Sunday, September 20, 2015
COMEDY: FROM THE GUYS WHO BROUGHT YOU EVERYTHING UP TIL NOW
The past season of Inside Amy Schumer felt built for shares and retweets and pins and whatever other way media caroms in the echo chamber that is the Internet. From a Friday Night Lights parody that hung a lantern on rape culture to an episode-long 12 Angry Men-style drama about whether or not Amy Schumer is hot enough to be on TV, the comedian and her staff seemed to be going out of their way to both address and subvert all the issues everyone with a Twitter account was either needlessly or – more importantly – justifiably having kittens over. If the comedy wasn't so good, if it wasn't so spot-on and hilarious, it might have seemed pedantic.
Trainwreck made for a sort of exclamation mark following Inside Amy Schumer's much lauded third season. The announcement of the film, though, the year before contextualized Schumer's relevance with the fact that star-maker Judd Apatow would be directing the film written by and starring Schumer. By the time the film was released, Apatow's involvement felt inconsequential, eclipsed by Schumer's acumen and momentum. Yet, the ad campaigns for Trainwreck were lagging behind. The poster doesn't use Schumer's name but includes the banner:
Chatelaine tracked the trend of burying the female leads in these comedies, instead using the cadre of male funny-makers as the bait. To slip into the minds of the studios, this move is probably for the purposes of delineation. A woman featured prominently on a movie poster – I'm imagining their line of thinking here – runs the risk of suggesting that that movie's a "chick flick" and scaring off dudes. Distracted by the prominence of male producers – The Guy or The Guys – dudes might be tricked into see a good, funny movie about a woman starring a woman.
Bridesmaids stands as an odd touchstone, where it dawned on culture that women could be funny. But there's a catch there. It wasn't that women as leads hadn't been feasible up until then. Broad venues just weren't being made available. The people ponying up the dough didn't trust that the ticket-buying public would watch a movie where a woman shit in a sink or in the middle of the road for comedic effect. But it turned out that people with money did like seeing that, and since Bridesmaids there's been an increasing trust from the studios in the bankability of women.
Certain miserable, wrongheaded bags of shit might see the increasing prominence of women as leads in popular culture as some insidious feminist coup. Certainly this most recent season of Inside Amy Schumer was pointed and scathing enough to make it seem like the show had an agenda, and if it did, it hit all its marks, generating tons of worthwhile conversation. But Trainwreck has little to none of Schumer's directed issue tackling. The Amy character – the titular trainwreck – is similar to many of characters that appear on the TV show, but the movie itself doesn't deviate that wildly from a strong, conventional comedy. Yes, the typical gender rolls are flipped, but that switch isn't played as revolutionary. For all the social progress Schumer has recently made with her show, the sheer regularness of Trainwreck – and I should stress that I'm not slagging the movie; it's a deft hoot – is in itself a triumph. Trainwreck isn't out to change the world, but with the movie Schumer occupies a strong and effortless place in pop culture. Needing to hitch what she's doing to The Guy or The Guys by now seems like a vestigial move.