You Say Homance, I Say Towanda. Tomato, Fried Green Tomahto.
Much is being made of the lady-friendly comedy Bridesmaids which opens in theaters today. It's gotten phenomenal advance buzz from critics and casual filmgoers alike and, the all-too familiar photoshopping of promotional material aside, I've seen and heard nothing that will keep me from rushing to see it when it opens tomorrow. The film has, however, taken on a political and social import that seems at odds with its breezy and (honestly) rather crass tone. The film's director, Paul Feig told the Onion's AV club, "It's not often that a studio will allow a movie that's all driven by women to be made, so I felt the pressure of, 'If I screw this up, it's going to fuck things up for women.'" In fact, Rebecca Traister of Salon.com wrote an excellent article yesterday about the ways in which the women of Hollywood are mobilizing behind the film to ensure its financial success.
Over on Slate.com, however, Jessica Grose has written a far more troubling article on Bridesmaids and its relationship to the male-centric comedies that have come before it. She writes:
While Bridesmaids does share some core DNA with bromances, particularly the ones directed, written or produced by Judd Apatow (who was also a producer of this film), it is ultimately a different--and more original--animal: Let's call it a homance.
"Let's call it a homance"?!? A HOMANCE?! Oh let's not and say we never did. Is it reactionary to quibble over one "harmless" little word? An obvious (and inane) play on "bros before hos"? Well, no, I don't think so. As our very own Dustin Rowles remarked, "It's better than cheap, dirty hookermance. I guess. But not by much." I'm not overly fond of the fashion of reducing a genre to one hep, tweetable word, but I would prefer "womanmance," "sistermance," or even "boobmance" to "homance." However, the dirty truth is that the "homance" exists. It's just not whatever Jessica Grose is trying so desperately to make happen.
You know what the "homance" actually is? The "homance" is that particular brand of so-called "romantic comedy" that has gained popularity in recent years wherein unlikable female characters who are either actual sisters or soul sisters or whatever behave like complete hos to each other. ("Ho" here is being used colloquially and is synonymous with b*tch. Sexual predilections or practices do not enter into this conversation at all.) The ho-dom is usually brought on by competition over a man (though, in a pinch, competition over a wedding location will do). The worst homantical perpetrators in recent memory (in descending order of box office gross) are:
- 27 Dresses: Sisters Katherine Heigl and Malin Akerman scrap and fight over Edward Burns.--$160,259,319
- Bride Wars: Life-long friends Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway lie and betray each other over a f*cking hotel.--$113,971,145
- Monster-In-Law: Jane Fonda (mother) and J. Lo (blushing bride-to-be) basically try to murder each other over Michael Vartan.--$82,931,301
- Something Borrowed: BFFs Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson are completely vile to each other over an actor so boring I really can't even rouse myself to google his name.--$17,543,070. . .thus far
These absolutely reprehensible depictions of feminine "friendship" are not only marketed to women, but are written by women (with the exception of Bride Wars which has more writers than I have pairs of shoes). Who are these female writers and what kind of terrible, mutually destructive relationships have they had with women? And do you know the worst part? It's working. These f*cking "homances" are selling and selling well. Listen, it's not that I think female friendships or familial relationships in film should all be sunshine, lollipops, rainbows and Yaz commercials. In fact, three of my all-time favorite independent films (Walking and Talking, Me Without You, and Rachel Getting Married) deal with the highs and the low low lows of female relationships without ever reducing the protagonists to broad caricatures. Their combined box office gross? $14,398,451. Yup, less than the eye-gougingly terrible Something Borrowed has made in just one week.
What? It's not fair to compare the grosses of independents to big-budget studio films? You're right, it's also not fair that the homances keep getting made, keep getting watched. And if we're not careful, that homantical attitude will seep into some of our cooler, less Kate Hudson-y films. Take, for example, 2010's Easy A. (Written and directed by men. I'm not saying, but I'm just saying) Throughout the film Olive Pendergast, the film's protagonist, lies over and over to her closest friend, Rhiannon. When the tide of the high school scene turns against Olive, Rhiannon proceeds to cruelly slut-shame her, going so far as to waggle biblical verses scrawled on poster board at Olive and call for her removal from school. Olive's revenge? Going out with the object of Rhiannon's affection. Who are these friends? The resolution of this troubling behavior is almost literally a footnote (a text message) in a film purporting to be about female empowerment and busting up gender roles and sexual mores. I liked Easy A (mostly because of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson), but take a gander at the way these "best friends" treat each other.
So what's the answer? What's the point? The point is I would like to see the homance eradicated from movie theaters altogether. (Also, get the h*ll out of my local bookstores and libraries. Emily Giffin, I'm looking at you.) I'd like to see big-budget studio films that promote a positive and realistic depiction of female relationships. I'd like to see a return to some of the fine female-centric fare of the 80's and 90's. More Thelma and Louise, Nine To Five, and Fried Green Tomatoes. (Also all directed by men. I'M JUST SAYING.) So you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go see Bridesmaids today. Towanda.
Joanna Robinson is just saying that out of all the films mentioned here, only "Walking and Talking" and "Me Without You" were directed by women. Watch them, they're great. Also, Joanna has really enjoyed Unofficial Feminazi Week. Thanks for indulging her, you sexist pigs. TOWANDA! Email! Twitter!