Episode 151: Closing Be Always

The Overthinkers tackle Bridesmaids.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Pete Fenzel, Mark Lee, and special guest Priya Ramanathan to overthink Bridesmaids, male- and female-oriented romantic comedies, the rebellion of the body, and the normative force of popular narrative.


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8 Comments on “Episode 151: Closing Be Always”

  1. cat #

    Special guest Priya Ramanathan? Full of awesomeness. I almost forgot to miss Shechner. Almost. I really did enjoy Jane Eyre but I’m not going to deny that Michael Fassbender’s level of hotness got me through the slow parts and overall choppiness. From time to time he had that romance novel smoldering, brooding thing going on so yes, I would say you could probably project abs into the movie.

    Oh English major-dom. I can’t decide if I’m better at discussing things I have read because I can actually make reference to things to support my point or things I haven’t read because the odd combination of anxiety and indifference forces you to produce something original and perhaps strange instead of going for the easy answer. Note: I do try and read everything, it just doesn’t always work out.

    Hmn… I’m a bit confused by the apparent differences between the beginning of the episode and the middle of the episode. At the beginning I got the impression that instead of being about “Bridesmaids” the movie was very much focused on Kristen Wiig, and then towards the middle it became a movie with a very well-developed ensemble cast (which is something I haven’t heard from any review).

    Hmn… I want to disagree with you about how radical Bridemaids is for focusing on a female ensemble cast. I am of course terrible at thinking of examples, so I will just say that I think there is a healthy tradition of creating a female sphere of influence in writing and so there must be examples of it in other media as well (especially with the prevalence of book to movie/TV adaptations). It might be more in the teen genre but I think there are a decent number of female ensemble driven properties. I don’t know if the reason I can only think of things targeted towards teens is because with those things there’s a notion of cliques, because at a younger age women are not as concerned with finding a mate and other biological practicalities, or because it is very late/early as I am writing this.

    What fenzel is reading as women needing to hold strong together to be strong, I read as being in line with an older tradition of a female sphere from which women derive their power. OK, I totally need examples now. Hmn…Charlotte Temple, Millenium Hall, and sort of The House of Mirth and The Turn of the Screw but only if you haven’t read the first two and have no idea what I’m talking about. Charlotte Temple is (in a very simplified way) about a system of educating women that fails to actually prepare women for the “real” world with men in it. Women are meant to draw strength from togetherness but not through the boarding school or finishing school that Charlotte attends or really from their relationships with each other but from the dialogue that the author/narrator is trying to provoke in her addresses to a female audience. Millenium Hall has women banding together to pool their resources (financial) to establish their own highly ordered and regulated isolated utopian society. There’s the practical need for money and also the way that their cooperative gains authority through their life experience and status when compared to the people whose lives they also regulate. The House of Mirth has an element of being exiled from that world of female power and influence, though I’m stretching it a bit. The Turn of the Screw has an element of female authority in the governess and the nanny/housekeeper being the only real forces of authority thus creating a slightly smaller bubble of female influence where the women are left completely in charge of childrearing and running the household, again stretching.

    I feel like the having each woman be “of a particular quality” idea has more to do with a more basic form of fairytale, folklore, archetype-driven kind of storytelling that assigns women roles as a means of distributing power that then feels false or incomplete now because all of those archetypes in a story now have some degree of power whereas by the old model they shouldn’t.

    Oh, I finally thought of something that’s about a world of women where men are fairly incidental but where the girls aren’t teenagers…The Devil Wears Prada.


  2. Brian #

    Best podcast of all time. This is the one I’m gonna pass around to everyone I know to share how awesome OTI is. So expect three new listeners, maybe. But this episode had too many insights to count, everybody was in top game.


  3. Amanda #

    @Brian Totally agree. I’ll actually re-listen to it later, with a pen and paper and take notes cause there were too many interesting things being said in not enough time for my brain to actually process them :)
    Also, I finally figured out how to spell “telos” and managed to look it up. :D


  4. Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

    Awww, thanks guys! We’re be VERY grateful if you shared the show with your friends.


  5. Lindsey #

    The portrayal of men and women in coming-of-age stories was an interesting diversion. It seems as though the contrast of male solidarity vs. female collectivism defines standard gender roles (or, at least, how they are represented by the broader culture).

    And, to throw another angsty-teenage-boy-novel example into the ring, how about The Catcher in the Rye?

    Great podcast! Definitely a favorite.


  6. Crystal #

    Sort of lo-brow talking about sexy actors…

    The presentation of people as being very alone in romantic comedies is a pretty solid dramatic decision. The lonelier the character, the higher the stakes. But there’s also the rom-com cliche of the friend who talk to about your date. I’m not exactly sure how to reconcile these two things except that it reinforces the cliche that you must have a significant other to be happy.


  7. Brian #

    Fenzel mentioned the “old stage comedies” that were set in a highly interactive community vs. the contemporary film comedies where main characters feel like that world’s solitary inhabitants- and any deviation away from the Binary Other feels like an art house movie. I was wondering when these old stage comedies were written and set?

    My impression is contemporary solitude is partly influenced by modern marketing strategies and technologies, that these big studio movies having many millions at stake are inclined to stick to tried and true marketing, “creating a feeling of longing and providing a *product* to fill it,” if they say that your emptiness can be filled by participating in social activities it’s as good as flushing money down the drain since there’s not much money in creating social cohesion- as of now.

    That maybe changing, as experts keep saying as oil prices raise communities will start having to interact locally more as in pre-50’s suburban sprawl pre-“Bowling Alone”, and the internet may have something to do with it, also Hitler- just to round out the trifecta of spurious correlations. But you can see signs of this, as stage productions are becoming more popular, as people hunger for real life interaction and social presence that can’t be fulfilled by the internet and tv.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      “I was wondering when these old stage comedies were written and set?”

      The classic comedy along these lines tends to be set in Italy, because they descend from the Italian Commedia tradition (which is improvisational and reaches back to the Greeks and Romans in certain ways).

      They were generally written between the rise of European vernacular literature in the Renaissance and the late 1600s. English Restoration Comedy (starting in the 1660s, when the theatres were repoened after the fall of the Protectorate) is sort of its big last hurrah.

      When French theatre in the 1700s, both comedic and dramatic, starts elbowing out the competition is when you really start to see a seismic shift away from romance as a story of family and community to one that is more focused on individuals. It coincides with the Philosophes and ascendant skepticism about cultural institutions.

      And then of course the French Revolution happens and everything goes crazy from there on out.


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