Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yes, Women ARE Funny: Hollywood's Latest Realization

A recent article at Movies Today proclaimed this to be "the summer of raunchy women." Indeed, the multiplexes saw a surprising (and welcome) number of movies in which women weren't the girlfriends, either air-headed and bikini-clad or bitchy and belittling; they cursed, they crapped in sinks, and they sexually assaulted their male employees. These movies turned out to be big hits, causing everyone to celebrate that, hooray, women are actually funny! It's one of those brain-dead observations that Hollywood makes every now and then and pats itself on the back before throwing out a few rip-offs and returning to its normal ways. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have very little faith that we'll see too many more "women behaving badly" comedies in the future: all it takes is one of them to fail, and Hollywood will proclaim, "little lady, this is men's work," and then greenlight three more Hangover sequels. (Yes, I do get perhaps more-than-a-little angry about how unequal Hollywood is, but that's for another day).

However, there's something more disturbing in this article to me. Toward the end, writer Michael Aliva asks us:
"The question is, do we need to see more? Isn’t it enough that women have proven it can pull off raunchy, sleazy comedy as well as the men? Perhaps the growing stable of female comedy talent in the film and television industry would be better served trying to raise the bar on comedy, instead of continually lowering it."
There's a multitude things wrong with this statement. First of all is his implication that now that women have "proven" that they can be just as raunchy as men, they don't need to do such comedies anymore. I can understand if such sophomoric comedy is not really Aliva's preference (it's not mine either), but I see no reason why this genre can't continue to feature women in the lead. As this summer proved, there's obviously an audience out there for this kind of film.

There's also the implication that such comedy is considered "lowering the bar." Granted, I'm not the audience for these movies, but at the same time there are times when they are exactly what I like to see. I'm personally not well known among my friends for my classy, sophisticated jokes: I get pretty dirty too. Comedy's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness: it's subjective, and what appeals to one person may not to another. And raunch, when well executed, can be comedic genius. There is no form of comedy that's inherently different from another, it's just a matter of taste.

Thankfully, Aliva doesn't proclaim women to be above raunchy comedy, as I have seen elsewhere. This issue brings to mind an AV Club article by the great Steven Hyden that asks if filmmakers have a moral responsibility in the films they make (actually, it's about pop culture in general, but film plays an important role both in the article and historically). My answer to that quandry is of course not, it's well within the filmmaker's right to make his characters as deplorable or honorable as he sees fit. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to see women, such as Cameron Diaz's gold-digging, over-sexed character in Bad Teacher, acting terribly, because let's face it: awful behavior is exclusive to either gender.

Ultimately, what I'm saying here is that yes, women are funny, they can be raunchy, and there's no reason why comedies can't reflect that. Hopefully we'll see plenty of hilarious ladies doing every variety of comedy in the mainstream future.

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