Anne Hathaway Challenges You to be Empowered by Bride Wars

bride wars

I almost passed on blogging about Bride Wars, which opens this weekend, because it seemed, well, almost a little too easy to call it out for its shabby, mean-spirited treatment of women. After all, this is a film about two lifelong pals who abandon their friendship in favor of an epic, demeaning catfight over their unbelievably lavish and costly dream weddings. Bridezilla, thy name is woman... But Anne Hathaway wants me to set aside my preconceptions about Bride Wars because, she claims, there's actually an empowering narrative about women in the film!

When an interviewer from ComingSoon asked Hathaway about whether or not the film reinforced stereotypes about bridezillas, Hathaway responded: 

Actually, when I got the script that's what I was anticipating and I was really sensitive to that and I just thought there wasn't a point to making a movie that is reductive to women and the whole process. So I was so happy when I read the script that the movie kind of takes the tack that the Bridezilla doesn't have a lot to do actually in our movie with getting what you want and being the center of attention. That's the myth that plays into at least my character's consciousness. But what it actually does is that it brings you to a new place of freedom where she's admitting to herself that she wants more for herself. She wants better for herself and that leads her to make an incredibly difficult, but ultimately wonderful decision to take control of her life and to be more present in it and to be more demanding and to set boundaries with people, be stronger and more confident. So to those people that believe we've perpetuated the stereotype I say come to see the film. If you disagree with us I will answer the strongly written letter that I'm sure you will write. But we were super sensitive to that in the beginning. Kate and I are both strong women that want to do everything we can to make sure that every woman feels strong. So we would never do anything that would set women back.

In the film, Hathaway plays the character Emma, who, according to the film's promotional materials, is a 'schoolteacher who has always been good at taking care of others, but not so not so much in looking after herself' until she 'discovers her inner Bridezilla and comes out swinging.'  What a vision of character development and self-actualization!

Co-star Kate Hudson's response to the same question is that it's totally okay to trot out this tired zombie bride stereotype because it's in the service of film comedy, which doesn't, you know, offer enough chances for women to be silly and self-deprecating:

It's so easy to pit women against each other and it's so easy to sort of get carried away with the cattiness and the pettiness and stereotypes of women of how women handle a lot of situations. For me I looked at this as a challenge. I thought, "Well, wait a minute. This is such a great thing for women to be able to make fun of themselves." We are a little guilty of going a little crazy sometimes and getting stressed out. I think that at least for me women are great at being self-deprecating and making fun of themselves and we don't get the opportunities as actors, as a female comedienne, to do that that often because there aren't really that many female driven comedies. 

Sure, it's important for women to be able to make fun of themselves, but most comedies of late seem to offercpretty abundant opportunities for women to look ridiculous.  Women want to be amused and entertained without being made to feel inadequate and foolish.  So I'm not buying Hudson's attempt to rationalize this mess in the name of artistic opportunity, either.

I wish that Bride Wars would be a smart comedy about how bloated and ludicious the wedding industry has become.  Instead, what I'm afraid we're in for is a comedy that makes fun of women who participate in that wedding industry, while still endorsing it wholesale.  

(The one thing that actually did impress me about this interview is that Hathaway used the opportunity, at least, to call attention to marriage equality.  When asked if there's too much pressure for women to get married, she responded, "I think the important thing to note though is more so than whether or not women feel pressure to get married I think that we need to work on making it possible for everyone in America to get married.")

Hudson and Hathaway Engage in Bride Wars [ComingSoon]

by Tammy Oler
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Tammy Oler has been contributing to Bitch for over a decade. Her writing about pop culture and fandom has appeared in Slate, Ozy, Vulture, and Geek, among others.

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23 Comments Have Been Posted

Are you going to see it?

I've been considering this, but my love of Anne Hathaway is canceled out by my hate of Kate Hudson. I'd be most interested in reading a feminist review though...

Yes, I'll see it...

and report back!

Bride vs. Bride!

I agree with Juliana; a feminist review would be great!

It's frustrating to think that "Bride Wars" is what passes for a smart and empowering film for women these days. I thought <a href=" Washington Post article</a> by Monica Hesse did a good job dissecting the traditional bridal movie format. That is, if you can take another dose of bridal-mania.

I work in the bridal industry...

