Olivia Wilde would like to know why we’re still dulling the uniqueness of brilliant female comedies by comparing them to vaguely similar male ones, and we would too.
As we know, Hollywood hasn’t always been a place that’s overflowing with opportunities for women. Sure, there are reams of talented female actors on our screens, but notoriously roles get harder to find as women get older, making the likes of Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren feel like unicorns in an ageist industry.
Equally, female directors and scriptwriters struggle to get their projects off the ground behind the scenes: a recent report found that there are 22 male directors for every female director. This, combined with that tired old ‘women just aren’t as funny as men’ trope, contributes to a lack of female-centric comedies.
So when a smart, brilliant, hilarious female made and fronted comedy does hit cinemas, what happens? Well, it’s not exactly worshiped for all its glory. In fact, these films are often robbed of their autonomy and uniqueness, and instead compared to an already popular, vaguely similar male comedy.
We saw this happen earlier in the year with the release of Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilde and starring young talents Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. The coming-of-age film examines the last days of high school through the eyes of two female students – both of whom have been considered ‘stuck-up geeks’ for most of their time at school. So, when it comes to the night before graduation, they’re keen to make up for lost time… and a night of riotous chaos ensues.
Booksmart is not only fiercely funny but empowering, capturing the mindset of the gen-z feminist for whom photos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama are pinned up in her bedroom and daily mantras about “visualising the mountain of success and fuck anyone who’s ever doubted you” is a thing. It has an LGBTQ+ storyline, which is done sensitively and again, feels empowering. Essentially, it’s nothing like Superbad – so why is it still being compared to it?
This is exactly what Olivia Wilde would like to know. The actor and director recently spoke to Yahoo Entertainment via The Playlist and highlighted just how great it would be if, you know, a female comedy could be respected in its own right.
“I mean, hopefully, we get to a point where every female movie doesn’t have to become the female version of a male film, but I loved Superbad,” Wilde graciously commented.
“I mean, in a certain sense, I’m like, we should be so lucky. I fucking love that movie. It’s amazing. But I did feel that we should stand alone. Hopefully, that’s a kind of pattern that we’ll grow out of. Movies don’t have to be the female version of anything. You know? And one day there will be a male Booksmart.”
Speaking about the inherent sexism present in the comedy genre, Wilde continued to explain that a general disbelief that women can be funny seems to extinguish female-made comedies from achieving their full potential and getting the respect the deserve.
“I also think that, you know, people are more accustomed to male-dominated comedies and there is still a certain reluctance to believe that women can make you laugh as hard. And that still exists, which is sort of nuts to you and me…
“But there’s still a lot of work to be done to say, like, hey, this is not a male-dominated game,” she said.
We’ve comparisons such as these happen time and time again, most notably with Bridesmaids. To jog your memory (although we doubt anyone could forget this cake throwing, speech fighting, puppy stealing, diarrhoea-filled epic) this film focuses on the friendship between a bride and her bridesmaids in the months leading up to her wedding.
Despite having literally no similarity to The Hangover (which takes place over just one day and wholly focuses on a recovering a drunken groom-to-be who’s lost in Las Vegas) – aside from the fact that a wedding is involved, of course – the two films were compared side by side, with Bridesmaids constantly being cast in The Hangover’s shadow.
Comparison is the thief of joy – we’re lucky enough to see a growing number of seriously impressive women in comedy, so let’s not diminish their spark by putting it next to a bonfire that’s been fanned for years.