‘Trainwreck’, Feminism, and the Cult of Domesticity and Monogamy

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The hugely anticipated new film by Judd Apatow has just been released, however his new film Trainwreck sees him sharing his responsibilities and handing over the film’s writing to comedian Amy Schumer – who also stars as the leading lady of the film. Schumer has made a name for herself through her Emmy-winning show Inside Amy Schumer which first aired in 2013 and is now into its fourth season. The show includes stand-up comedy, sketches, and interviews, which feature Amy’s witty social commentary regarding sex, relationships and what in means to be a woman in today’s day and age. Heralded as somewhat of an upcoming feminist icon due to her treatment of these topics and her fearlessness in exploring other often untouched subjects such as menstruation, body image and female reproductive health, Amy’s debut on the movie screen had many fans hoping for a chick-flick the would revolutionise the romantic-comedy genre.

But does Trainwreck live up to its feminist potential? I’m not so sure…

In many ways it does do a wonderful job of revamping the rom-com genre. Instead of the typical philandering male who moves from woman to woman like they’re going out of season, we alternatively see Amy, (playing a character with the same name), take on the role of the sexually free and liberated women. Amy has sex with whoever she chooses, whenever she chooses, and has a no-sleepover policy – a progressive representation from the innocent, virginal woman that has plagued the silver screen for so long.

The movie then goes even further with its reversal of gender stereotypes as Amy also takes on the role of the drinking, pot-smoking, career-focused alpha, whilst the men in the film are the sexually reserved, emotional ones, prone to over-analyzing their relationships (which we would normally see the women do right?).

It’s so refreshing to see this kind of representation on the big screen – especially in terms of the main character Amy. She’s pretty, but not beautiful, she’s an average weight, and she likes to drink and have sex – finally a representation that actually resembles a majority of modern day women! The only problem with this is that she is labeled a “trainwreck” because of it! But I’m sure that’s just in reference to her drinking right?!

The combination of having a female writer who is simultaneously the lead character also means we finally get comedy that is written for women! One of the funniest parts of the film occurs when Amy explains to her sister that she’s scared of falling for Aaron because, in her experience, something always goes wrong:

“What if I, like, forget to flush the toilet? And there’s like, a tampon in there. And not like a cute, like, ooh, it’s the last day, like a real tampon. I’m talking like a crime scene tampon, like, the Red Wedding, Game of Thrones, like a Quentin Tarantino Django, like a real motherfucker of a tampon.”

Although not usually a fan of comedies, this scene had me laughing out loud, whilst my boyfriend’s face creased into what can only be described as a mixture of confusion, concern, and perhaps trauma. For this is what Trainwreck does so well – deliver hard-hitting comedy for women about topics relevant to women. A perfect example that not only exposes the workings and functions of women’s bodies – which have for so long been withheld from representations that seek only to objectify and maintain the male gaze – but in fact shoves them right in the viewer’s face, with descriptions by Amy that are so comically accurate I couldn’t contain my laughter.

But then we get to the end half of the film which seems to undermine all the work done in the first half. After meeting Aaron (played by Bill Hader) and falling in love – something that Amy herself can’t believe and constantly jokes about – things start to change. Following the honeymoon period of the rom-com we arrive at the films conflict in which the now couple have a huge fight after Amy misses Aaron’s acceptance speech for a prestigious award to take a call from her boss who is threatening to fire her. They have a big fight and suddenly it’s revealed that Aaron isn’t so keen on Amy’s choice of vices, and consequently they decide to break up.

Amy finds herself alone and distraught, crying to her sister “I’m broken”, in reference to her sexually liberated lifestyle and her inability to maintain her relationship with Aaron. She then decides to quit drinking, drugs and her previous sexual lifestyle, in a move that can only been seen as her transformation into “proper” girlfriend/wife material, to become the girl of Aaron’s dreams. After Amy’s conversion from ‘the dark side’, the two get back together and live happily ever after in true romantic-comedy fashion.

Bleurgh! How disappointing!

This conclusion ultimately undoes everything the film sought to establish in the beginning – subverting its original depiction of Amy as strong-willed and independent, and converting her into a dependent, domesticated women. In this, the film seems to reinforce a monogamous lifestyle, as Amy is only redeemed and is only happy once she is back again with Aaron and has given up her sexual freedom. Ultimately, the film resorts back to a cult of monogamous, heteronormative, domesticated femininity that is all too common to the rom-com genre. Therefore, I think the resolution of the film leaves much to be desired, but for what its worth it was an entertaining and amusing female-led comedy.

 

 

References
Apatow, Judd (Director), and Schumer, Amy (Writer). (2015). Trainwreck [Motion Picture]. Japan and USA: Apatow Productions and Dentsu.
Flint, Hanna. (2015). Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck is funny…but is it feminist? Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk/2015/08/17/amy-schumers-trainwreck-is-funny-but-is-it-feminist-5313357/
Villarreal, Alexandra. (2015). Amy Schumer’s ‘Trainwreck’ is far from a feminist triumph. Retrieved from http://nypost.com/2015/07/23/amy-schumers-trainwreck-is-far-from-a-feminist-triumph/

 

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