Kicking off in 2016, the all-female cast of the Ghostbuster’s remake, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, exemplified a growing trend in the film comedy genre… Films with women creating actual laughs, have been on the rise, starting notably with the likes of Means Girls (2004), Clueless (1995) and Pitch Perfect (2012). These stories document groups of girls interacting in a realistic way, straying away from the comedy genre’s origins where female comedians made self-deprecating jokes and dumb personas to please the audiences that expected it. Ghostbusters has only further paved the way to busting these misogynistic stereotypes, as a controversial remake of the heavily male cast, featuring damsels in distress. The female cast had some big ghostbusting boots and grey jumpsuits to fill.
Before we jump into the current comedies with some wonderful women, let’s take a brief look into the complex history of comedy as a genre. Any person who’s studied GCSE English knows of Shakespeare’s use of comic relief amongst all tragedy, with puns, metaphors and insults defining the genre.
Comedy weaved its way into cinema especially in the 1900’s. Slapstick originated in silent films, where the restriction of, well, silence, led to the popularisation of big comedic movement. Charlie Chaplin defined the sub-genre, as his physical comedy led audiences to roll on the floor laughing at trips, falls, violence and general goofy behaviour.
Once technology developed, comedy could now evolve into a more recognisable genre like modern films. Innuendoes, puns, and parodies developed in the 30s to 50s as audio became accessible. From there the genre intertwined with new ideas creating dark humour called black comedy, Romantic Comedies, Spoof films and sketch comedy.
Despite making a positive impact, female centred storylines don’t always gain the success they arguably deserve. By splitting the comedy genre into two demographics, do the films really set out to do the intended job, making males and females equally laugh no matter the gender cast?
A prime example is 2014’s Bad Neighbours and its 2016 sequel Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising. The first film followed a couple’s struggle, dealing with the comedic antics of a fraternity house next door and their raging testosterone. The sequel heavily mirrored the first film, aside from the fact a sorority house of female students, who party equally hard, are now the bane of the neighbourhood. Despite the similar premises the first film grossed $270,665,134 worldwide but the latter film grossed $108,007,109. Can this be blamed on the gender focus? Or is it the recurring issue of sequels generally grossing less?
Either way, here are some recent films to watch to support independent female characters, female casts and good comedy.
Starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn and Christina Applegate.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell and Zoe Kravitz.
Starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish and Deborah Ayorinde.
Have you seen any of these female fronted comedy films?
Text: Jessica Saunders
Images: Marie Claire, University of Washington