...and my experience over the past five years or so is that the great majority of brides are on a budget, paying for their own wedding. They want to have a memorable day that's not over-the-top, because they can't afford excess, and also because they don't *enjoy* excess all that much. Maybe regionally these tastes vary (we're straddling the Mason/Dixon line here in Louisville), but I still have trouble swallowing the "wedding comedy" fairy tales that Hollywood spits out. Not to be a kill-joy, but unfortunately, I think the Disneyfication of love & marriage & weddings in general does have a serious effect on the expectations of young women--even when they know going into a movie that's it's just for laughs.

I am a longtime fan of Bitch

I am a longtime fan of Bitch Magazine and am confused as to why Oler finds it constructive or entertaining to demean another woman's idea of empowerment. If Anne Hathaway intended her work to be empowering, or found the result to be empowering, why not accept that and skip the condescending and predictable criticism?

If Oler were male would the recent slew of Will Ferrel and Jack Black comedies also make her feel inadequate and foolish? Is The Feminist Gaze falling into the same rut of predictability as the culture it critiques?

How about a piece that compares Hathaway's work in Bride Wars to her work in Rachel Getting Married? That would at least have the potential for a more interesting commentary. It's no wonder that studios won't take a chance on more unique woman-centric plots considering that even Bitch Magazine overlooks the offbeat in favor of the banal.

Bride Wars

I don't buy Hathaway's description of how this movie is empowering for women. I think she is justifying accepting this role by trying to paint it as something other than what it is: another wedding movie that depicts women as obsessed with their wedding and nothing else. I'm sick of these movies and tired of women buying into the wedding fantasy that the industry tries to feed us. If we want to see movies with great roles for women, we need to stop paying to see movies like these.

If this empowers you then...

...more power to you. But, I have to agree with the sentiment that Hathaway has made this comment to justify why she has taken a role in such a fluffy picture. She's trying to sell her movie. I'll reserve judgements about the actual movie until it comes out and others have had a chance to see it and explain what it's about in more detail. I'm taking a prinicled stance not to see the movie, not because I suspect it's going to reinforce gender stereotypes, but because "Bride Wars" is the weakest title of all time.


I don't think something is empowering just because someone says it is. We should always take care to actually listen and acknowledge individual women's stories, but there are things that grant you power and things that take it away. I think that reinforcing gender stereotypes limits a woman's freedom, and is by definition disempowering.

I can't see how a film that spends most of it's running time showing women who are willing to destroy friendships and bank accounts because they can't compromise on who gets dibs on the most ludicrously extravagant wedding venue on a certain day is in any way empowering.

That being said, Hathaway is speaking as A) someone who is financially tied to an expensive commercial venture, and is therefore obligated to promote the film and spout marketing garbage as often as possible and B) an actor who has spent what one imagines is a fair amount of time and effort to inhabit this role and become sympathetic to the character, and some of that probably still hasn't worn off.

That women like Hathaway feel the need to take dumb parts like this and bend over backwards to defend them in the press is probably an interesting story in disempowerment in itself.

I've been thinking about

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Where do we draw the line with comedy? I can no longer stomach Family Guy or Scrubs anymore! I used to think these shows were hilarious. And then I started thinking critically about their jokes and how most of the time, they are at the female characters' expense. What's important to remember, even within comedy, is that we still internalize their messages. We may laugh because it's funny, but these films and similar reality TV shows (i.e. Bride Wars) only reinforce the heteronormative and expected and acceptable gender roles in our society. Why does wanting more for yourself have to be reduced to a wedding and a catfight? And haven't comedies been making fun of women for decades? The last thing we need is another film that limits female empowerment and a happy life to being a bride!

tired tired tired

How many movies has Anne Hathaway made that don't feature a wedding? I know that feminists are somewhat enamored with her, but I can't figure out why. The plot of this film sounds so utterly uninteresting and predictable that it's hard to find one reason to actually watch it. Just more women hating on other women and becoming frienemies nonsense.

But since you asked, I'll see what I can do about getting one of our writers to see the flick and write up a feminist review. My opinion notwithstanding. :)

Devil Wears Prada. And I

Devil Wears Prada. And I believe Brokeback Mountain. Neither of those had anything to do with a wedding.

She has been in a lot of

She has been in a lot of wedding movies, haha. But not all wedding movies are bad. I was incredibly impressed with Rachel Getting Married, both with her performance and the movie in general.

If feminists are enamored with Anne Hathaway...

...I think it's just because she's one of the most talented actresses around right now. (I can't really think of any expressly feminist work she's done, except *maybe* <i>Becoming Jane</i>.) If you haven't seen <i>Rachel Getting Married, </i>you might be doing yourself a disservice by writing it off as a &quot;wedding movie.&quot; There's a lot more to it than that.  It's wonderful to see an actress bring so much depth and dimension to a role — maybe that in itself is a feminist act.

