This is a guest post by Silpa Kovvali.
The recent explosion of prominent women in comedy has brought with it an unfortunate but predictable debate about whether or not the characters that have resulted from all these women scribbling and acting are Good For Women. Of course, the underlying assumption of the question is that women have a bad reputation in the general public and media should therefore portray us in uplifting ways to counter negative stereotypes, which in turn means that the question answers itself: If a female character has flaws, then that is Bad For Women. Indeed, that’s been the general consensus of all hand-wringing over this question.
My argument is not that female characters must be perfect in order to merit a place on the silver screen. I object to propping women up on pretty pink pedestals as much as the next feminist blogger. Marcotte is correct to emphasize the importance of laughing at women’s flaws, not just their endearing quirks. And I openly acknowledge that Bridesmaids made a political statement when it threw one of its characters up on a bathroom counter and had her shit in a sink. Let’s not pretend that it went unnoticed.
But amidst the subversion of one Hollywood caricature, the film lazily reverted to another. If I give Bridesmaids every benefit of the doubt, it had no idea what biases it was catering to when it crafted the character of Annie as someone who exists in a constant state of envy over everything from her friends’ relationships to their wealth to their physiques. Who lacks the emotional maturity to recognize or articulate what she needs from her sexual and romantic endeavors. Who is constantly one step away from launching into jealous and bizarre hysterics. “Sure, few of us have gone to a bridal shower and destroyed a cheesy decoration in a fit of frustration with the unreality of it all,” Marcotte writes, “but who among us hasn’t wanted to?” Um, me?Bridesmaids is not confined to the pop culture realm. In her piece, Marcotte pretends that there exists no negative perception of women in the population at large. But elsewhere, she takes this negative perception as an unspoken assumption, a reality so self-evident that it’s hardly worth explicitly stating. I would argue that Annie most definitely embodies a Hollywood “type,” one I find demeaning, insulting, and impossible to identify with. I would argue that portrayals of women in the media indeed have influence, and that it is my responsibility as someone who consumes and comments on culture to wring my pretty little hands over such matters. And I would point out that Marcotte, who once lambasted the writers of Parks and Recreation for having the gall to give a feminist character a boyfriend who cares for her, has wrung her own over far less.
It was not Annie’s imperfections that rubbed me the wrong way. It was the fact that Annie embodies the precise flaws that are almost always, and almost exclusively, associated with female characters in television and film. (All of this without even touching the dysfunctional relationships that pass for friendships in this movie and the dearth of examples in pop culture of women being good friends to each other.) I found this played-out portrayal of womanhood to be no more relatable than the perfectly-coiffed rom com heroine. I stand by my choice to laud Bridesmaids for what it was, recognize what it wasn’t, and continue to demand more.
Silpa Kovvali is a group blogger for The Huffington Post living in NYC. Follow her on Twitter @SilpaKov.