SO just a short post today because I have a treatment due and my protagonist is not cooperating… She’s a disillusioned wife and mother who wants a divorce… Is she successful and detached? A control freak? Is she a Supermom who her husband can’t compete with? Does he cheat on her? Does she cheat on him? How in the hell will we ever like her if she cheats on him? And how, oh how, is this funny?
On Monday, a friend of mine texted me that she was reading this article in the New Yorker about Anna Faris and funny women in Hollywood... Here are some highlights from the abstract, which basically says women don’t get to be funny for a lot of reasons and that Hollywood is a total sausage fest (News at 11!):
“…The Bechdel Test is a way of examining movies for gender bias. The test poses three questions: Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? And, if so, do they discuss something other than a man? An astonishing number of light entertainments fail the test. This points to a crucial imbalance in studio comedies: distinctive secondary roles for women barely exist. For men, these roles can be a stepping stone to stardom. On the other hand, relatively unraunchy female-driven comedies have all done well at the box office. So why haven’t more of them been made? The answer is that studios, as they release fewer films, are increasingly focused on trying to develop franchises. Female-driven movies aren’t usually blockbusters, and studio heads don’t see them as repeatable. Men predominate in Hollywood, and men just don’t write much for women…”
“What a misogynistic industry,” my pal wrote, “Glad to know that girls like you are in the ring, duking it out.”
I don’t think I can legitimately claim to be duking it out (surviving by the skin of my teeth might be more spot on) but her text made me want to just that. I know who I want my protagonist/funny woman main character to be – I want her to be a freaking mess! The truth is I’m scared to do that. Writing women to be funny is hard – women want their women empowering. Men want them sexy. I was never good at math (I am a girl after all) but I know that: sexy + empowering = not funny.
By the way, if you found the “I am a girl” comment offensive, then I’ve come to the second part of my problem. I’m afraid to make my female characters the least bit dumb! Maybe it’s because there are too many people who actually think that women have an inferior intellect or maybe it’s because dumb blondes are all over reality TV and I feel that they are already represented but if I can’t write dumb than aren’t I kind of at a disadvantage as a comedy writer?? Will Farell, Steve Martin, Steve Carrell all get real dumb in movies all the time! Why should being a chick in a mainstream comedy movie mean that you have to be whip smart, successful, and swathed in fabulous couture?
As the New Yorker article explained –
“Relatability for female characters is seen as being based upon vulnerability, which creates likability. So funny women must not only be gorgeous; they must fall down and then sob, knowing it’s all their fault. Ideas for female-driven comedies are met with intense skepticism, and it’s even more intense because Faris isn’t aiming at the familiar Type A roles played by Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl. She said, “I’d like to explore Type D, the sloppy ones.”
Amen, Anna Farris!!!
God, I am dying to write a female leading lady that is as flawed and funny as her male counterparts get to be. I want to write a woman that doesn’t wear Prada heels. I want to write a woman who has let herself go and is in a dead end job and is drinking wine out of a nipple-less baby bottle because all the other glasses in the house are dirty.
That sounds like a fun opening scene, actually. Maybe I’ve found my girl. I better go write her...
Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/11/110411fa_fact_friend#ixzz1K22ochhA