Much has been said about Bachelorette, which I finally watched a few weeks ago. I’d put off watching it largely due to hit or miss reviews, but I actually really liked the movie. This concerns me, because much of what the reviews said was about how the characters were irredeemably horrible. I worry because not only did I enjoy the movie, I also sort of identified with some of the characters.
If you’re not familiar with the movie, it follows the pre-wedding exploits of Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan, who have all been asked to be bridesmaids in a high school frenemy’s wedding. The characters all play to stereotypes – Dunst is the type-A control freak who’s upset that she wasn’t the first down the aisle, Fisher’s a ditz and Caplan is the sarcastic one with a heart of emo. The girls are horribly catty and are terrible friends to both each other and the bride. The movie opens with a livid Dunst three-way calling Fisher and Caplan to announce the wedding; she’s shocked and actually angry that someone else is getting married when her own boyfriend of several years hasn’t yet proposed.
This sort of catty selfishness permeates the movie, and is why we’re supposed to hate these characters. And yet I’ve been there. While I certainly haven’t gone to the lengths these characters do to destroy someone’s wedding, I’ve done the thing where you sit on a high school friend’s couch and you literally say about someone you know, “I can’t believe she’s getting married before us.” (Truly, you don’t have to even know the person; I’ve also sat on gChat and said the same thing about any number of people I talked to all of twice in college, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s done this. Thanks, Facebook.)
The implications of this sort of judgment are horrible on a lot of levels. It’s basically saying that relationships are a competition, and weddings are a prize, which they aren’t. You’re also saying that you should have won this noncompetition, because on some level, you think you’re smarter or prettier or just generally better than this other girl, and that somehow entitles you to a white dress and a walk down the aisle. As Kirsten Dunst’s character puts it, “I did everything right. I went to college. I exercise. I eat like a normal person. I’ve got a boyfriend in med school, and nothing is happening to me.” This says a lot of awful things about being in a society that still too often bases a woman’s worth on her ability to get married, but unfortunately, it also says a lot about those of us who get jealous over a friend’s wedding. We get so bogged down in our own issues that we can’t be happy for a friend, or frenemy, or random Facebook acquaintance. Weddings are a time when two people are celebrating their love and dedication to one another, and barring any bizarre circumstances, there’s no reason to feel anything but joy. Complaints about other people’s nuptials often reflect an unwillingness to resolve our own problems. It’s a lot easier to neg on someone else’s wedding than to go out and meet someone worth marrying, so we want to perceive an injustice where there isn’t one.
These attitudes about weddings and friends can be kind of funny if satirized in a movie. It’s less funny when you’re the one watching, thinking “these characters are totally relatable!” while reviews are calling them “an unholy triumvirate of bitter, jaded friends.” For a change, I’m going to view a movie less like a blueprint, and more like a cautionary tale, so from now on, I’m done with the wedding snarking. I will continue to enjoy Bachelorette, but this time around because any movie in which Adam Scott talks about the “tyranny of pants” is always going to be one worth watching.