I’m yet to see Trainwreck out here in the boonies, unfortunately (though I can’t wait!) … So when Bang2writer Matthew Kane got in touch and said he wanted to wade into the current furore over whether the movie is feminist or not, I said GO FOR IT! Enjoy …
I rise to defend Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow against charges of crimes against feminism in Trainwreck, the new film she wrote and he directed.
These scurrilous accusations are due to nothing other than the mistaken belief that feminism has a problem with women choosing a committed relationship over meaningless sex.
Here are 5 reasons why Trainwreck IS feminist:
1) A Woman Can Make the Same Mistakes as a Man
In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays a magazine reporter who, emotionally scarred by her unfaithful dick of a father, buries her emotions with booze, drugs, and one-night stands.
Now, what are you thinking? That these are empowering choices of a healthy person? That there’d be nothing wrong with that if the character were a man? That this character is only a “trainwreck” because she’s a woman? And that makes this anti-feminist?
Please. This is a character with a serious flaw, brought on by old wounds. That’s what movies are usually about. She makes bad choices — the same kind of bad choices that we’ve seen male characters make in response to their old wounds. MORE: 3 Reasons Why LEGALLY BLONDE Is Like, The Best Characterisation Totally, Ever
2) Amy’s Choices Aren’t Bad Because She’s a Woman
Trainwreck does not make the case that the choices Amy Schumer’s character, Amy Townsend, makes are bad because she’s a woman. Nobody says it. Nobody even implies it. If you infer that, you’re not responding to the movie, you’re responding to the societal context in which you’re viewing the movie.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. I think Trainwreck informs that larger discussion in society. The fact that people would infer that her behavior is being condemned because she’s a woman is important to discuss. But that is not the point-of-view of the movie. MORE: 6 Reasons Sweden’s Bechdel Cinema Rating Idea Is A (Well Meaning) Mistake
3) Amy Has as Much Freedom as a Man to Make Bad Choices
The movie does not make the case that it is wrong for a woman, or a man for that matter, to “sow some wild oats”, as they used to say, before settling down. The movie is about a specific character whose choices are unhealthy for her.
What is feminist about Trainwreck is that Amy Townsend has the freedom to make those choices, as unhealthy as they may be. And she is not condemned for them, certainly not condemned for being a woman making those choices. MORE: 5 Reasons “Missing” Female Characters Might Not Actually Be Missing After All (Plus What Writers Can Do Instead)
4) If It Were Gender Swapped, Trainwreck Still Works
Here’s a thought experiment to prove the point. Let’s bend the film. Gender swap every single character. Does the story still make sense? Let’s see.
Now we have a male magazine writer, emotionally scarred by an unfaithful, selfish mother, who buries his emotions in booze, drugs, and one-night stands. Make sense? Sure. He falls for a hot-shot female doctor. OK? OK.
We can buy that story. It would work. It wouldn’t be quite as effective because telling it from a woman’s point of view is not only fresher, not only does it speak more intensely to the female movie-goers who are the primary target of this genre, but even for male movie-goers, experiencing this story through a woman’s eyes is more emotionally involving, because we haven’t seen it as much. MORE: The 1 Gender Swap That Could Make ALL THE DIFFERENCE In Your Story
5) Trainwreck Brings an Important Female Perspective to Male Movie-goers
And this is a wonderful thing that feminism is enabling artistically. Men and women aren’t identical and feminism doesn’t claim we are. Pre-feminism, this story could not get told. I would not get a chance to get inside a woman’s head and understand how burying her emotions this way would affect her.
And it is different. Men have experience going back to the dawn of time coping with our wounds by burying our emotions. Women have been conditioned for just as long to cope with emotional wounds by letting it all out. It is fascinating and moving to see a character struggle, and fail, and then get back up again, in the face of a situation she was never prepared for. MORE: Your Audience: Who Is Your Script FOR?
What This Means for Movies
The changes in our society brought about by feminism are one of several reasons why the romantic comedy has needed to be reinvented. Feminism gives women choices that subvert many of the conventions of the genre.
Trainwreck refreshingly tackles that head-on, showing how falling in love has changed but love itself has not in today’s society. Well, at least in New York City.
And if you want to write a movie where a woman gets to sleep around without being a trainwreck, go right ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
BIO: @matthewkane is pending trial on attempted screenwriting and possession of software with the intent to write a novel.
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