This weekend, Bridesmaids earned nearly $25 million at the box office, beat out only by the live-action comic-book film Thor, which pulled in $34.5 million in its second week.
It’s a major victory for a so-called “female comedy” and, also, a major wake-up call about the industry and how, apparently, if you want to redefine its standards, you’ll still need to approach marketing in a way that panders to the lowest common denominator and reinforces stereotypes.
Bridesmaids, however, is a stereotype-busting film—a critically acclaimed raunchy female-driven comedy about a seemingly hapless woman (Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig) whose life hits rock bottom after her just-engaged best friend (SNL alum Maya Rudolph) asks her to be the maid of honor at the wedding.
What follows isn’t typical romantic-comedy fare—this is not the kind of film in which Kate Hudson secretly pines for the betrothed groom—but rather an intensely raunchy flick replete with gut-busting sex scenes, scatological humor (read: poop jokes) and a message of female empowerment.
The film’s cast, which includes Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly, Gilmore Girls) in a career-making role, is outstanding, and the script, co-written by Wiig with Annie Mumolo, is fast-paced and furiously funny.
Much of the credit for Bridesmaids’ opening-weekend success, however, is going to its executive producer, Judd Apatow, with one film blog gushing, “We can all start calling Judd Apatow a comedy genius again! … His latest production … blew the garters off its pre-release estimates.”
And why shouldn’t Apatow get the kudos? He’s the guy, after all, who helped push Bridesmaids to the near top with a well-intentioned but frustratingly bro-friendly campaign meant to reassure men that it wouldn’t bust their balls to see a female-driven film with the word bride in its title.
“I hope men go. It will not make you grow breasts,” Apatow posted on Twitter over the weekend. “It will not make you vulnerable. It’s OK.”
The film’s director Paul Feig followed suit, posting, “Guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of” and, tellingly, “If I blow this, I’m going to ruin it for these women for years and years.”
Sad, but probably true.
This is an industry, after all, that caters to an audience of male ticket buyers that supposedly balks at the idea of seeing a film told from a women’s viewpoint.
So what came first: the sexist attitude or the brainwashing? These days both are so intertwined, it’s difficult to tell where Hollywood’s sexism starts and the audiences’ stupidly chauvinistic attitudes end.
To wit: Over the weekend I heard a radio deejay at 106.5 The Buzz advocate for choosing Thor at the theaters.
“Your boyfriend will appreciate it because it’s scary,” he said. “[But] depending on what you think is scary, Bridesmaids is also now in theaters.”
Granted, Hollywood’s long subjected us to a legion of generic female-driven romantic comedies in which the adorable lead searches for love, marriage and a killer wardrobe. There’s a reason why the term “chick flick” is, rightly so, something of a put-down. Such films are typically trite, sexist and, worse, unfunny.
While Bridesmaids covers much of the same territory, it does so in a way that’s honest, deliciously crude and unwaveringly hilarious.
The weekend screening I attended (with my husband, who, for the record, wanted to see the film as much I did) was two-thirds female, but the men laughed just as loudly.
The takeaway here is simple: If your boyfriend balks at the notion of seeing Bridesmaids simply because it looks like a chick flick, you have a) a partner conditioned by years of Hollywood brainwashing and b) a shitty boyfriend who can’t think for himself.