Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

What Comparing Bridesmaids and The Hangover Reveals About Hollywood's Gender Problem

Features
by Sophia Savage
May 23, 2011 8:48 AM
9 Comments
  • |

How many people are calling Bridesmaids "The Hangover for women"?

While the comparison may be "inaccurate and lazy," the two sets of reviews for Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II reveal how we label and digest anything remotely new at the box office. Reviews for both are (below) are prompting debates on gender as well as comedic merit.

One disturbing notion springing off these comparison/debates is that men need to be given permission (see below) to see and enjoy Bridesmaids because it's a chick flick. First, let's stop calling comedies starring women chick-flicks. Women are funny. Men are funny. Bridesmaids is not The Hangover's sister, it's not the same film dressed up in drag (see below), or any other reinterpretation of it. Just because director Todd Phillips likes to compare his Hangovers to The Godfather, doesn't mean the films are worthy of the pedestal they've been put on for other comedies to try and emulate. (Typically Hollywood is trying to emulate success.)

Time's Mary Pols points out (below) that Bridesmaids is really about female insecurities. True. Bridesmaids doesn't paint a pretty picture of women; some scenes are uncomfortable to watch because they're laced with truth. It's healthy for women to laugh at ourselves, as long as we're not treated like inanimate objects with no more value than a pie-in-the-face.

But the incessant parallels, comparisons and competition between Bridesmaids and The Hangover also point out male insecurity and the dominant Hollywood perspective. Jack Nicholson (in 1987's The Witches of Eastwick, playing the Devil) says it best (to Cher's character, before he seduces her): "It's true. [Men are] scared. Their dicks get limp when confronted by a woman of obvious power and what do they do about it? Call them witches, burn them, torture them, until every woman is afraid. Afraid of herself... afraid of men... and all for what? Fear of losing their hard-on."

Though not perfect, Bridesmaids is funny, well-written and deserving of its laughs and box office dollars. Our early review round-up showed mixed reactions, but it turns out that audiences love it and it went on to earn 89% on the Tomatometer). The two men on either side of me during the sold-out Saturday night screening could barely contain their laughter for two hours.

I laughed at The Hangover, but sitting through Part II was proof of the soullessness of sequels. It's lazy, and sexist--the monkey has more character development than the women--and the plot is uninspired. This time no one was laughing.

Roseanne Barr (who coincidentally gave Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow his first writing job) recently wrote an article for NYMag. It is a sobering look at how little has changed for women. She says: "I honestly think Roseanne is even more ahead of its time today, when Americans are, to use a technical term from classical economics, screwed." She surmises that Two and a Half Men's success signals that "viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist…People do what they can get away with (or figure they can), and [Charlie] Sheen is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the 'culture.'"

The fact that Bridesmaids is "groundbreaking" is pathetic. Jen Chaney writes; "while Bridesmaids is hilarious and absolutely refreshing, it may seem more groundbreaking than it is simply because of Hollywood’s limited view of the sexes."

Consider these comparisions/arguments:

Bridesmaids is shockingly unique because it's "filled with women! It stars women!":

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Peter Travers says that Bridesmaids, the new comedy starring Saturday Night Live's Kristen Wiig and produced by Judd Apatow, is the most unique movie of the summer, if just for the fact that it's a comedy about female characters…But still, even when it's basically The Hangover in drag, this is as good as it's going to get for women in Hollywood movies this summer."

The Problem: his point is not that Hollywood is stunted, it's more like the Hollywood machine has pushed out a rare litter of kittens and he's saying "Look! How cute!"

Bridesmaids is the cure to The Hangover:

John Patterson, The Guardian: "[there are] not a lot of women in Todd Phillips's movies; well, not if you excise all the skanks, scolds, stereotypical fat chicks and grotesquely sexualized old ladies. Which is why this weekend's best US release [Bridesmaids] arrives almost like a Hangover cure…Unlike The Hangover, which cares nothing for character-depth or development, Bridesmaids has its basis in believably complex female friendships, and a clear eye for the poisonous politeness between women who loathe each other (Wiig and Rose Byrne, Rudolph's adult BFF). Yet Bridesmaids is no consciousness-raising tract: it also has an eye for transcendent gross-out, like one episode of explosive diarrhoea and projectile-vomiting in a bridal store so blindingly white it belongs in an Antonioni movie."

Bridesmaids as The Hangover's sister:

Jay McKinnon: "Bridesmaids is NOT The Hangover. It’s The Hangover’s hilarious sister that drinks, swears and shouts inappropriate things in front of company…Bridesmaids is a completely original and funny take on the other side of the altar."

Bridesmaids as the lesser version of The Hangover:

Markus Robinson, Examiner: "As much as people want to peg Bridesmaids as The Hangover for women, the two films really hold very little parallels to one another.   In fact this film is much worse...Ok, so I understand that I have maybe written the most dramatic synopsis for a movie that was advertised as a comedy; and not to worry, there is enough raunchy, 'girl power', sex jokes, bloating jokes and period jokes to go around, but underneath it all this is a semi serious movie about a single woman in a 'mid-life' crisis.  Too bad it wasn’t written very well."

