7th July 2011

In my book, there are a few things that mark a film out as a game changer. Genre mashes or twists. Innovation in film making. Elevated usage of new technology, and a unique approach to narrative. However, the recent film Bridesmaids is a game changer for me not because of style or genre or unique story construction, it is a game changer because it represents a huge shift in cultural narrative and because it’s an all female comedy.

Cultural narratives are disseminated through multiple layers of culture from high art to pop art, politics, sports, family traditions etc. Our social identities form around these narratives and give us a sense of place and belonging. We are citizens of countries, members of local communities, political parties, families and other social groups. The social contract we hold between ourselves and the wider culture also brings with it a certain set of expectations.

For women, these expectations used to be rather simple. You got married, you had children, you kept house and looked after your family. The feminist movement encouraged women to break out of this rather small social space and today women are also expected to work, get an education, travel, and to stand up for themselves whilst still pursuing the social goals of husband, child, family. Yet, despite these huge social shifts over the last thirty years, the cultural narrative still prevalent in film is of a women who wants, more than anything in the world, to find a partner and get married. Another popular narrative is of the female shrew, who is hard nosed and career focused and needs the love of a man in order to find happiness.

In Bridesmaids, there is a wedding (of course….) which is used as a device to move the plot forward, and creates a social space for the women to come together within, but it isn’t the centre of the emotional narrative. At its heart, Bridesmaids is a story about female friendship that also shows a women’s search for meaning, through a vocation she truly loves (usually the male narrative), and a partner who is also her friend. The male love interest is an encouraging force in this journey. Unlike the recent Sex and the City films, the friendships are not formed around the need to excessively consume, or an essentially old fashioned desire for princes and the supposed paradise of wedded bliss.

Most importantly, it shows that women can be funny, not just cute love interests, but large, bawdy, and physically funny. For women to be able to play low status clowns, they need to be high status to begin with and it finally seems as if women have enough power to be able to discard it for the jokes.

The only downside…it still took a male producer and a male director to get the film to the screen. Nevertheless, it’s written by a women and let’s face it, it’s a start, and I for one am not going to look this particular gift horse in the mouth.