May 18, 2011

Some arguments are not worth having

"Women in the comedy world have long been smeared as, in the words of the late comedian John Belushi, "just fundamentally not funny." And if you believe his Saturday Night Live colleagues like Jane Curtin, Belushi made a commitment to sabotaging his women colleagues in an effort to prove himself prophetic. So while the characters in particular might not be particularly feminist, the film is a step forward in the sense that it proves a lingering stereotype utterly false." — Adam Serwer on Bridesmaids
Well, that's a relief. To know that what I was doing while watching Meg Ryan, or Julia Roberts, or Sandra bullock, or Lucille Ball, or Shirley McLaine, or Barbara Streisand, or Katherine Hepburn, or Rosalind Russell, or Irene Dunne, or Claudette Colbert was in fact laughter, rather than some strange, recurring yet strangely forgettable muscular spasm induced by too many hours spent in the darkness of the movie theatre. I mean c'mon. Some arguments are so dumb they cretinize even the attempt to rebut them. Bridesmaids is t'riffic by the way — half an hour too long like all of Judd Apatow's productions, but every scene lifted and spun like a top by Kristen Wiig's rangy, loose-limbed spaz-outs. A solid 'B.'


  1. So you deny that the stereotype of women not being funny exists in Hollywood? I mean, I realize we may recognize the talents of great comediennes, but most people (including those who saw Bridesmaids) don't, at least in my experience.

  2. My best friend is a female stand-up comic in the UK and this perception is far, far from unusual. Belushi's comment is still common currency on the circuit - a universal "truth" talked about openly backstage (and sometimes on-stage) by male comics, as well as by industry observers, venue bookers, agents, etc. It actually plays in my friend's favour, given the louder cries for gender balance on the bill – she is known as "one of the funny women comedians, so you should book her."

    Interestingly, it is not just the industry: I have noticed that (live) audiences tend to tense up or switch off when she or another comedienne first takes the stage. They "expect" her to be unfunny. It's almost an aggressive "go on, impress me" challenge that the male comedians don't get, at least not to the same extent. Conditioning, socialised gender-stereotyping – call it what you will. Women are still, in the darker recesses of our minds, just not supposed to be the ones in a room of people who hold court and make the room laugh with their exquisitely rhythmed anecdotes...

    So I guess that in some ways it's a reflexive thing – not unlike the fact that the A-list actors in Hollywood tend to make more money than the A-list actresses because (besides any institutional sexism) their films tend to make more money, because, sadly, more people get up off their arses to see Tom Hanks or Brad Pitt at the local ABC, than will for Sandra Bullock or Angelina Jolie. The market economy is inherently sexist, because the market is sexist, because people are still sexist.