Fey established herself as a comedic voice for women with her Saturday Night Live career beginning in 1997 and led to her being the show’s first female head writer. But it wasn’t until 30 Rock premiered in 2006 that Fey became a household name.
And now, after five seasons of astute cultural satire, Fey seems to have become the universally recognized proof that, yes, women are funny.
Fey might be the queen, but there is hardly a shortage of funny women on television these days, from the wives and daughters on Modern Family to the comediennes of SNL.
Although these female roles are not adequately diverse (the only women on Modern Family are thin, beautiful housewives), at least it’s understood that women can make men laugh, too.
But this isn’t the case in film. Most female-centered comedies are seen as chick flicks or romantic comedies: two genres assumed to deter all males.
Women in these movies are so often limited to the role of sex object or they spend the entire movie trying to become the man’s object of desire.
They might be able to crack a joke, but they’re mostly there to be looked at. Especially considering the assumption men don’t appreciate female humor, there’s not a lot of room in the market for funny women to take the lead.
The new Judd Apatow-produced comedy Bridesmaids looks to be out to break, or at least bend, the mold of female-driven comedies.
A month before its theatrical release, it is already being called the “female version of The Hangover,” and “a potential game-changer for female comedy” by Moviefone.com and others.
Written by SNL’s Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo, the film centers around an unemployed, unlucky-in-love 30-something woman (Wiig) who is asked to be the maid of honor for her childhood best friend. Hilarity ensues as she and the motley crew of bridesmaids engage in the painful tradition of pre-wedding rituals.
A wedding plot doesn’t sound so game-changing for women in film, but movie critic Jen Yamato calls Bridesmaids “the anti-Sex and the City and Bride Wars,” which is an incredibly promising endorsement.
She describes the film as being “about awkwardness, insecurity and friendship that talks the way real women talk,” something that sounds like a refreshing and tremendous change from the oh-so-scripted dialogue that spills from the attractive lips of Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson in any number of forgettable rom-coms.
Though Bridesmaids might have required the Apatow stamp of approval (you’ve sadly still got to have at least one powerful man behind you to get anything done in Hollywood), it features a strong female ensemble with an impressive improv pedigree.
These actresses come from The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade, some of the best comedy troupes in the country, and now work on shows like SNL, The Office and Reno 911. These are top-notch comediennes, not just actresses who can pull off occasional one-liners while looking pretty.
Fey, Wiig and company prove funny women are out there, and they can be just as crude and lewd as the boys. Now it’s just a matter of giving them some screen time.
Apatow might write some solid supporting roles for women in his comedies, but he admits he focuses on men because they’re what he knows. And his movies have come to define a generation of man-children.
But when only 7 percent of directors, 10 percent of writers and 15 percent of executive producers in Hollywood are women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, it’s really no wonder most comedies (and dramas and everything else) revolve around men.
There just aren’t enough female filmmakers to tell women-centered stories in which finding Mr. Right is not the ultimate goal in life.
Bridesmaids might include some sex and romance, but it also delves into and satirizes the dynamics between women.
With more women in the industry, female audiences might actually get to see characters and storylines resemble real life.
Many women are capable of executing a traditionally male style of humor, but they shouldn’t always have to do so to be recognized.
One can only hope that Bridesmaids is just the beginning. Maybe soon, women can be funny like women, or better yet, just plain funny.
Cara Dickason is a senior majoring in cinema-critical studies and English. Her column,”Cine File,” runs Tuesdays.