The “Feminism” of Paul Feig’s Cinema
I tried watching Bridesmaids (2011) today, and it was really, really hard to watch. It’s terrible people being terrible (main character’s privacy is severely violated, her good ideas get shut down, etc), and people interacting with no emotional honesty. Things probably get resolved in the end, but I didn’t want to have to wait through the suffering. (This is not to say that women can’t do physical or grossout comedy, but I just wish it didn’t come with the mean-spiritedness.) I had to stop watching partway through.
It happens in a lot of Paul Feig’s movies. A lot of women just suffer, and it’s supposed to be funny, but the resolutions are never “things get better”, but the system usually stays the same, just slightly altered. Spy (2015), for instance, does end with Melissa McCarthy becoming a full spy, but still is given embarrassing and/or humiliating fake ids for her work. This is not progressive, nor is it funny.
Feig’s work with leading female comedians often gets highlighted as “feminist”, but the reality is that Hollywood is so backwards with its rampant sexism (and racism, and homophobia, etc.) that the few films that do star women are heralded as progressive pieces of media, when the reality is they do little more that perpetuate the status quo. It also doesn’t help that Feig, who started in TV, shoots with a banality that illustrates his limitations as a director. Rather, there is a lack of imagination throughout his films, both in terms of filmmaking, and what feminism, including feminist humour, can actually be.