Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids isn't old enough for us to know exactly what it's legacy will be, but there's a good chance that the original hype around the movie - which centered on how female-centric the cast was - might be the main thing people remember about it. And if our culture keeps moving in the direction it seems to be heading where more and more women are taking prominent places in show business than Bridesmaids might deserve it's spot right next to Lena Dunham's Girls or Shonda Rhimes empire on the firmament of modern feminist creations.

But when I was rewatching Bridesmaids I was struck by how little interest the movie has in being a feminist manifesto. At no point does it say "THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT LADIES AND THAT'S IMPORTANT"; although that narrative can be applied, the movie just takes it for granted that a woman would be friends with other women. No, the political issues that Bridesmaids actually spends most of it's time addressing are mostly about class. It's a movie that is very much marked by the fact that it was released right in the middle of the the financial depression that hit in 2008.

Bridesmaids isn't subtle about the way it tackles growing income inequality: there is an explicit contrast between Annie (played by Kristen Wiig), whose cupcake business went bust in the crash and who now can barely afford to pay rent on the shitty apartment she splits with weird-ass roommates, and Helen (played by Rose Byrne), whose husband makes so much money that she can afford to give away trips to Paris as wedding gifts. The rivalry between the two women drives the plot forward, and although some of their tension is about run of the mill personal insecurity, Helen's bigger bank account is definitely a factor in the tug of war between them. At first Annie is in charge of planning the wedding, and she wants to scale it more towards her budget, but as Helen gains favor with the bride she starts to push it towards being more lavish. People remember the scene in the dress shop because it ends with everyone having violent diarrhea, but they might forget that bookending all the pooping is a war of wills between a woman who doesn't want the bride to ask her bridesmaids to all buy thousand dollar dresses and a woman who just does not care how much money she spends on a dress she's only going to wear once.

You could argue that the movie is apolitical about the way it illustrates class differences. After all, it shows that Helen isn't a bad person, she's just a bit clueless about how the less well off live their lives. But that cluelessness is actually a big part of why there is so much tension in America right now: there's a real sense that the people at the top of the food chain have no idea how hard it has gotten for the people closer to the bottom. That's certainly the case in Bridesmaids: Helen has no idea why Annie is so upset all the time, but that's because she doesn't have bottled up stress from a shitty day job rattling in her brain, or bills that are hanging over her head. When you spend some time in Annie's world, where she keeps getting pulled over by a cop because she has a busted taillight that she can't afford to fix, you really understand where that anger is coming from.

If you looked at the poster for Bridesmaids I would understand if you thought it was a kissing cousin with Sex and the City because they are both about groups of women at a time when that's rare at the multiplex. But the truth is that Annie's life is miles away from Sex and the City, because those women have improbably rich lives, full of designer clothes and incredibly nice apartments, while Annie ends up having to move in with her mom. In contrast, you might not think that Bridesmaids would have much in common with Trading Places because Wiig has such a different comic energy than Eddie Murphy, but at the end of the day the two films are strikingly similar because they are both so conscious of the difference between the haves and the have-nots. It wouldn't be a shame if Bridesmaids ended up being defined by a feminist legacy, but it would be slightly untrue; this is not entirely a film about the 50% of people that are regularly underrepresented in our media, but it is definitely a film about the 99% of people that go underrepresented in our politics.

Winner: Me

Bridesmaids on IMDB