Bridesmades and the Female Ensemble Film: Questions and Contemplations of a Cultural Trend

Curator's Note

When considering the trend of female ensemble films throughout the last decade, Bridesmaids (2011) undoubtedly comes to mind. Even though the film was directed by a man (Paul Feig), the dominating presence throughout the film remains female (written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig). As the title would suggest, the film tells the story of a wedding and the antics experienced by the bridesmaids. The leads, Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian (Maya Rudolph), experience the toll a wedding can take on a friendship (particularly a female friendship). Much of the film surrounds the wild experiences of Lillian (the bride), Annie, and the other bridesmaids. Their experiences range from appalling (group food poisoning at bridal shop) to hilariously unfortunate (trip to Vegas cut short by airplane hijinks).

The scenes without the bridesmaid ensemble, while still comical, lack the over the top, sometimes abject hilarity of the ensemble scenes. This made me wonder, why? Why was it that as a group these women created such wild, uproarious scenes? Does an ensemble allow for more varied comic styles? Does the comedy come from the calamitous group anguish? While the suffering of one person alone may be bleak, does group misery generate entertainment in a different way? Is this a comedy specific to women (the female ensemble)? Does a similar sort of comedy with a male ensemble (think The Hangover, 2009) work in the same way? Do different gendered audiences prefer to see their own gender ensemble at work (ex. women preferring female ensembles)? Is the female ensemble film solely significant for its casting choices (to mainly use women) or for the unique dynamic created when a group of women is allowed to work with one another creatively? Is a female ensemble film feminist by nature?

As the number of female ensemble films/shows continue to increase, the more questions arise. In a post-Me Too movement media environment, these ensemble films will hopefully be important sites of female empowerment and entertainment (and hopefully will provide more varied and vibrant roles for women of all ages).


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