Bridesmaids as examination of female insecurity:

Mary Pols, Time: "But this very Hangover-style wedding-party moment is not exactly in keeping with the movie as a whole. Although wrapped in slapstick and sweetened with romance, Bridesmaids is at its core a shrewd examination of female insecurity. And for once, the focus is not entirely on insecurity as it relates to the opposite sex…And Bridesmaids is liberally laced with a feminist sensibility, most notably in poking fun at women's wedding fantasies…Bridesmaids might be all about women, but the laughs are universal."

Bridesmaids is a film that men need permission to see; the insult of being compared to The Hangover; and an indicator of how 'modern' men are who see it:

Stephen Douglas: "I saw Bridesmaids this weekend as part of a drive-in movie double-feature with Fast Five. I can’t say for certain which was funnier, but I did laugh quite a bit a both movies. I can say that Bridesmaids was the better film of the two and that is not the insult it sounds like. Yes, it’s OK to see this chick flick…[Being compared to The Hangover] That’s not the greatest compliment in the world. Have you watched The Hangover recently? It’s much more fun to reference The Hangover than to actually watch The Hangover…So if you want to see Bridesmaids, see it. You’ll enjoy it. I give you permission to see a chick flick. Show how modern you are by viewing a film starring women.
ScreenRant: "[It] is (in spirit at least) The Hangover with an eclectic ensemble of comedic actresses instead of comedic actors. And brother, that ain’t a bad thing."

Bridesmaids as proof that women are as disturbed as men; funner than The Hangover:

Kevin Wohler: "The world is probably a better place knowing that women can be just as depraved, insecure, crass, pathetic, disgusting and insanely funny as men. After all, fair is fair…Before seeing Bridesmaids, I assumed this Smackdown would fall down to a simplistic battle of the sexes. I assumed the challenger would appeal to women the way The Hangover appealed to men. The problem is, some comedies don’t fall along those lines. Sure, the Three Stooges will always be a guy thing, but men can laugh at women, too. Funny, quite simply, is funny…Bridesmaids is the funnier of the two films."

Bridesmaids as the film that allows women to be funny because of its comparison to The Hangover:

Katie Rogers, Washington Post: "[The] comparison has a negative side: Bridesmaids is promoted as the movie every woman should see, and that invites patronizing. 'It’s a chick flick, but they’re acting like men, so guys will like it, too,' the general tone seems to be. It’s almost as if, just this once, women have been given a free pass to be funny."

Bridesmaids as a funny movie without gender attached to it:

At the Bridesmaids premiere, LAT's Amy Kaufman asked the film's stars if the comparisons to The Hangover were right. Jon Hamm confirmed: "incorrect," adding; "it's not a movie for women, it's a movie for everybody..funny is funny it doesn't have gender applied to it."

Bridesmaids as a movie that actually has nothing to do with The Hangover:

Megan Angelo NYTimes: "Bridesmaids is not a female version of The Hangover. Nor, despite its title, is it a true wedding comedy in the vein of 27 Dresses. Rather, as Mr. Feig puts it, it’s 'a nervous-breakdown movie,' marked by a balance between outrageous comedy and emotional moments. And it was conceived in 2006 — three years before The Hangover came out. Mr. Apatow had just directed, and been incredibly impressed by, Ms. Wiig in a Knocked Up bit role as a boss."

Plus:

Set Visit: 10 Reasons 'Bridesmaids' Is the Female 'Hangover'.

Bridesmaids Movie Math.

The Hangover Part II Review:

Andrew Barker, Variety: The Hangover Part II as a disappointment: "[It] ranks as little more than a faded copy of its predecessor superimposed on a more brightly colored background. One can understand director Todd Phillips' initial reluctance to tinker with a formula that made the 2009 romp the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever, but the rote professionalism on display verges on cynicism, and despite some occasional sparks, this ranks as a considerable disappointment…Missing this time is the Las Vegas location, Rachael Harris, Heather Graham and a substantial percentage of the twisted wit that made the first such an unexpected pleasure. Emphasis on the word 'unexpected,' as the primary achievement of the first "Hangover" was its ability to keep topping itself with delightfully tasteless outrages. Relocation of the characters to ugly-American capital Bangkok would seem to indicate a raising of the stakes in that regard, but aside from a breathtakingly offensive half-second snapshot in the closing-credits montage, this one plays it relatively safe."

9 Comments

  • Lisel | June 5, 2012 12:55 AMReply

    When i noted the comparisons, it was because both centered around a wedding theme and the vastly different experiences between women before the wedding and men before the wedding.

  • Anthony | February 8, 2012 5:43 PMReply

    This is one of the dumbest posts I've ever read on the internet.