Mildly irrelevant, but...

"I can no longer stomach Family Guy or Scrubs anymore..."

This is something I've been struggling with for awhile. I enjoy Family Guy and the song You Have AIDS makes me laugh every time. I feel bad for thinking Family Guy and South Park are hilarious and smart, while loathing things like Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay (I was watching this with my husband and very nearly walked out of the room. I put my headphones on instead and worked on my writing) and the standard rom-coms and 'feminine' comedies. But I struggle with the idea that, while we know these are ridiculous stereotypes and AIDS really isn't funny, maybe it's our way of dealing with it. We make jokes out of things we don't understand or are uncomfortable with. It makes us feel better and makes us realize we can't take things/life/each other/ourselves too seriously. But where do we draw the line. Harold and Kumar was so fraught with intolerance, I don't even know where to begin.

And after 27 dresses (which I loved, by the way), I'm starting to think the only way to expose the ridiculous wedding industry is to actually do a documentary on it, documenting the many women and corporations and businesses that buy into this shit. As my husband's cousin said: "I want a marriage, not a wedding." She didn't care about all the glitz and glam and over-the-top-ness. I wish more women would realize this.

I think I lost my point somewhere.

how did you feel about the

how did you feel about the original harold and kumar?

i have enjoyed family guy and southpark, but i feel like their effect on the culture at large has been much less what they maybe intended (and what i would have hoped for) and more that people think 'shocking' is always funny and that there is no power imbalance involved in comedic industries, so any straight white man can say anything as along as it's 'funny' and no one can criticize it.

but i love the original harold and kumar. i only saw the second one once, and it was a lot less comfortable, but it didn't bother me the way it did you.

Personally, I'm just sick of

Personally, I'm just sick of weddings. I know there are alot of women (and men) who don't make the wedding (ceremony and reception and honeymoon) the central focus of their start to marriage, but SO SO many DO. The fact that women are drawn to create lavish, picture-perfect weddings for their own glorification (as many of them say, "It's MY day"), makes me ill literally. If marriage is about love and commitment and respect and companionship, the modern wedding seems to diabolically opposed to those things. In the wedding planning process, women are portrayed (most of the time fairly so) as power-hungry control freaks who can never have enough attention or money. As a woman, I'm sick of it. If we love someone (either a man or a woman) and want to marry them, that's one thing. But to equate the positives of a committed relationship with excess and facade and show is just repulsive. I'm sick of all the wedding shows, wedding boutiques, wedding movies, wedding products, wedding rings, wedding ads. There was a book written by a NYTimes author called, "One Perfect Day: The Selling of The American Wedding" which addresses this very thing. Maybe if more women were aware of their behavior, they wouldn't give the rest of us such a bad (and superficial) name.

I really like the idea of

I really like the idea of weddings, in theory at least. I think a big part of getting married is the process of uniting two families, creating new traditions and honoring old ones, etc. But for some reason our American culture has just totally dropped the ball on this. I've had Indian friends get married in their country, and they spend WAY more time and money than we do yet it seems to be much more meaningful and less wrought with greed and insecurity. For some cultures the big weddings are a way to involve the whole family and really celebrate marriage, as opposed to celebrating designer names and ego.

I guess you do have a good

I guess you do have a good point -- the uniting of two families. So maybe in that sense, weddings serve a good purpose. Just, when did love become money and show? When women say "It's MY day", it completely negates the combining of two families or two people. It's just about making the bride pretty and the center of attention.

How do we get back to love and commitment as the REAL driving force behind the wedding?

I'm sick of weddings, too,

but why is it incumbent on <i>any</i> woman not to "give the rest of us such a bad (and superficial) name"? How often do you hear that burden put on men?

Can't support another fluff filled piece of

Art? Someones version of entertainment?? Hathaway, can't act her way out of a paper bag, an environmentally friendly, recycled paper bag.

Ouch...come on now...

What about the telephone scene in Brokeback Mountain with Heath Ledger? Ennis calls Jack's house to ask about his death. She coldly delivers an obviously rehearsed cover up speech. But, she must realize exactly who Ennis is when he mentions Brokeback Mountain...What is that expression on her face? Anger? How do you react when you realize the other woman is calling the house? How about when the other woman is a dude? Does she miss Jack more than she thought? Does she feel empathy with Ennis who also loved and lost Jack? Oh man, it's a good scene. She blasts through that environmentally friendly paper bag in a hybrid SUV in that scene.

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