this movie especially because it shows a whole different side to women that men aren't used to seeing. I love a few guy friends that are totally grossed out when a girl is like "I need to fart or poop" and it's like.. why would be grossed out. it's a natural bodily function get the freak over it! haha! but I really do think that if we gave more positive reinforcement to the media and film makers about these types of movies that we would start seeing a lot more of them being produced and women would be in the spotlight for other reasons than looking attractive for men. Good job loved it :)

  3. Uh...Although the so-called humor was horrifyingly disturbing and grotesque, the point you are trying to make comes across well enough to understand. The media is infamous for making men and women appear to be separate beings altogether instead of being humans, and that does not exclude humor. The exact same message given here, especially the last paragraph, is shown in Miss Representation and in the Bitchfest readings we have had. In other words, I feel like this blog post is too close to being a review session for issues we have already gone over.

  4. It is so upsetting that that guy says women should not try to be funny. The idea that women don't have basic bodily functions, curse, eat a lot, or have a sense of humor is a long struggle this movie is finally help women to win. I don't know why the thought that women are thoughtless creatures meant to look nice and cook still exists. Movies like Bridesmaids are hilarious and it sucks that people won't accept them because the main cast is all women who aren't picture perfect 24-7.

  5. I thought you did a good job on the flow of your post. The article you mentioned about women and comedy very much goes with talking about Bridesmaids. I feel that this is the first of hopefully more strong woman based casts for comedies. Though when you mentioned Judd saying that they were drifting into men's territory it is interesting. It's hard to think that society believes comedy is something only men can do.

  6. Little Green- I wonder why you think this "so-called humor [is] horrifyingly disturbing and grotesque." This clip is superficially a joke about bodily functions. The deeper message is that society has a double standard for what is socially appropriate for women and men. I think this clip sends the message that women can do anything that men can do; that women are funny too. Yes, the writers use bodily humor to make that message, but women using bodily humor in comedy is very symbolic of equality in society.

  7. I never realized that comedy movies revolve around men but it's completely true! What women do you think of when you consider comedic movies? No one comes to mind me for. I also think that it's slightly ironic that the movie Bridesmaids did so well in the theaters because of the "raunchy" humor, which is totally expected for guys but slightly unheard of for girls, according to men's expectations since everyone knows that "girls don't have bodily functions."

  8. Thanks for reading my blog and all the positive feedback! I think this issue is often over looked or not acknowledged by our society quite simply because we are accustomed to only seeing comedies based off a male cast and don't know any different. In recent years there have been influential women in the comedy/media world (like Madeline mentioned in her post) for example, Tina Fey, Amy Polar, and Ellen Degeneres, who as individuals are paving the way for future female comedians but can they alone have as big of an impact than producing a powerful movie with a full cast of hilarious women? I don't believe so. I decided to write on "Bridesmaids" because of a comment my dad made right after we walked out of the movie theater. He commented on how "Bridesmaids" was the first comedy he had ever seen in his life with women being the main stars and how refreshing it actually was. If you knew my dad, you could confirm that "Bridesmaids" really does have the power to change the mind of anyone who ever doubted women in the area of comedy.

    I would encourage anyone to look farther into the impact that this movie has had, it was amazing for me to discover how many people have also blogged about it! spread the word!