Last weekend The Other Woman, a girl-buddy revenge comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton as three women who realize they’re all involved with the same guy and end up working together to destroy the dude, killed at the box office. The movie booted Captain America: The Winter Soldier out of the first place position it held for the first three weeks of its run. I’m not surprised. I’m the exact OPPOSITE of surprised. Female buddy comedies destroy at the box office. Last summer’s Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy two-hander The Heat dominated. It dominated so hard it’s getting a sequel. Two years before that, Bridesmaids kicked ALL the ass and was supposed to usher in a new era of female-driven comedies, to be green-lit left and right.
The thing is, it’s two years later now (that’s enough time for WAY more girl comedies to be made) and we’re still seeing a summer dominated by testosterone-fueled superheroes (Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Spiderman 2), bro comedies (Neighbors, 22 Jump Street), YA adaptations (The Giver, The Fault in Our Stars) another Transformers, another Planet of the Apes, and so on and so forth. Sure, these movies have women in them (sometimes you have to use like a microscope-telescope combination to find them, but they’re there), but these are not female-driven movies.
Hollywood is, like Hollywood basically always has been, afraid of putting women in the driver’s seat. They’re doubly afraid of putting more women in the passengers’ seats and having a car full of women. Their excuses are tired and lame. “Women don’t go to see movies” and “Men won’t go to see movies about women.” These excuses are not only tired and lame, they also don’t work anymore. Audiences DO want to see movies with women front and center. You don’t get much more blockbuster-y than The Hunger Games and Divergent.
Hollywood executives can say that’s because these films are franchises with built-in audiences and there are just enough explosions and mixed-martial arts to make men buy tickets. But they can’t use this same logic when it comes to explaining why female buddy comedies continue to annihilate at the box office. And they can’t keep saying every female-driven comedy that succeeds is a fluke or an “exception to the rule.” If there are enough exceptions, the rule isn’t a rule anymore.
We’re in a weird age of cinema. There was a time when if you wanted to see a movie, you went to the movies. But in an era where a month of Netflix costs less than the price of one movie theater ticket, more and more people are staying on the couch to consume their media and only venturing forth to the cineplex when the film in question is enough of an event to merit the cost of the trip. Studios are less and less inclined to take risks, and yes, this is why all these movies are based on comic books and YA novels and McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.
The thing is, female buddy comedies aren’t risks. This recent batch has been original stories starring a mix of established and emerging actresses and they have time and time again performed above expectations. Which means Hollywood needs to raise its expectations. It also means it needs to start making a heck of a lot more of these movies. Audiences are voting with their credit cards. They want female comedies. So Hollywood, if you’re listening, dude, stop making excuses and start making more of these movies.