Last week, my sister dragged me to go see ‘Bridesmaids’ while she was in town. I say ‘dragged’ because I wrongly assumed that it would be just another predictable romantic comedy where the female lead is written as a sad sap who is a failure because she is alone and has no man by her side to speak of. And I thought that the whole movie might revolve around her relationship to men and the only way she can find true happiness is by landing a boyfriend/husband. Think Bridget Jones’s Diary, Someone Like You, 27 Dresses, He’s Just Not That Into You, the list goes on and on.
As I’d already seen an overabundance of poorly written, female-led romantic comedies in my lifetime, you can bet I was a little skeptical about going to see ‘Bridesmaids,’ a movie that seemed to center on all those cliches I hate about a woman’s ‘pathetic’ singledom. As the movie began and we saw the protagonist, Annie (played by Kristin Wiig), in bed with a man who doesn’t seem to have an iota of respect or compassion for other human beings and working at a jewelry store where she dissuades engaged couples to marry because it’ll all end in disaster anyway, I thought, ‘here we go again.’ I prepared myself for two hours worth of self-pity from Annie about how empty her life is because she has no one to share it with but was pleasantly surprised about how wrong I was.
While Annie’s life does seem to be in tatters, the movie doesn’t revolve around the notion that finding a man will make everything better. Instead, the film chooses to focus on the theme of friendship and its importance in these women’s lives. Yes, Annie would like to find a partner who isn’t a complete and utter jerkface but at the end of the day, her bond with her best-friend-since-childhood Lilian far surpasses any of that. Throughout her struggles with accepting Lilian’s [played by Maya Rudolph] impending marriage, we are allowed to see some of the worst of Annie in the form of getting completely hammered on the plane to Las Vegas and making an utter fool of herself [a scene that still makes me chuckle just thinking about how ridiculous it was and how well Wiig pulls it off] and some of the best of her [putting aside her deep-seated hatred for condescending Helen to join forces and find Lilian, the runaway bride]. But most of all, we get to see a flawed and fully-developed human being in Annie, something that is all too rare in female characters these days.
But this is not to say that ‘Bridesmaids’ is perfect by any means. I couldn’t help but be blinded by all the whiteness in the cast. Now, don’t misunderstand. By no means am I dismissing the comparable significance and influence a three-dimensional, all-female led mainstream, widely-released film may have on the movie industry today. But seeing the lack of racial diversity harkened me back to my days in my Gender Studies classes in undergrad.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only Asian American woman in my Gender Studies classes, let alone the only woman of color. And when we discussed feminist theories and texts, an Asian American or Pacific Islander female author was usually nowhere to be found and it was incredibly aggravating. Our discussions always seemed to revolve around the Black-White dichotomy with other women of color as an afterthought. All of this would always remind me of the argument that white suffragists would make in regards to giving women the right to vote: sure, we want women to have the right to vote but only white women, women of color need to wait.
Which brings me back to ‘Bridesmaids.’ One might argue that the cast isn’t all white, what about Lilian? And okay, yes, Maya Rudolph is indeed mixed and they do allude to the fact that her character is part Black, but her race is still very much ambiguous. And then what about the rest of the cast? There are incredibly few comedic roles for women but there are far less for women of color. Besides Margaret Cho and Wanda Sykes, name another comedic actress of color. And what about an Asian American woman in comedies? Tough one, ain’t it? Even when I was doing research for this blog post and reading other reviews of ‘Bridesmaids,’ barely anyone mentioned the lack of racial diversity in the movie, instead choosing to ignore it.
Like I said before, I am not trying to undermine the importance of ‘Bridesmaids.’ It was refreshing to see women be funny. Not to mention the hilarious way they pulled off some cringe-worthy physical comedy; when do we ever get to see women participate in any kind of gross-out humor? But I want more. I want to watch entertainment that shows that any woman can be funny if given the opportunity. I want to see more fully-developed female characters who aren’t written solely in relation to men. I want to watch a movie that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the world I live in. So while ‘Bridesmaids’ may certainly be a start towards showing audiences that women can actually be funny and three-dimensional, it is not the end all be all for women in comedies or movies in general. We’ve still got a long way to go.