Amy Schumer, Satire, and the Appeal of Trainwreck

This post is a featured editor’s pick on BlogHer in both the News/Feminism and Entertainment topics!

As I’ve mentioned here before, it’s a rare occurrence these days that I get excited about a movie. I love going to the movies, but with the comic book hero trend continuing and my favorite genre, the romantic comedy, quickly fading from view, there’s less and less I’m looking forward to in theatres. It does happen on occasion though, and I’m pleased to say it’s happening now: I can’t wait to see Amy Schumer’s new vehicle, Trainwreck.

Schumer’s feature debut opens this Friday, July 17—incidentally the day before my birthday—and I’m thrilled. I love Schumer, even though I don’t always laugh at her comedy. She’s smart, strong, gutsy, and very feminist, showing male and female behaviors for the ridiculousness they encompass, and I appreciate and respect her talent, and her chutzpah.

I don’t love absolutely everything she does, partially because I have problems with satire in general. I don’t always understand what the point is, or what satirists are trying to achieve. But my bigger concern is that it’s too easy to take satire at face value. (I never really cared for The Colbert Report for the same reason.)

Truth be told, I don’t always understand what, exactly, satire is . . . or is supposed to be. Similar to sarcasm, it seems like a joke that is more real life than comedy. As if it’s too real to be funny, especially when it’s played straight. (Like those “jokes” people tell where they say something really mean about someone else, and then say, “just kidding.” I hate those too.)

For example, Schumer’s second episode this season featured a clip with Schumer (who always plays a version of herself) as a devoted, altruistic-to-a-fault girlfriend to a man-child trying to have a career as a rap star. She works three jobs and waits on the boy hand and foot, doing outrageous things for him like making fresh squid-ink paella, while he sits around waiting for his big break. When she winds up in the hospital from exhaustion and he’s discovered by a record producer in the next room, he breaks up with her. Aside from a small chuckle here and there (mostly from them saying “bo-o-dy”), I didn’t find the skit funny at all. It’s too real, too true to life, with too many women putting themselves in that same position. I understand Schumer wants to put a spotlight on that kind of behavior in hopes of making people realize their mistakes, but I imagine too many people watching the sketch and not understanding what the problem is. Satire is too easy to take at face value, and too easy to miss the commentary.

So as much as I’m looking forward to Trainwreck, I’m also apprehensive. I’m the first to admit I’m kind of a prude, and Schumer is known for talking about her vagina (with much more colorful language). It’s part of what I admire about her, because it’s incredibly gutsy and anti-patriarchal for her to do that, but I don’t always love what she says. At the very least, it’s difficult for me to adjust to, but that makes it more important for me to do so.

I don’t love the current trend of romantic comedies that start with a one-night stand, and I believe Trainwreck does as well. In fact, romantic comedies have essentially given way to sex comedies, and I’m torn about it. As cliché-ridden as rom-coms tend to be, there are some tropes that I love and look forward to seeing. I like the classic rom-coms that lead up to sex (for lack of a better word) as a happily ever after, rather than getting the hook-up out of the way first thing and then dealing with the consequences.

(Incidentally, I learned that Schumer loves one of my favorite classic sex-capades: Casual Sex?. That makes me incredibly happy.)

So I’m concerned Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow (who I’m back and forth about), will be over the top, and “gross,” as I would say, like a 12-year-old girl. It’s definitely about sex, and Schumer certainly doesn’t hold back. But as I’ve read, it’s also more autobiographical, and approaches the subject honestly. Schumer wrote the script based on her life and her family, and tells the story as truthfully as she can, finding the humor along the way. It’s part of what I love about her.

Schumer plays a reporter who sleeps with a sports doctor after profiling him for a story. She’s happy with a one-night-stand, but the doctor, played by Bill Hader, wants more. Schumer says it wasn’t a conscious decision to have this role reversal, but it’s based on what she’s experienced so far (which, btw, is awesome). Some may think this switch is a minor thing, but I think it will be huge, and is what Schumer does best: subtly attacking both male and female stereotypes and turning them on their heads.

As much as I love Schumer, I’m more excited to see Hader as a romantic lead. I’ve admired Hader for years, mostly because of his comedic genius (long live Stefon!), but he’s also really adorable—and seems like a genuinely sweet, self-deprecating person in real life (not to mention age-appropriate for a Schumer romance). I always go for the geeky type myself anyway (ie: John Cusack) over the chiseled leading man type (ie: Tom Cruise), and I’m excited to see Hader less madcap and more grounded; less the wacky character role and more the sexy leading player. It’s about time he was cast that way.

So come July 17, I’ll probably force my husband to see Trainwreck with me first, and wait on Ant-Man for another day (as much as I love Paul Rudd). I just hope I’ll love it enough to tide me over until February, when the next movie I’m excited about comes out: the return of geek-icon Matt Smith in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. Don’t let me down, Schumer! (I doubt she will.)

Update: She did let me down.

2 thoughts on “Amy Schumer, Satire, and the Appeal of Trainwreck

  1. […] in July, I wrote about how much I was looking forward to Amy Schumer’s movie, Trainwreck. Of course I had to see it right away, which I did, but […]

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