Part 1: “Pitch Perfect” is available here.
Part 3: “Bridesmaids” is available here.
This week’s instalment of the Rebel Wilson Pride Special is a very different beast from Part 1’s glowing appraisal of Pitch Perfect. If last week’s foray into the world of competitive college a capella was an a ca-awesome advertisement for the benefits of female friendship, Bachelorette is misogynist propaganda that’ll have MRAs running from the cinema shouting, “I TOLD you so!”.
Bachelorette is, ostensibly, a film about three female friends who throw a bachelorette party (obviously) for the fourth member of their group on the night before her wedding. Too many drugs are consumed and “hilarity” ensues. A wedding dress is apparently destroyed, a wasted stripper is paid off in cocaine and some pretty women in delicate dresses say “fuck” a lot (controversial). At first glance, it’s the female Hangover.
However, unlike The Hangover – the ultimate R-rated celebration of male ‘buddyhood’ – Bachelorette seems intent on criticising the female friendships at the film’s core. The Bitchfaces, as the women call themselves, undermine each other at every turn. The very first time we are introduced to ringleader/maid of honour Regan (Kirsten Dunst), we hear her disrespectfully talk over her friend Becky (Australian Pride Object Rebel Wilson) and assume that the overweight woman is about to be dumped by her too-good-looking boyfriend. When it turns out that he has proposed, Regan seems to view the upcoming wedding as an imposition on her (“You know we’re all going to have to be in this wedding now.”) and she completely fails to congratulate or be happy for her alleged friend, or rather, competitor. Regan selfishly views marriage as a race to the altar (“I did everything right!” she complains) and wastes no time bitching behind Becky’s back to punish her for “winning”. While she does manage to get the bride and the dress to the wedding on time, it seems less out of love for Becky than it is a desire to be in control, a desire which may be reinforced by the appearance of her (spoilers) bulimia.
Gena (Lizzy Caplan, who is, incidentally, happily reunited with her Party Down co-star/Parks and Rec man-candy Adam Scott) and Katie (Isla Fisher, for a double dose of Australian-ness) do not fare much better in the friendship stakes. They are equally unenthused by the prospect of Becky’s wedding, and their emotional detachment leads them to determine that they can only make it through the rehearsal dinner with the help of cocaine. They mock Becky’s size by trying to fit two people inside her wedding dress, thereby destroying it, and marvel that she was able to snag Dale, apparently oblivious to any of Becky’s attributes beyond her weight. That Becky’s closest friends would be so critical of her appearance and so disinterested in her actual life is sad, and a damning representation of female friendship. Katie’s self-absorption in the face of the revelation of Gena’s abortion only further highlights the futility of Bitchfaces’ relationship.
Becky is the only woman to show any truly friendly qualities, and yet even this serves to portray the damage wrought by female friendships. While the exchange in the bathroom with Regan is truly heartbreaking, her reward for being a good friend is the ridicule of her schoolmates and the ‘pleasure’ of having the Bitchfaces almost destroy her wedding to the only person who actually likes her.
That this person is a man is no accident – even the best feminist in the film is a man. Joe has his sights set on Katie, still harbouring a crush from high school where he took French notes for her and supplied her with pot. Among the groomsmen group (groomsmen? That’s right, isn’t it?), he voices an early reservation about the strip club visit. While there, he objects, twice, to women being referred to as ‘that’, rather than a more humanising term. After the fateful strip club visit, Katie is ill and needs to be taken home. While a villainous James Marsden suggests that he “slip it in” upon their arrival, Joe raises issues of drug-and-alcohol-fuelled ‘consent’ and insists – even when Katie seems more than willing – that the pair have sex when the two of them are sober. Unfortunately, his feminism (and general not-being-a-rapey-creep status) is undermined by:
a) his goofiness. No one in the film takes him seriously, and while the audience may sympathise with him, they do not respect him; and
b) the film’s negative portrayal of women. Why bother respecting them when they won’t respect themselves?
The film is especially damaging as we are meant to accept the Bitchfaces’ behaviour as a genuine portrayal of female friendship. This is made clear by the lack of other visible representations – with Becky’s relatives filling the roles of her other bridesmaids, the leading women’s friendship is the only example shown in the film. While feminist characters do not have to be likeable, (the all-white and all-straight) Bachelorette goes too far the other way. Bachelorette paints women as backstabbing harpies who see friendship as a competitive sport, sluts who tempt you to ‘slip it in’ before they cry rape, or so unattractive they are not permitted to have a personality. The Bitchfaces might want to take a lesson from Pitch Perfect if they are ever going to win an ICAA championship.
Up next: Rebel Wilson Pride Special, Pt 3 – ‘Bridesmaids’
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