  • Brian | June 14, 2011 6:22 AMReply

    I found BRIDESMAIDS deliberately hard to label--and that's a GOOD thing! It's not a "chick flick," it's not a "rom-com," it's not a "gross-out" comedy like THE HANGOVER (which I found pretty distasteful), it's not even entirely a comedy. It's character-driven, rather than plot- or concept-driven. There are so many dramatic (and sad) parts, that I would prefer to think of it as a comedy-drama. There are parts that are very funny, like the tantrum at the bridal shower, but I couldn't laugh because it was so painful for Annie (the lead character). I totally related to her character and her anger, frustration and bitterness. It's not "self-loathing" when you feel overwhelmed by all the hypocrisy and phoniness around you. Or when you recognize your flaws and try to come to grips with them. In this case, it was her constant tendency to self-sabotage. Believe me, I know all about this. It's not just a female thing. I'm a white male in the Bruce Willis/Tom Hanks/Mel Gibson/John Travolta age range, yet Annie is the first character in a Hollywood film in a long time that I could relate to.

    One of the things that bothered me about the reviews is that no one seemed to mention that Jill Clayburgh is in this. She plays Annie's mother. Clayburgh died last November, so this was her last film. And '70s comic Franklin Ajaye plays the father of Lillian (the bride, played by Maya Rudolph). His was a welcome presence and quite a surprise, since no reviews I read mentioned this. And then there's Lillian's mother who has no lines and is never even singled out. You just kind of spot her standing next to Ajaye at the wedding. Well, I just learned that she was played by none other than Lynn Marie Stewart, Miss Yvonne on "Pee Wee's Playhouse."

  • Bethany | June 14, 2011 3:43 AMReply

    Excellent comparisons here. I'm really proud of your work (and i've never read it before).
    The point to all of this is that Bridesmaids doesn't have to be enjoyed or understood in terms of the Hangover, and shouldn't be, even if it is hyped that way. It should be enjoyed with relevance to its subgenre of contemporary comedy; having women in it, or its being released in proximity to The Hangover or HO2 neither boosts nor discredits its entertainment value.

  • Kaylie | May 24, 2011 11:29 AMReply

    Nice article! When the Hangover came out, I didn't get to see it in theaters. So because of everyone exclaiming how hilarious it was, I rented it as soon as it came out on DVD. And I didn't think it was funny at all. So overrated. If I thought a bunch of drunk guys acting like jackasses was funny, I could go to any bar in my college town any night of the week and sit and watch. Because of all of the Bridesmaids comparisons to The Hangover, I was sort of reluctant to see it. But being a feminist and fearing that female comedies would die if this didn't make money, I grabbed a friend and went to see it. I'm happy to report that I found the movie to be hilarious. I haven't laughed that much during a movie, ever. I didn't think it was anything like The Hangover. For one thing, it had a storyline. It had heart. I cared about the characters. They seemed like people I know in real life. This just made it all the more hilarious because the characters are relatable, and the situations that the characters are in are situations that most females have been in before. I was SO glad they never made it to Vegas. I didn't want it to be The Hangover, and it wasn't.

  • Scott Mendelson | May 24, 2011 4:33 AMReply

    As I wrote in the 'inaccurate and lazy' piece you linked to (thanks for that, btw), I really think the whole 'Bridesmaids = Hangover for women' is merely another variation on the constant need for pundits and critics to compare one piece of art to another, often as a way of knocking down the newer film. The Adjustment Bureau is not Inception. Mission: Impossible II was not ripping off The Matrix, Red Riding Hood was not a riff on Twilight, and Bridesmaids has little in common with The Hangover. Having said that, it is not necessary to trash The Hangover to praise Bridesmaids. Both are quite clever and funny in their own way. As for part II, well I'm waiting until Wednesday night's Arclight screening, so I'm hoping for the best (never wanted a sequel, they should have just made a whole new movie with the same cast/crew).

  • Sergio | May 24, 2011 3:59 AMReply

    Having seen Hangover Part II I can definitely say that Bridesmaids is NOT the same movie. First of all Bridesmaids is genuinely funny and second, it has characters that you care about. Hangover II is a leaden, unfunny, snf tepid remake of the first Hangover with the same jokes, beats and premise with annoying characters. Except everyone is phoning it in for obviously big payckecks. When the trailers for Crazy Stupid Love and Horrible Bosses gets more laughs from the audience than in all of Hangover II then you know it's not working

  • Anne Thompson | May 23, 2011 11:02 AMReply

    TOH staff writer Sophia Savage likes Bridesmaids a lot more than I do. I have not changed my tune. She wrote this piece.

  • Johnny | May 23, 2011 10:11 AMReply

    Back in March, Anne writes:
    "The movie is ruined by heavy-handed, lurching direction and female self-loathing on a grand scale."

    Interesting how Anne Thompson has completely reversed her opinion on "Bridesmaids" now that it's a major (cross-gender) hit.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Why Weinstein Is Re-Releasing Summer ...
  • First Gurus 'O Gold Pre-Festival Top ...
  • Emmy Watch: As TV Enters the Future, ...
  • Emmy Awards: Lena Dunham Wins the Red ...
  • The Radical World of Avant-Garde Master ...
  • Participant Joins DreamWorks' Spielberg ...
  • AFI Directing Workshop for Women Makes ...
  • New York Film Festival's Projections ...
  • Judd Apatow, Lena Dunham and Norman ...
  • TV's Elisabeth Moss & Michelle Dockery ...