Congrats if you remember Britney Spears’ 2009 not-so-hit single, RE: title.
Last Friday night my friends and I went to see Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, a movie I’d been long anticipating since earlier this year (see my excitement / single interesting moment that occurred when the trailer came on before watching 50 Shades of Grey). I very much love Amy Schumer. “Inside Amy” is perhaps the funniest show in my humble opinion, and when I saw Amy live at the Apollo Theater, I can honestly say I’ve never laughed harder in public. So it’s no surprise that I loved Trainwreck.
Having had a week to fully digest the movie and read through op-eds and thought pieces on the movie, I’ve come to one conclusion: it doesn’t have to be about all feminism.
I am absolutely a feminist. I do recognize there are tiered levels of feminism and that some demand change in different ways and more promptly than I do. Fair enough. But I’m pretty tired of hearing about how Trainwreck is a failure to women. If Amy Schumer WANTED to make a movie that really was for the feminist cause well 1) Judd Apatow wouldn’t be the director/producer by choice (sorry Apatow, I love your movies but let’s play along), and 2) a movie wouldn’t be the medium to do it through.
This isn’t to say that I think that Amy Schumer isn’t a feminist or isn’t doing anything to help the female image. Through her shows, and through this movie, what Amy is doing is simply flipping the gender-normative script. She takes the female image outside of the box and gives us females that are real, which means not seen in popular media – real. I think that’s why viewers, like myself, find Amy’s work so appealing. The movie resonated with people like me because it showed us a character that was 100% relatable.
Following the movie’s premiere I was bombarded by texts and friends and acquaintances saying how Amy’s character reminded them of me. Have I ever related related to a movie character before? No.
And this is where I think Amy’s version of “feminism” (if you may), comes into work.
Up until recent years, women have lacked a variety of personalities on the big screen to look at. The manic pixie dream girl is one character that has overwhelmed films. Think Natalie Portman in Garden State, Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer and even Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (isn’t this a telling one as so many girls, even myself, idolize this character?), and any woman Don Draper has ever looked at in MadMen. The Manic Pixie Dream girl is girlish, and cute. You love her because she is so cute. She probably follows the I only sleep with guys after the 3rd date rule and maybe you admire her for it. But the Manic Pixie Dream girl is too often defined by the relationships she is in, the men around her. To a fault, she will usually do anything for love. If you’re someone like me, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is infuriating to watch. You’d rather listen to nails on a chalk board than sit through 500 Days of Summer watching Zooey Deschanel prance about in her cutesy dresses.
That’s why I will defend Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck because it offered a rare character that was actually, and often TOO relatable.
Amy has a good job. She lives her life the way she wants to – her vices don’t get the best of her – and never do they entirely effect her career. She has family problems. She gets through family problems. And guess what? She doesn’t depend on a man to help her through any of it. She deals independently and doesn’t turn into a needy, clingy gal wanting male affection after hitting a low point. Instead, at her lowest point, Amy is quite fine being alone.
If you really want to analyze in the feminist lens, Amy is simply any male character in a Judd Apatow movie. She’s messy, frank, unapologetic, sexually liberated, and quite content in being all of the above. When a good thing comes her way, she neither drops her career nor her personality (as is typical in the standard rom-com equation) to be with them. To some critics, this is upsetting – to see a woman behave like this. While it isn’t the most flattering portrayal of women – it IS the most real. The Manic Pixie Dream girl on the other hand, while a very flattering portrayal of women – is absolutely NOT real and not a standard women should look to.
The ending I’m still coming to terms with. Yes, all ends happily ever after – as it does in any rom-com. Critics berate Amy Schumer for falling back into the “cult of domesticity” (okay I get it, you took a gender issues class your freshman year of college, but really go fuck yourself), and going back to “traditional feminism” for having her character end up with Bill Hader at the end. I do think the ending could have used a bit more explanation, but again, as I said before – if Amy really wanted to do something groundbreaking for the feminist efforts, I doubt it would have taken form in a Judd Apatow movie.
But this isn’t to say this wasn’t SOMETHING for feminism. Too often, people expect women like Amy (trailblazers, if I may) to have the solution to everything. Be so precise and so exact with their message, and to be perfect with the delivery. Amy is a huge force, chipping away at the mainstream feminist message. With the help of other female trendsetters like the Lena Dunhams (I know, divisive), I think that this traditional view of feminism will slowly become more mainstream.