Less than a decade ago, the late Christopher Hitchens published an essay in Vanity Fair titled “Why Women Still Don’t Get It”—a follow-up piece to all the hate and outrage he received for his preceding infamous article, “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”
Now, in 2015, after the overwhelmingly (and unsurprisingly) successful screenwriting and film acting debut of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, it’s undeniable that Hitchens was the one who actually didn’t “get it.” (Although, the titles of his articles should’ve proved that back in 2008.)
Trainwreck markets itself as “not your mother’s romantic comedy.” There are some elements of the film that hold true to the conventions of the genre, but there is an overall feminist punch to it that suggests the future of romantic comedies can finally break free of the shackles that inexplicably require the presence of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG).
The MPDG is infuriating to watch. She’s a caricature of how women should act in the interest of male characters. She helps her man without pursuing her own happiness. She is static, with eccentric personalities or quirks (ah! She’s such a klutz! She wears glasses! So silly!). Unabashedly girlish—not that there’s anything wrong with femininity—but girlish to an obscene extent where she’s irritatingly immature and unoriginal. So cute, right?????
No. It isn’t. Shut up.
In Trainwreck, Amy (Schumer) holds a job she’s passionate about, but shockingly this doesn’t make her intolerable to date (or watch) à la any Katherine Heigl character. It’s almost as if she’s a functioning human woman!!!
Amy sleeps around. She lives an uninhibited lifestyle that usually only the guys in movies get to enjoy. She’s happy, she’s successful, and while she does face bumps in the road (her father suffers from MS), that doesn’t turn her into a miserable spinster waiting for some blue-eyed dreamboat to step in and save her.
And that’s the thing: Amy doesn’t need saving. There’s no man-shaped void in her life whatsoever. Her drinking, drug use, and partying aren’t metaphors for the downward direction her life is headed in—they don’t even impact her performance at her work.
What’s funny is, she’s not at all a trainwreck—not before nor during her relationship with Bill Hader’s character.
In a major rom-com role reversal, it’s actually Aaron (Hader) who seeks intimacy and a serious commitment. He wants to take things slow and talk about feelings. The horror. After watching romantic comedies like The Ugly Truth, it’s almost a surprise to see a male character exhibiting real life emotions without his friend (in this case, Lebron James, lol, seriously) emasculating him.
It says something that this movie plot is almost considered radical because Amy is not actively searching for someone like Aaron. And although there is a fairly predictable conclusion, it’s refreshing to continue to see female-led comedies that don’t pigeonhole an entire sex as the draining MPDG-type.
Trainwreck certainly isn’t the first movie to break the barrier and undermine typical cinematic depictions of how women should act. Bridesmaids (2011), In A World… (2013), The Heat (2013), and Obvious Child (2014) are just a handful of recent feminist comedies that contribute to putting away the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
Let’s continue this movement of watching women who are messy, who pursue careers instead of boyfriends, who aren’t constantly tripping over things/spilling cups of coffee they happen to always be carrying around, who wear glasses and don’t take them off in the end to be *hot*, and who are concerned with figuring out who they are independently of whoever they’re dating.
The romantic comedy genre has always targeted a majority female demographic for their audience. So why has it taken so long for women to be depicted in such a fair, humanizing way?