Funny Women: Both Familiar and Phenomenal

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So there’s this report that’s just been released.

A group of researchers studied 600 films over 6 years,  analysing the top 100 grossing films for each year between 2007 – 2013. Author of the Study, USC Professor Stacy L. Smith said that “Our findings this year are both familiar and phenomenal”

Because to nobody’s surprise the numbers are pretty heavy in favour of the male end of the population.

Women said less than 30% of lines in all movies, and only 2% of the sample of movies had more female characters than males. Behind the camera 15.9% of key creative roles (Director, Writer or Producer) were held by women. (It’s a pretty safe bet that number would also be much much lower for the other key creative areas like cinematography, production design, costume design and make up design)

The report also highlights there is a massive discrepancy in employment of female directors when you compare independent films to mainstream films. 28% of the films at Sundance in 2013 were directed by women, but  only 1.9% of the top 100 films in 2013 were directed by a woman, that’s an all time low across the 6 year study.

However, there is one small glimmer of light in this otherwise fairly grey portrait of women’s status in the film industry. It looks like funny women are getting more screen time, or at least, slightly more screen time than in other genres (hooray!) Professor Smith says that trailblazers like Tina Fey, Amy PoehlerKristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have helped women make strides in comedic films and demonstrated that films with female leads like Bridesmaids and The Heat, can bring in box office dollars just as much as comedies with male leads.

Now, while I would hesitate to call 36% percent representation a ‘stride’.  It does feel like there has been a very small move towards agreeing that women can be funny and can hold their own as leads in funny movies (and not just as one half of a couple but actual leads in movies that are actually about them).

The report has a lot of other incredibly interesting findings around things like sexualised portrayals of teens,  and the percentage of characters by age (men were more likely to be middle aged, women were more likely to be under 39) but does not really go deeper into more questions of diversity like race, sexuality, non-binary gender depictions and so on. (My guess would be that non-binary gender depictions in the top 100 grossing films of 2013 would be close to nil, and that depictions of men and women of colour would also be grossly under-represented in these films. I might dig out some reports with statistics on those soon as well) .

Anyway, in the spirit of positivity, I thought I’d profile some of the women that I’m finding funny right now. It’s not a comprehensive list because there are LOTS of incredibly funny women doing hilarious things right now. And it’s mostly TV/web series based because sadly, even though women get to star in funny movies, they still aren’t really directing them yet so I haven’t seen many female directed, female lead comedies this year.

But for the record, here’s some ladies doing things (mostly TV shows) that are making me laugh. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments too.

Mindy Kaling

I love the gentle humour in this show, and the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s basically designed to poke fun at the rom-com genre and everything that comes with it. Mindy’s character is obsessed with rom coms and is constantly waiting for her life to turn out like one, unfortunately the real world gets in the way all too often. For example, she goes to the lobby of the Empire State Building and hangs out there on the regular just waiting to meet Mr Right. Unfortunately, she goes there so often she gets noticed by security and pulled in for questioning as a potential terrorist. Misunderstandings and hilarity ensue.

The one thing I did notice that wasn’t great, is that the parade of potential suitors that Mindy dates is exclusively white. But then again, maybe that’s deliberate too, they all do look almost exactly alike in that typical square-jawed rom-com leading man trope kind of way. Overall though, a very funny and endearing show and absolutely worth curling up on the couch and laughing at on these cold winter nights.

Miranda Hart

I’m not entirely sure how to describe Miranda. Prat-falls, visual comedy and word play? It’s very very british, (and has an uproarious laugh track which takes a bit of getting used to in this day and age) but gosh that woman can fall over and make it look very very funny. The show is delightfully absurd and while the story-lines are fairly generic (will she get it on with hot chef Gary? Will her over-bearing mother get her way?) the quirky humour and the off beat dialogue make this show super enjoyable.

I know it’s been around for quite a while now (in fact I think they might have stopped making it!) but I’m one of those people who re-watches shows I really like so I’m currently exploring season one again. Sadly in terms of diversity the show has a few people of colour in the guest cast, but none in the core cast at all, which is a little disappointing for the BBC to be honest, but I guess you can’t have it all.

Ally Ju, JJ Fong and Perlina Lau 

Flat 3, the web-series created by the lovely Roseanne Liang is funny, smart and incredibly addictive. Ally, JJ and Perlina handle the comedy with low key pinache, and it perfectly captures the comedic anxiety that comes with being in your early twenties, living away from home and realising the rent must be paid no matter what your dream job is or whether your dream guy just walked through the door. Because it’s a webseries each episode is around ten minutes long or sometimes less so it’s excellent bite sized comedy and while it has a lot of very nice funny moments, it’s also a great exploration of friendship and coming of age. All in all totally worth a watch.

Anna Akana

There was an article that came out when Bridesmaids was released about how that film missed a lot of opportunities to make jokes about women in a uniquely female way (eg: menses jokes instead of diarrhoea jokes!).

Anna Akana had nothing to do with Bridesmaids. But I do think her comedy stylings have a uniquely female edge to them and are pretty funny to boot (Pregnapocalypse is weird sci-fi comedy gold). They’re also charming, genre-driven and weird. This isn’t actually a web-series or a TV series, it’s more of a Youtube channel and a collection of short films. The humour is uneven at times (and she has an obsession with guns that I’m slightly uncomfortable with but maybe that’s an american thing? Or a genre thing?), and it’s mostly V-logging (is that a real word?) which I guess is kind of stand up without the audience? But guys, she plays all the characters herself! Which means clever use of split-screen and rotoscoping and some nice editing skills. I really like her style of observational humour. Definitely one to keep an eye on for the future coz she’s a wee young thing. A young up and coming, one could even say.

Wanda Sykes

Okay so from a young up and coming to a comedy stalwart, Wanda Sykes is also funny and weird and just immensely enjoyable to watch. If you’re ever feeling a bit blue or a bit bored I recommend dialling up some clips of hers on Youtube and giggling along (she had a short-lived talk show for a bit but her stand up is much funnier so I’d search for those clips) Her humour is kind of edgy at times (and there’s a lot of sex jokes, which feels a little…unoriginal? But sex is pretty funny so I guess there’s a lot of material there) but for the most part she’s really endearing and just incredibly funny and smart.

So, that’s a few of my fave comedic women at the moment. It’s exciting to see a lot of really funny women just getting out there, making funny shows and telling funny stories.

What do you guys think? I realise that the 3 actual TV series I featured here are all about straight women ‘looking for love’. Do you know any female driven comedies out there that aren’t about romance, and mostly straight romance too really if we’re being honest here? 2 Broke Girls maybe? I haven’t watched that one so I’m not too sure.

Do you think it’s sad that those are the female stories that get told in mainstream media?Or are most TV comedy shows just about romance/relationships by default? (Off the top of my head I can think of a few that aren’t: Seinfeld, Community, Alpha House, The IT Crowd, and a few that are: How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Mike and Molly, Happy Endings, that other one that’s exactly like Happy Endings so much that I can’t tell them apart)

Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts or your favourite lady comediennes in the comments.

Stay Awesome Gotham (as Anna Akana would say)

Peace out,
Kat

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