The same sparkly, pink cookie cutters have been used to mold the women in pretty much every romantic comedy we’ve seen since Richard Gere’s hair turned gray. But recently, people seem to be taking notice. Last January, NYMag.com ran a feature laying out the eight possible career options for romantic comedy heroines (all quasi-glamorous ways of being tightly wound). And just last week, in The New Yorker, America’s premier journal for furrowed-brow dissections of lowbrow culture, Mindy Kaling artfully skewered the prevailing archetypes that populate the genre. Really, it’s as if every three months, a man in a suit goes into a cave behind the Hollywood sign and pulls the lever, to produce a freshly saccharine script.
So, in this universe of Witherspoons and Heigls and Hudsons, where pop songs spell out emotional reckonings and everyone wakes up wearing a flash of mascara and a subtle swipe of peachy lip gloss, it was pretty awesome to watch Kristin Wiig and her stone-cold pack of weirdoes confront a lot of those tropes and stomp all over the rest of them. Yes, the convo about this movie and the paradigm shift it's causing has been going on for a few months now. But after a repeat viewing of Bridesmaids on DVD, with our copy of The New Yorker in hand, we really started thinking about the new "happily ever after," and how friendship is coming to trump getting the guy. And that felt pretty major. And worth revisiting.
If Bridesmaids succeeds in subverting textbook rom-com expectations in any radical way, it’s as much by barfing on some magenta evening gowns as it is by barfing on all of the character clichés we’ve come to expect from these movies.
The Schlubby Romantic Lead
It’s the job of the feisty, sexy love interest to get this guy to abandon his emotionally unfulfilling job, reignite his passion, and get him to do what he truly loves, which is, of course, her.
e.g.: Ashton Kutcher in What Happens in Vegas, Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Jake Gyllenhall in Love and Other Drugs
In Bridesmaids: Kristin Wiig’s “Annie." The lady is an unemployed bum who gets re-ignited and inspired by an adorable man.
The Chaste Naif
The wide-eyed, rule-abiding foil to the heroine. She makes the heroine’s normal behavior seem outrageous/interesting.
e.g.: “Charlotte.” Kathryn Hahn in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Heather Burns (Miss Rhode Island) in Miss Congeniality, and Amanda Bynes in Easy A
In Bridesmaids: Ellie Kemper’s “Becca.” The Disney-worshipping, virgin-before-marriage, cardigans-and-pearls supporting character ends up making out with a woman she deems “more beautiful than Cinderella.”
The Oversexed Hussy
The brassy, “unapologetic,” second-wave slut foil to the heroine. She makes the heroine’s eventual casual sex with the male lead seem tame and reasonable. Usually blond-haired.
e.g.: “Samantha.” Lake Bell in What Happens in Vegas and Judy Greer in 27 Dresses In Bridesmaids: Wendi McLendon-Covey’s “Rita." Sure, she’s in a sexually over-driven marriage, but she hates it. “Sometimes I just want to watch The Daily Show without him entering me.”
The Irrelevant Spouse
A “bromance” staple. This woman is usually relegated to a “voice on the phone” role while the real action happens outside of her relationship.
e.g.: Michelle Monaghan in Due Date, the brown-haired woman in The Hangover
In Bridesmaids: “Dougie.” Wordless, smiley-faced Dougie couldn’t even get a SAG card for his performance.
A sexual non-competitor whose sole job is to interject something ridiculous.
e.g.: The entire canon
In Bridesmaids: Melissa McCarthy’s “Megan.” She’s the film’s only true sexual tigress. And between her poetic, masterful comic monologues, she delivers the film’s most sensible real talk. The jester takes on the role of moral center. And for that, she may even win an Oscar.
The Most Important Relationship in the Female Lead's Entire Life: The romance.
In Bridesmaids: The friendship.