Monday, June 6, 2011

Why I Don't Like Bridesmaids

cross posted from my Media Justice column


At first I wasn’t going to dish out any money for any movie that wasn’t 100% on my “to see” list, and
Bridesmaids wasn’t! Then I had dinner with two great friends last week and one shared how amazing she thought Bridesmaids was. Then I remember reading this post on RH Reality Check on why so many folks enjoyed the film.

Then this same homegirl gifted me two free movie tickets and I told her I’d used them to watch Bridesmaids. And I did. I dragged my partner in crime with me to an almost sold out screening on Memorial Day Monday at 8pm. We were seated in the third row from the screen and I was prepared to laugh. Prior to going to the film, I had called my sister who had shared that she wanted to see it. She too echoed my friend’s enjoyment of the film.

Ten minutes into watching preview trailers and I already realize that I may have made the wrong decision to see the film. The only film trailers for upcoming films that had any people of Color is
The Help, a story about Black maids in the US South. It stars an amazing cast of Black female actors, but the narrative still revolves around a racially White woman sharing their stories. I was so tired by the time that preview was over, I threw popcorn at the screen!

Let me be clear what my main issues are with this film: Casting, character development, stereotypes, and issues of class that are represented.

So I don’t really mind who was cast in this film, but how the casting was decided. This film falls into that space that Sex In The City does: being centered in a metropolitan area (in this case Maya Rudolph’s character, Lillian, aka the bride, lives in Chicago) but there are only three people of Color with speaking roles. Lillian’s father is played by SNL legend Franklyn Ajaye (yeah I called him a living legend!), a Black man and is partnered with a racially White woman to demonstrate Lillian’s multiracial identity (and Rudolph’s background). Her father speaks, but only says the same thing: mention the cost of the wedding and how his budget is not very large. Her mother doesn’t speak. Terry Crews is also in the film during a cameo with a speaking role where he yells at the main characters for not paying $12 to join his exercise program in the park and instead do his workout from behind a tree.

So Lillian has no friends of Color. The only people in the film of Color we are lead to believe are her father’s family members and they are sprinkled throughout the film in non-speaking roles. To be fair, I knew that this would be an issue; my friend had mentioned it to me. However, after watching the trailer for The Help, and then sitting through 2 hours of this ish, I about had it with the triflin’ casting!

The character development was less than exceptional. Yes the main focus was Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian. However, there were several other characters that were (more) complicated, layered, interesting and could have been provided with fantastic stories. For example, the married mother of 3 boys Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the newly married, was a virgin until marriage, Becca (Ellie Kemper), and the love interest of Annie, Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd). These characters had speaking roles and supported the overall progression of the film, yet I was left wonder, how did they come into the story and what happened to them?

There are several racialized jokes as well. One which discusses a tall Black man who stands behind Annie while speaking to Megan (Melissa McCarthy) at the engagement party asking if he (Hugh Dane) is Annie’s “mistaken” partner. As the crowd laughs at the idea of he being partnered with her or the idea that she once again has to admit she is single, Megan says something about having to “climb him” which is very sexual in nature. So far we have seen angry Black men in Terry Crews, over-sexualized Black men in this character, and older Black patriarch that is not happy to spend money.

Other racialized jokes that I choose to remember (I believe I ignored many of them to cope) were during a drive by when Annie was attempting to get Officer Rhodes attention, she passes by him playing what I’ve heard referenced as “shoot a cop Hip-Hop” blasting from her windows as she has lowered the back of the driver’s seat and rolls slowly past him. Thank goodness he ignores her! This made me like his character more.

