Can one successful film about women really change Hollywood’s mind about women? Could it be that Bridesmaids is really the movie to usher in a new era of change where the films that came before failed? We’ve seen multitudes of successful female films in our recent past — one or two a year, lots starring Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock like The Devils Wears Prada, The Proposal, Julie & Julia, Sex and the City...but they all pretty much became one offs. A great success that does not lead to more successes.
According to an interview in Salon with producer Lynda Obst by Rebecca Traister, there are signs that true change could be on the horizon. Obst who is known as a producer of women’s films like Sleepless in Seattle (and if you haven’t read her hysterical and biting memoir, Hello, He Lied you are missing a great book about women in Hollywood) really sees positive changes after so many years of nos.
She tells Traister that Bridesmaids has “had the biggest impact of any women’s movie that I can remember in my career..” And she’s been producing movies since the 80s.
Here’s more about the meaning of its success:
It means that its success was due to the fact that people enjoyed it, and gave it good word of mouth once the movie started screening. Which leads us to the gigantic thing, which was the revelation that women can open a movie, and also, that this [women’s movie] crossed over. Men came. It drew women of all ages and it drew guys and was a major hit. And not just domestically, which is part two of this gigantic thing, because the movie business right now is being driven by international box office.
It was a success because there were no stars, that it starred women and that men came to see it too. Now of course we don’t need to be reminded that women see movies about men every single week but all of Hollywood is thunderstruck that a movie about a wedding — albeit a damn good one — had dudes buying tickets too.
The dynamic of the box office is so skewed, the whole way we talk about it, women are always behind the curve, even when they are a success. We have to start figuring out a way to shift the conversation from the fact that it is like God came off the mountain when men see movies about women. We need to make this the norm. That’s when people will stop thinking that the success of a film about women is not that big a deal.
But we need critical mass to do this. More successes that get the visibility of Bridesmaids.
Obst adds that now studios are taking pitches about women but also reminds us that the pressure is still on and this could literally be wiped away in a flash if a couple of films don’t do well. Of course, we will see the Green Hornet or Lantern sequel (I can’t tell the difference) and sequels to all the superheroes of the summer. Cause that’s what Hollywood does.
It’s a high stakes and weighted game. Women still need to perform double or triple better than the guys to even be in the game.