Paul Feig’s Movies Taught Me I Could Be A Loud, Funny Woman

Photo: Justina Mintz.
When great filmmakers talk about their influences, about the movies that made them decide they wanted to tell their stories, they cite Citizen Kane, or Seven Samurai, or if you're lucky, The Royal Tenenbaums. You know, the movies you watch in class. The movies you're supposed to have seen and keep telling people you'll get around to. The movies that convinced me I wasn't meant to be a film major because they didn't bring me unparalleled joy. Now I know if I'm ever lucky enough to create something that prompts people to ask me how it all started, I'll tell them — proudly — that it was with Bridesmaids.
I shouldn't need to remind you of what Bridesmaids is, because it was the only comedy anyone quoted for the entirety of 2011 — or was that just me? My best friend and I went to go see the film in theaters during the height of our Kristen Wiig obsession, expecting the movie be bad, but not a bad way to spend a Friday night.
To explain why I believed a movie led by six undisputedly funny women would be bad, I have to back up. I had been raised in a feminist household, with a working mom and a stay-at-home dad, and a whole bunch of books, movies, and TV shows that featured strong women at the helm. But these fictional women weren't necessarily funny. They were witty, to be sure. They were quick and brave and all sorts of noble — but they wouldn't be caught dead sinking to the ground in the middle of a street as they succumbed to diarrhea.
In fact, off the bat I would have said a movie that featured such an instance wasn't "my kind of humor." Only in the past few years have I realized that belief didn't stem from a personal preference, but instead an internal bias that boiled down to this: farts and falls and anything loud was for boys. If girls tried to do it, it wouldn't be funny — it would be dumb.
Which is why I was so surprised to find myself whispering "That was so good!" to my friend as we left the theater after Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph finished their rendition of Wilson Phillips' "Hold On." From that point on, we relentlessly quoted the movie, filmed our own version of the final dance scene on Photobooth (remember that?), and bought it as soon as it came to DVD (remember those?). The story was real and touching and all about women who were simultaneously crude and outrageous while also vulnerable and smart — you know, humans. Something in my brain was starting to unlock.
Bridesmaids was directed by Paul Feig, who I knew (but didn't know I knew) as Mr. Pool from Sabrina The Teenage Witch. In fact, Feig showed up in many things I hold near and dear to my heart, without my knowing they ever had this common denominator. He directed many episodes of The Office, including the final episode, "Goodbye Michael," as well as the actual best episode in the entire series, "Dinner Party." He also created Freaks & Geeks, and directed episodes of Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Nurse Jackie, and Parks & Recreation.
After Bridesmaids, Feig went on to direct movies like The Heat (starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy), Spy (starring Melissa McCarthy and Miranda Hart), and Ghostbusters (starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones). Most recently, he worked as a producer on the upcoming Amy Schumer hit Snatched. Almost exclusively, Feig directs and produces comedies led by loud, funny women, often alongside writer Katie Dippold (Parks & Recreation, Ghostbusters, Snatched).
As each one of these movies hit theaters — although some I discovered by chance through late-night iTunes rentals and long airplane flights — they acted as a notch in my comedy bedpost. I watched fearless, talented women be loud and goofy on screen, and got closer to accepting that maybe I could be a loud, goofy woman as well, and not to the detriment of the other "serious" things about me.
During the past six years, I've slowly been dipping my toe into the comedy world I've loved watching thanks to the encouragement of these characters. I wrote humor pieces for my college's blog, made quick sketch videos with friends, and most recently, completed the core sketch writing classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center. By the time I walked into my final course, I was the only woman out of the eight people in the class. While, in 2011, this may have caused me to shrink, I felt, for the first time, the privilege of having a female voice. The fact that no other woman was in the class made it even more important to me that my ideas were not only heard, but as loud and dumb as possible.
Of course, I can't ignore that the person responsible for my feminist comedy come-to-Jesus moment is, in fact, a man — but it's really thanks to the loud female voices Feig put front and center that I got to where I am. I'm grateful for his ability to mix and match and incredible roster of women and pair them with equally funny, smart, loud, dumb scripts. For me, someone who didn't study the films my professors told me to but did watch a whole lot of comedies they would hate, this is Hollywood getting it right: Talented voices telling hilarious stories without using "look, women!" as the sole (and usually shallow) reason we should be watching them. Instead, women get the chance to be as sloppy and smart and gross and brash — just like everyone else.
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