And then there are the fat jokes. Megan (Melissa McCarthy) plays Lillian’s sister-in-law and her gender expression is one that in our US society is labeled as “stereotypically masculine.” There is nothing wrong with this, let’s be clear. The problem is in having people laugh at what she does and says because the joke is that she is doing and saying these things while being fat. The audience is given permission to (continue to) laugh at fat people for existing. Lillian is comfortable in who she is and her character is what some may call “rough around the edges” in that she says what’s on her mind without filtering. I find this characteristic refreshing, personally. Perhaps the audience is expected to laugh at a fat person who has confidence and self-esteem? When Megan begins to hit on a man, who she thinks is an Air Marshall on the plane, the audience roars. They laugh all over again when we see them engaging in foreplay using food, wow how unpredictable and unique!

Not so ironically, Megan becomes the one character that has the most stability and that connects to Annie when she finds herself unemployed, living at home with her mother, in a fight with Lillian, and depressed. It is Megan who shows support for Annie, who gives her some “tough love” and shares her own story of overcoming challenges. The one character the audience is supposed to laugh at is the same character that is the most present.

Then there is the lover of Annie, an ex-partner who she has decided to remain in a sexual relationship with, a character we are expected to not appreciate. Surprisingly, I found his character one of the most honest. One of the reasons we as the audience (and as women?), are supposed to dislike him is because he is “using” Annie for his own sexual satisfaction. This may be true from some perspectives, especially with the scenes of them in bed we see, yet I believe here we have a very real scenario where people are trying to create a situation to enjoy one another and the woman is demonstrated to be wanting something more/else, thus having a hidden agenda. Yet, because many of the viewers are expected to identify with Annie, we are to not like her lover, when in reality he is being honest with what he is interested in maintaining with her. It is Annie who must be honest with herself and realize this is not the relationship she desires. Instead, we see a stereotypical representation of a man “getting over” on a woman because he is asking for what he wants. Why can’t we see a film with women asking for what they want?! Why do we have to knock people who attempt to have
polyamorous and open relationships? How is this an attempt to socialize us to believe monogamy is the best and only form of relationships?

Finally, the class jokes are front, center, and constant. There are many class representations in this film with Annie being at one end (making no money) and Helen (Rose Byrne), one of Lillian’s bridesmaids, being at the other end living a wealthy life. We watch as Lillian decides to have the planning process of the bachelorette parties go from Annie to Helen. We are lead to believe that all of the other characters live middle-class lives that allow them to go on a trip to Las Vegas without having to budget or plan as Annie does.

Aside from having Lillian’s father complain about the cost of the wedding, we also watch as Helen makes very expensive choices for the wedding. She takes Annie’s idea of having a French-themed party for Lillian and claims all the glory. Then she gives to Lillian as a gift a trip to Paris, followed by hooking her up with a French wedding dress designer. This is when Annie erupts. Much like I have experienced (and others in similar situations), when people in certain situations of power and authority, claim the ideas of people who do not have as much power as their own, we get mad.

At the end of the film Lillian is overwhelmed and realizes that Helen has planned the entire wedding considering only her own personal budget, and has an expensive event planned. She cries to Annie as they both bond again and we watch as Helen’s event planning snowballs into a final performance by Wilson Phillips (Lillian’s favorite musical group).

As my homeboy Jerome had shared, he heard this film defined as “Homance” (a play on the term “Bromance”) and asked “on what planet would that be appropriate?” I have to agree. This is one of the reasons the first thing I said to R was “I think I’ve aged out of this type of humor.” After some conversation on the film and what parts we enjoyed the most, R agreed this film is more about class than just a comedy. He said: “some people play too rough, others play too rich.” That exactly sums up this film, and had it had this approach it may have been a completely different film!

I know I’m in the minority in not enjoying this film. And I get that this is a film that makes a lot of people smile and enjoy themselves. It’s the same formula that we see in films focused on men and masked with characters that are women. I’m just over people being happy with the minimum that we are given and expected to enjoy.


  1. THANK YOU!!!!! I hated this movie for much of the same reasons!!! And had people continuously tell me that it was all supposed to be funny. You're the only other person I have read/talked to that has disliked it so much!!