Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday we’ll review the week's most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.
The Lady Problem: Our generally vengeful lord hath bestowed a precious and rare gift upon us: an all-female comedy, written and directed by a woman (Broad City's Lucia Aniello), starring Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Kravitz, Scarlett Johansson, and Jillian Bell. Rough Night, out this summer, is a desert mirage of a film, especially in an industry that still wonders if movies about women are a passing trend and/or a fab opportunity to make money off of Dove marketing tie-ins. What more could a woman ask for in 2017 than a movie positively lousy with women, except for, perhaps, total autonomy over her own body, decent health care, the absence of fear that an ICE agent could break into her home and drag her into the streets at any moment, the absence of fear that a diseased big toe come to life has placed her and her family in the direct path of a nuclear weapon, the absence of fear that she could be gunned down in the streets by a White Male Loner Who Just Kept To Himself, and an extremely strong drink?
Apparently, a lot. Late last week, the trailer for Rough Night dropped, and for the very first time in my life, I briefly understood why White Male Loners Who Just Keep To Themselves use the phrase “social justice warrior” disparagingly. (I'm kidding. Please don't @ me. But also please hold my rifle while I masturbate to grainy photos of grainy photos from Jennifer Lawrence's phone hack. OK, thanks.) The trailer, which is a little over two minutes long, lays out the film's basic premise, as trailers are wont to do: Johansson is getting married, so her friends (Bell, Kravitz, Glazer, McKinnon) throw her a classic American bachelorette party, replete with dick headbands, cocaine from busboys, prodigious throwing up, and male strippers. Near the end of the trailer, Bell's character appears to accidentally kill said stripper by hornily knocking him to the floor. Because the internet always finds a way (whether to ruin a movie or the entire republic), this short and relatively benign marketing tool has already generated enough outrage to power Sean Spicer's robot body.
Here are a few examples:
From The Mary Sue's “Dear Rough Night: Killing a Stripper Isn’t Funny, No Matter Who You Are”: “Killing a stripper isn’t hilarious, regardless of their gender. ... An argument might be made regarding the fact that the movie isn’t even out yet and it’s 'just' a trailer, but honestly, I have a real hard time seeing how anybody can justify such a terrible, awful premise.”
From Refinery29: “If the movie were about a gaggle of girls who accidentally kill, say, the chef at a restaurant, would people find it as funny? Sadly, probably not.”
From Twitter, which is the new Real Life:
The Solution: Now, let me first state for the Feminist Record that I respect and understand the points being made by Mary Sue, Refinery29, et al. Violence toward sex workers is a very real and troubling social phenomenon that I would never trivialize. But I don't think this film is ... doing that. This appears to be a ridiculous dark comedy about a group of semi-tragic women (i.e., a professional party clown) who do increasingly dumb shit (i.e., turbo-snort a stranger's coke, vomit tequila in a restaurant, accidentally topple a stripper to the ground), then (as far as I can tell from the trailer, which, again, is a TRAILER) spend the rest of the film in a panicked attempt to avoid prison time. This movie is, clearly, Not That Deep. This is not a film with A Message. This is, at worst, an Adam Sandler movie, except with interesting women and actually good jokes and no casual racism or misogyny. At best, it appears to be a subversive parody of that type of movie — remember hot ’90s mess Very Bad Things? Regardless, I think Refinery29 commenter “Zen Kisses” said it best: “I was a stripper. I think the movie looks funny.”
And let's be real with ourselves for a moment: When do we, if ever, subject male-centric comedies to this type of scrutiny? Why do we demand that our female-centric entertainment be perfect — perfectly feminist, perfectly representative, perfectly socially graceful — and let dudes do whatever the fuck they want in the name of the sacred art of comedy? Why do men get to make “risky dark comedies” (see: this BuzzFeed list of 52 must-see “deliciously dark comedies,” all but four of which were directed by men) while women are policed for stepping even one centimeter outside the bounds of “good taste”? Where were y'all when that clown bled out in Billy Madison? Where was the outrage when John Travolta charmingly blew up Marvin's face? (“Are we supposed to find face-shooting charming now?”) When everyone in the entire movie Smokin' Aces got shot? When Ash had to murder his own demon-possessed girlfriend in The Evil Dead? (#JusticeForDemonPossessedGirlfriends)
Anyway, all of these arguments I've just made are essentially pointless, because the real joke is that we are all fucking idiots for engaging in this argument in the first place. Why are we pulling a two-minute trailer apart at the seams? The real solution here: Stop doing this!!!!! Also, while we're at it, perhaps we might stop calling for boycotts of works of art we haven't seen (with the exception of works whose creators are monsters; I'm looking at you, Mel Gibson, Nate Parker, Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, Academy Award–winner Casey Affleck, and the rest of the male monster militia)? Does nobody remember The Great Wall? Weren't we all kind of fucking embarrassed about that whole thing? Can we all just have six glasses of chardonnay and take a breath here? Even if this film were a celebratory romp about the joy of murdering strippers, this shit would still be condescending as hell. We're all adults, at least theoretically, and we are capable of seeing a film in which a stripper is murdered, then returning to our normal lives without murdering a stripper or thinking that the murder of a stripper is inconsequential. We don't need to cover each other's eyes.
The infinite outrage capacity of the internet is its best and worst quality. It brings people together in the name of social justice, but it also brings people together in the name of “social justice.” Boycotting one of the only films in recent memory with an all-female cast, a female writer-director, and no Zach Galifianakis cameo before we've even seen it — this is that second type of social justice. Let's give both ourselves and Aniello — who's previously brought us all manner of beautiful, feminist madness in Broad City and Time Traveling Bong — the benefit of the doubt here.
Remember, though: killing strippers is bad.