Female buddy pictures: “Revenge of the Bridesmaids” (2010), aka rose-colored glasses edition

21 November 2013

The fact is that if a film starts with an image that looks like this, I’m probably going to like it. Even if the film originated on the ABC Family channel (I’m trying to repress the channel’s Pat Robertson connection).

Raven-in-Revenge-of-the-Bridesmaids

This is Abigail (Raven-Symoné), who shares a New York apartment with her lifelong best friend Parker (Joanna Garcia). They’re trying to make it — Abigail as a novelist, Parker as an actor. But as she poses for her police booking photo, Abigail tells us in voiceover:

Something you should know about me: I have a little problem with authority. In second grade I told our music teacher, Mrs. Quarantine, that if she wanted us to sing like birds, she should get some freakin’ birds.

Parker: I laughed so hard I peed.

They’re not the nice kinds of bridesmaids. “We’re more like the avenging angels who’re gonna give you what you have coming to you kinds of bridesmaids,” Parker explains. You see? This, from the Pat Robertson channel? I loved it.

7b5dcc7bThat’s the thing about Revenge of the Bridesmaids — it bucks up against virtually every taboo you might expect from a wholesome network like ABC Family (and yes, it’s streaming on Netflix). Young people have sex. They drink. They move away from their provincial, oppressive small hometown in Louisiana to go to New York, where they try improbable careers like actor and writer, even if they aren’t incredibly good at those careers.

While on a short trip back home, Parker and Abigail discover that their other great friend has had the love of her life stolen out from under her by the rich Mean Girl, Caitlyn (Virginia Williams), who literally lives in one of those creepy antebellum plantation manors. Naturally they plot revenge. Naturally we root for them, even though we know somehow they’re going to wind up at the police station getting booked.

14242.imgcacheTheir idea of revenge … well, let’s just say it’s convoluted enough that it involves

  • a plotline from An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  • Parker developing a possible love interest with the local cop (handy, that)
  • Caitlyn’s evil-bitch mother, who is a lot smarter than her daughter, and demands that Abigail go on a diet
  • a chipper-shredder

Perhaps this is the moment to warn you of a few things. If you read the title Revenge of the Bridesmaids and thought, whew, that sounds like a lot of pink buttercream frosting, you have nailed it. No new feminist ground is forged here; maybe it’s best described as apt for fans of Drew Barrymore rom-coms. You will not finish this film and feel liberated, enlightened, or particularly intelligent. All I can say is that I watched the entire thing and enjoyed practically every minute, while my partner — whose appetite for rom-coms is usually far greater than mine — walked out. Too much frosting.

600full-revenge-of-the-bridesmaids-screenshotSo yeah, I’ve taken a perhaps overly rosy view of a film that would probably only score about 3 stars out of 5. But that’s the thing, you see. How often do I get to see a film in which two women get to love each other like this? Sure, their love for each other also gets framed by their shared hatred for Evil Caitlyn, but who doesn’t have an Evil Caitlyn in her life somewhere? Is it so wrong that us feminists want to have a little pink buttercream every now and then?

That’s the thing about female buddy pictures: they represent the sugary crumbs that women get in a world in which male buddy pictures outnumber female ones about 100 to 1.

hqdefaultJust as important, this show also reveals a few broader themes common to the female buddy picture genre.

  1. They point out how often women have to survive on high-sugar content films like this in order to see women who love each other and do things together — in short, films that pass the Bechdel Test.
  2. Creators of such films KISS [keep it simple, stupid] by selecting super-girlie themes. As much as I liked the avenging-angel bridesmaids, I want to see more films without weddings in them.
  3. These films just love to drop in plenty of male love interests. After all, let’s not go too far with that whole Bechdel Test thing, you can hear them saying.
  4. Why is it always the skinny one who gets the boyfriend in the end?

MV5BMTY0ODMzODg0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg3MTU2Mw@@._V1._SX640_SY427_In retrospect I realize one of the things I loved about Orange is the New Black is how much it messed with genre tropes like this. Gone was the pink frosting; in its place was women’s prison. Women were just as close to one another, but some of them also leapt over the big heterosexual wall erected in fluff like Revenge of the Bridesmaids.

Yes, I’m saying that OITNB might be the best female buddy picture I’ve seen all year.

raven-symone-revenge-bridesmaids-17Lest you cease to trust my judgment about film, I think it’s best that I pair this rosy view of Revenge of the Bridesmaids with a snarky feminist view of a very similar film, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997), which I’ll discuss tomorrow. Stay tuned for a rant.

But I’m going to stick with my endorsement of Revenge. Films like this may pit good girls against bad, reward them with love interests, and shower everyone in frothy clothing and only slightly off-color language and situations. Only to have someone like me say, “Hey, that was a lot more off-color than one might expect from the Pat Robertson channel!” But they also show women going all-in to help one another. When we can say that no feminists were harmed in the viewing of this film — well, sometimes that has to be enough.

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8 Responses to “Female buddy pictures: “Revenge of the Bridesmaids” (2010), aka rose-colored glasses edition”

  1. Rosalind Says:

    Revenge was on TV when I was sick and I was so ashamed to watch it at the time (mainly because of the wedding theme). Feel validated in my enjoyment now; thank you. Sometimes there’s just a desire to see a screen-full of women and absence of misogyny/ anti-feminism can be enough to enable pleasure in that.

  2. Hattie Says:

    I guess people are ashamed to admit liking a film like this. I liked it very much. The women were so dear, especially the jilted one, who seemed like a real young woman. And the mom was a comic masterpiece.
    I much preferred it to the kind of middlebrow crap that people with a shaky sense of taste seem to enjoy.

    • Didion Says:

      Amen to that, Hattie. I hope the woman who played Caitlyn’s Evil Mom has gotten a lot more work as a result of this role.

  3. Poppa Zao Says:

    ABC Family itself distances itself from Pat Robertson with disclaimers. It’s contractually obligated to broadcast The 700 Club.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_Family#Sale_to_Disney_and_rebranding_as_ABC_Family

    • Didion Says:

      Oh, that’s interesting — I hadn’t realized. VERY good to know, as it helps me stomach how much I liked Revenge of the Bridesmaids!


  4. […] mini-marathon, I’ve covered four key aspects of the genre: the wedding/bridesmaid movie (Revenge of the Bridesmaids), the Very Pink/ girlie comedy (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion), the boarding school […]


  5. I was really hoping that Ashley and Ashlie were actually a couple. They never really said anything that contradicted it, and it would have been such a fresh little detail.


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