I’m still trying to figure out what I think about Bunheads, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s delightfully weird and very, very female show about a dance school in California. But in Willa Paskin’s long and fantastic interview with Sherman-Palladino, she points out something I’ve found utterly baffling about the entertainment industry:
I always find it funny that people take the wrong message from any success. Like “Bridesmaids” comes out and people go, “Oh, women are funny, they shit in the street. Let’s make sure now everybody shits in the street!” Not like, “OK, but it’s a well-constructed script with very good characters and the core of it is actually about female relationships,” nothing about that. They take the one shitting in the street thing and then for months you’re going to have every actress that you love shitting in the street. Until they realize, “Oh, it doesn’t work that way, I guess, so now women aren’t funny.” No, no, no! It’s not that women aren’t funny, it’s just that all of them don’t have to shit in the street!
I feel the same way with these sitcoms. It felt like dirty girl sitcoms, that’s the way to go, and NBC especially made these giant deals with like Whitney Cummings, and Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman and all these women whose stand-up acts are so filthy they will never translate to television because they can’t! Sarah Silverman cannot do her act on TV, it’s not allowed! I’m not saying that her sitcom won’t be great — or I don’t know if they picked her up or not — but it’s like this trend of like “OK, so that’s how every woman is going to be now.”
I don’t even know that this is a trait that’s specific to women. It’s been fascinating to watch actors like Brandon Routh and James Marsters, who began their careers as pretty faces, score successes by treating their looks as if they’re less important than their acting chops, even by turning their extreme good looks into a joke by playing porn stars and maniacally excited dance show hosts. And I can even see why casting directors would value a surface thing like handsomeness, which is very, very broadly applicable, over a talent for self-parody or silliness, which are narrower skills. But it’s funny to see how an industry can both seize on a single, wildly aberrant scene in a movie instead of its overall themes and tones, or ignore that there’s an intimate connection between a comedian’s filthiness and her impact. Maybe it’s all a matter of wishful thinking, hoping for the thing that’s easiest to replicate, or the possibility of replicating something at all.