I was in a matrimonial mood after a wedding I went to this week, so I finally sent the 2011 Apatow movie Bridesmaids to the top of my Netflix queue. I’ve heard good things about this film from virtually everyone who’s seen it. It may be that it’s just an exceptional rom-com, or perhaps it’s a bold statement that raunchy girl-centric comedies can be successful too (I would not call this movie “feminist” since, let’s face it, most of Annie’s problems involve finding self-fulfillment only through a man and marriage). Either way, it seems that Bridesmaids is universally liked.
But not by me. I absolutely hated it.
I could rant about the endless stream of predictable plot devices, or the ridiculously overdone “grossout scenes,” or the fact Judd Apatow’s influence still makes this a dude movie (even though it’s a “chick movie”).
But this is a culture blog! So instead, I’d like to explore the character archetypes in the supporting cast. The characters weren’t just flat and boring: they followed stereotype after stereotype based on what we’ve come to expect from characters in mainstream comedies. For example:
The Bride’s Father (“Mr. Donovan”)
The most blatant offense. Not only is he almost the only person of color in the entire film, the only lines he ever speaks are “I’m not paying for this shit” or the like. Seriously? The man’s daughter is getting married, and all you can do is give him a line about being cheap? May as well have given him some lines about the groomsmen wearing saggy pants or the reception needing a Kool-Aid fountain.
The Bumbling, Abrasive Bridesmaid (“Megan Price”)
Here we have the overweight, not-so-pretty, masculine bridesmaid being regulated to the position of comic relief (I was surprised they didn’t make her a lesbian too.). When she talks about men and sex, we laugh. Essentially, Hollywood tells us that it’s unnatural or unbelievable for a character like her to have sexual agency or complex emotions. Her heart-to-heart with Annie was one of the film’s genuine moments, but even then she is only being used to solve the protagonist’s problems (since Annie IS allowed to have feelings and desires).
The Virgin/Whore Bridesmaids (“Rita” and “Becca”)
The other two minor bridesmaids represented the classic male fantasy of married life: one was a sweet, pure wife whose only sexual partner was her husband; the other talked about semen stains, fantasizing during sex, and submits to her husband on a daily basis. These girls give you the whole package, guys! (This was slightly ruined for me since I will always think of the actress who played the virginal Becca as blowjob girl). It was also disappointing that neither of these characters developed by the end of the film—they just disappeared.
The Gigolo (“Ted”)
Annie’s “fuck buddy” had no emotions or real thoughts. His only desire was for impersonal, rough, and presumably one-sided sex, and when Annie ditches him, he disappears. Also, Jon Hamm was a very bad choice for this role. Don Draper is classier than that.
The Rich White Lady Who Is Still Unfulfilled (“Helen Harris III”)
The movie had to have a villain, and what audience member wouldn’t want to hate this bitch? But wait…. SHE FEELS SAD! Her money doesn’t bring her happiness! Wow, I’ve never heard that ol’ axiom before. She doesn’t have to worry about food or money or a job: she can worry about finding GIRLFRIENDS and SELF-FULLFILLMENT! (oh please.)
And finally….. THE FUCKING IRISH COP.
Yeah. Officer Nathan Rhodes, the Irish Cop who makes everything ok in the end. I’m not even going to comment on how ridiculous this character is, but I will say that it was creepy to see this actor (Chris O’Dowd) in a sensitive-guy role, considering he recently played the “Threesome Capitalist Creep” on GIRLS. Very creepy.
I have to say, the actors did a good job of portraying these ridiculous characters. And yeah, it is nice to see a female-centric major motion picture that bends the rules of romantic comedies a little. But even so, is it too much to ask for a little originality in the plot and characters as well?