90s Rom Com Feminism Fails: My Best Friend’s Wedding

“My Best Friend’s Wedding”, starring Julia Roberts and co-starring Big Hair, Brick Phone and Lilac Satin.

I have always – ALWAYS – been a sucker for anything even vaguely romantic – and rom coms (romantic comedies, for the uninitiated) are my ultimate not-so-secret, not-feeling-even-mildly-guilty pleasure. God, I love them.

However, in recent years it has occurred to me that equality between men and women is something I really care about, dang it. I realised that I’m actually rather passionate about things like being paid the same amount for the same work – not more or less because of your sex. I realised that I’m rather passionate about people not being restricted or defined by society’s ideas and traditions of sex, sexuality, gender, love, marriage, happiness and fulfillment. And then I remembered that I was also rather passionate about 90s rom coms…

Ha! Good luck reconciling that one, buddy!

Over the pas few months I’ve found myself watching lots of my favourite rom coms again – but this time with a different perspective. On the one hand there’s Cheesy Bad Feminist Alex, who still loves it when The Girl and The Boy live happily ever after. And then there’s Feminist Alex, who is appalled by nearly everything she’s seeing. (Oh, dear.)

So, let’s head on back to the 90s to see what was so right. And what was so very wrong.

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

I only watched this for the first time very recently – not from a lack of desire or glowing recommendations, but I just hadn’t ever got around to watching it. Oh, god, I was disappointed.

Plot summary: Julia Roberts realises that she’s in love with her long-term male best friend (let’s call him Male BF) who is, somewhat inconveniently, getting married to Cameron Diaz in four days time. She goes on a quest to win him over in said four days. Fails at doing so.

Bad Feminist Alex: I don’t think I have EVER been this disappointed by a rom com before. Boy does not get Girl, Girl does not get Boy, there is very little “rom” and very little “com”. What kind of imposter rom com IS THIS?! It is entirely unworthy of this prestigious genre. Remove it from the canon!

Feminist Alex: I also had lots of issues with this film.

Firstly, Julia very quickly goes from being Successful Independent Woman to one who is obsessed with sabotaging Male BF’s wedding to Cameron Diaz and trying to get the love vibes happening between her and Male BF in four days. Ambitious, highly deranged and highly unhelpful to the Sisterhood, Jules. You do not need Male BF’s love to fulfill you! You are a whizbang New York food critic – you have the best fictitious-yet-not-fictitious job ever. Why are you suddenly chasing after this man, Julia? You do not “need to get married” just because you’re turning 28 in three weeks time! You are talented and amazing and look at that hair!

Also, more importantly, Jules – do you realllly want to be with a man who:
a) has loved you for the past nine years, but has never had the gumption to tell you how he feels?
b) is no longer that into you?
c) gives you confusing signs only days before his wedding?
d) has decided to marry a 20 year old that he has only just met?
If you do, well, go ahead and break up that wedding!

ImageThe man (who makes questionable life decisions) in question.
Then we pass over to said 20-year-old (Cameron Diaz) who, although somewhat torn, is essentially happy to abandon all of the dreams she had for her life because she has met The One. Uni? Drop out! Architecture career? Not anymore! Oh, no. She is just going to cheerily leave that in an instant for this dashing man and his career which requires constant travel. This is a travesty. No hyperbole.

What’s more, during Julia’s many attempts at breaking up Cameron and Male BF, Cameron willingly takes the blame for Julia’s sabotages as she will seemingly do anything to make Male BF marry her. Are you on something, Cameron? Also, your wedding dress was really foul. #badfeministalex

JelloCameron “I-could-be-Jello-I-have-to-be-Jello” Diaz. Yet another person making questionable life decisions.

After professing her love for Male BF, Julia realises that he doesn’t love her. What a tragedy. So the wedding between Male BF and Cameron Diaz goes ahead with Julia graciously acting as maid of honour, apologizing for being psychotic and giving them her blessing. i.e. Boy does not get Girl, Girl does not get Boy and the biggest rom com plot stereotype is shattered. Despite being a less than happy clappy moment, this is so many types of wonderful.

The movie finally redeems itself in its closing scene when Julia’s gay BFF, George, surprises her by turning up to support her at the highly miserable wedding. Although Bad Feminist Alex was disappointed by the lack of traditional fairytale ending, George reminds the highly-deranged-up-until-only-very-recently Julia that she does not need Male BF to live a fulfilling, happy life. She can have a happily ever after without need The One – and that is, indeed, uplifting.

Learnings:

  • So, you didn’t end up with The One? You’ll be ok; life goes on.
  • Why waste your time on a guy who does not return your feelings and who makes rash decisions like, “Oh, I’ll marry this nubile twenty year old I’ve only just met!”?
  • Gay BFFs are wonderful. Actually, we already knew that. Carry on.
  • Meddling is likely going to cause tears. And they will probably be your own tears. And the man whom you love will agree that you are pond scum. Winning all round.
  • And, just between you and I: if it takes you nine years of being best friends to figure out that you love someone, then perhaps you need to work on speeding your life up a tad. #justsaying
  • Plus, life gets better. (See the below gif.)

Only later in life did Julia get some sense (and good taste) knocked into her. 

And they all lived happily ever after. The End.

Next up: “You’ve Got Mail” starring Meg Ryan, Forrest Gump and the most overused rom com setting: New York.

But, in the meantime, here’s George (Julia’s gay BFF) posing as Julia’s fiancé to make Male BF who is marrying Cameron Diaz jealous by serenading Julia to this 90s classic. (Follow that?)

Alex x

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