One decade ago this week (May 13, 2011, to be exact), Bridesmaids hit theaters, and, well, I got really, really annoyed. I loved the movie, which introduced us to the mess that was Annie Walker’s (Kristen Wiig) life as she tried to carry out Maid of Honor duties for her best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) upcoming wedding. But I remember being so mad at all the “think pieces” that came out, acting as if it was something new that women could be funny. And I was like, “Ummmmmm what about Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers and Betty White and Wanda Sykes and Tracy Ullman and Catherine O’Hara and Mindy Kaling and…” the list goes on.
Now, I know the point of many of the articles back then was that there hadn’t been a lot of smash-hit female-led comedies before Bridesmaids. And sadly that’s fairly accurate. While movies like Sister Act and Clueless and Mean Girls and many others did well at the box office in the years leading up to Bridesmaids, only 2 (2!!!) of the top 20 all-time highest-grossing comedies are female-centric: Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada.
But I know I’m not the only one who’d argue that that’s not because women aren’t funny, it’s because Hollywood isn’t run by women and therefore for decades upon decades, studio executives assumed there wouldn’t be much demand for female-led comedies. Which, in retrospect, seems downright ridiculous. Yet as this article explains, Bridesmaids really was a test case for the entire US moviemaking industry, and there was a lot of pressure on everyone involved for it to work. If it didn’t, insiders knew it would doom other female comedies for years to come. Because let’s face it: Hollywood doesn’t like to take chances — there’s a reason there are so many sequels and prequels and franchises and reboots and adaptations out there.
Thankfully, there was no stopping the power of Wiig, Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy (in her breakout role … which nabbed her an Oscar nomination!) and Rebel Wilson. Audiences went wild over Bridesmaids, and then the proverbial floodgates opened, making possible other female-centric comedies like the Bad Moms franchise, the Pitch Perfect franchise, Girls Trip, Trainwreck and more.
With the benefit of hindsight, I truly hope some of the doubters have realized the error of their ways. After all, Bridesmaids went on to become über-producer Judd Apatow’s biggest hit ever. For that reason and so many others, I fully expect that when the time comes to write about the film’s 20-year anniversary, there will be several more female-led movies on the all-time highest-grossing-comedies list!