Happy International Women’s Day! If ever there was a day appropriate for expressing righteous feminist ire, I think that it’s today. As well as ALL THE OTHER ONES.
What I’d particularly like to gripe about right now is the lack of buddy girl movies. There are loads of films about two men, often with opposite personalities, having wacky adventures. In a way they kind of function as the male version of the rom-com.
Now I don’t dislike rom-coms per se, some are even quite good (When Harry Met Sally, No Strings Attached, Four Weddings and a Funeral, 10 Things I Hate About You, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bridget Jones’s Diary to name a reasonably inoffensive few) and in general they do exactly what they say on the tin. They’re funny stories about finding love. And that’s fine.
But it peeves me that women get romantic comedies marketed towards them all the time, rather than a female-heavy version of films like Rush Hour, The Odd Couple, Bad Boys, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Green Hornet, Wedding Crashers, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Men in Black, Sherlock Holmes, Lethal Weapon etc etc etc etc ad infinitum.
Some of those buddy films are great, while others are considerably less so, but that’s not the point. My point is that there’s a plethora of films like that featuring male duos, but far fewer about a pair of women.
It’s not too hard to find ones about a group of women (or teenage girls). They can be pleasant viewing, and often have words like ‘sisterhood’ or ‘ladies’ or ‘girls’ in the title. They tend to get designated as chick flicks, regardless of whether they’re mostly about shopping and shoes, or about emotions and issues and Real Life Problems, or are genuinely hilarious comedies, or feature women kicking ass.
You know the kind of thing I’m talking about- Sex and the City, Bridesmaids, Calendar Girls, Now and Then, Steel Magnolias, Pride and Prejudice, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Little Women, The Baby-sitters Club, Sucker Punch, Blue Crush, Whip It, Death Proof, Waiting to Exhale, The First Wives Club, Charlie’s Angels and all that jazz.
Now I love a good bromance at least as much as the next person, but doesn’t it seem strange that we don’t tend to delight in female friendships just as much? Why aren’t we as excited by the joys of “womances“?
Sometimes romantic comedies do a good job of portraying female friendships (or familial relationships), like No Strings Attached, The Truth About Cats & Dogs and Heartbreakers, as can ensemble films (Clueless, Ten Inch Hero, Waitress). And that’s great! But still, in those films it doesn’t feel like the girly twosome dynamic is the main thrust of the film. They’re not quite buddy films, even if they are about friendship in large part.
It’s also certainly possibly to find films about highly emotional and possibly destructive female friendships, whether about a pair or a group dynamic such as Jennifer’s Body, Mean Girls, The Craft, Me Without You, Ghost World and Single White Female. Again, it’s not that I dislike these films, it’s just that it would also be nice to get to watch fun and easy depictions of a couple of women hanging out, being friends and having adventures too.
Actual buddy girl films seem few and far between (check out the pathetically tiny Wikipedia article for ‘female buddy film‘, for corroboration), and while we’re on the subject I’m not quite happy using the word ‘girl’, but there’s a serious linguistic gap!
If you don’t want to use the generic term ‘man’, the stuffy ‘gentleman’, or infantile ‘boy’, there’s recourse to a whole load of words- ‘guy’, ‘dude’, ‘bloke’, ‘chap’, ‘fellow’ and so on. What’s there for us other than ‘girl’, ‘woman’ and ‘lady’? ‘Chick’? ‘Lass’? ‘Broad’? Until something like ‘chapette’ catches on I’m going to be grumpy.
But whatever one decides to call them, there’s definitely a lack of movies about two ladyfriends. Thelma & Louise is of course the classic example, and while it’s a great film and in parts really exuberantly joyful and delightful, it’s also about rape, murder and desperation. And it doesn’t exactly have the happiest of endings. I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s the girly version of Zoolander or Rush Hour. Know what I’m saying?
Beaches is another one that gets bandied about as a classic female friendship film. And while it is also wonderfully funny in parts, and certainly about the (often tried and tested) friendship between two women, it’s also without a doubt a massive tear-jerker. Again, it’s not a bad film, but it’s not necessarily light entertainment.
The Sweetest Thing kind of gets there. I think of it as a proto-Bridesmaids, in that it’s about a group of women running around being “inappropriate”. It’s kind of a rom-com, and kind of an ensemble piece, but a large part of the story centres on the two main characters, Christina (Cameron Diaz) and Courtney (Christina Applegate), having wacky adventures and falling prey to hilarious misunderstandings. Definitely points for effort, there!
Speaking of Bridesmaids, Walking and Talking (a 1996 film which starred Anne Heche and Catherine Kenner) dealt with the changing dynamic between two best friends due to one’s marriage. It’s definitely funny and women-centric, if still a tad more serious and emo than I’d like.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun (an 80s dance film, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt) is I suppose a rom-com, but I think the friendship between the two girls is really the main drive of the (suitably fun!) story. In the same way, I’d say that Bring It On is mostly about two girls (who are rather different) becoming friends and succeeding at something. In Bring It On‘s case the two girls are played by Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku, and it’s about cheerleading, but they’re definitely similar kinds of stories.
Women Talking Dirty (Helena Bonham Carter and Gina McKee dealing with loneliness, babies and a shithead of a man) High Heels and Low Lifes (Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack extorting money from criminals), Baby Mama (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in a comedy about surrogacy), Bend It Like Beckham (Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley as footballers), Feds (Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross as wannabe FBI agents) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell play mostly broke, but beautiful, performers) are really the only film I can think of that employ the “opposites attract” trope for a comedy film about the friendship between two women.
There’s also Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion of course, which is brilliant- even if it isn’t about opposites attracting. Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino portray two nice but slightly dim best friends who have to face their old schoolmates. I’m also happy to try to make a case for Some Like it Hot being a fabulous film about female friendships, but I’m somewhat hampered by the two main characters being men. Eh.
So it’s not all bad, at least some of these films exist, and Best Buds (Natalie Portman’s stoner comedy) about female BFFs on a road trip should be released in 2014. Plus I do think that television shows generally seem relatively happy to give us the goods, shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Pretty Little Liars, Sex and the City and Cougar Town depict friendship between women/teenage girls pleasantly and realistically after all.
Still, I think that there’s not nearly enough buddy girl films out there! Please recommend any others you can think of in the comments, or just go ahead and make a movie for me!