In a senseless act of violence on Thursday, July 23rd, a gunman opened fire in a Louisiana theater during a screening of Trainwreck. Two women lost their lives, and our hearts go out to their families.
BEFORE SEEING TRAINWRECK, the new Amy Schumer vehicle written by the actress herself and directed by Judd Apatow (keep that distinction in mind for late), I had a preconceived expectation of what the film was going to be about. A self-deprecating woman, with a decent job, would be living a life filled with casual sex and other minor debaucheries like drinking and the occasional weed smoking – activities that many upstanding citizens partake in, mind you — and, for the most part, would be happy with her lifestyle. But instead, Amy Schumer’s character, also called Amy, is miserable — almost apologetic — for her so-called pathetic lifestyle. But why?
I mean, she has a cushy job at a magazine. She’s cozy with her heartless boss played by the lovely Tilda Swinton — the real train wreck if you ask me — and she’s even up for a promotion. It’s not like she’s dealing drugs or working the corner. She mocks the homeless guy on her block, hinting that she understands the whole taking-care-of-yourself thing and even helps him out from time to time. What an angel. And she has enough love in her heart to care for her ill, cynical father (played by Colin Quinn), who tainted her childhood by telling her monogamy doesn’t exist. But the plot that’s to come in the film insinuates that because Amy’s not paired off or en route to baby town, and is making all these unconventional choices instead, she’s a train wreck.
So she’s uninhibited sexually, she’s had a few dreaded walks of shame, and she’s dating a jacked Tony-Robbins lookalike who makes occasional homoerotic remarks, played by the kindly John Cena. And she doesn’t understand sports or cheerleaders. What a degenerate, right?
Her married sister living in the ‘burbs gives her some judgement masquerading as advice: “Maybe it’s time to change your ways.” Which really means: “Get your sh*t together, get on the adult train, and stop having all this crazy, irresponsible fun.”
In typical rom-com fashion, but with a clever gender role-reversal, meeting zany sports doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), is what catalyzes her life into getting back on track. He’s like the unicorn of straight men, who’s only slept with three women (oh, please) and talks Downton Abbey with his client/buddy Lebron James. It takes Dr. Perfect for her to see the error of her ways and put an end to all this alleged poor-lifestyle crap. But why can’t Amy (the character) just get on her own train? Grab her lifestyle by the balls, minus the shame and guilt? Guys don’t have to walk around with a scarlet letter of shame pasted to their proverbial lapels and repent their bachelorhood. It’s their right of passage. They get a free pass. Men have the right to be called bachelors… whereas women can now add “trainwreck” to the long list of names they get called when they don’t conform to societal norms. Sounds fair. It’s the new, edgy version of slut-shaming.
The confusing part is Amy Schumer, comedy’s current “it girl,” is known for calling out female stereotypes. She’s one of the few female comedians who have scratched the mainstream surface because her voice and humor resonates with a lot of young women. It only took Judd Apatow’s directional style, the bro-y one that sugarcoats and sensors, to cheapen the Amy we know and love. Although, to be fair, maybe we shouldn’t put all the blame on Apatow; Schumer wrote the script, after all. Maybe she got told by the Hollywood execs that what’s okay for Inside Amy Schumer on little old Comedy Central isn’t okay for the silver screen?
So let’s rewind. How would the movie have played out in a version less keen to gravitate towards the predictable typecast characters women are expected to be?
Here’s how the more audacious Trainwreck of my fantasies — the one I thought I was going to see — would play out.
For starters, Amy would like sex. From the beginning of the film, there’s an undercurrent that she doesn’t actually enjoy it, but does it as a means of self-medicating her wounded emotional psyche. In one scene, she gets in bed with one guy only for him to pleasure her, and then she passes out to bypass having intercourse. What’s wrong with liking sex? Why can’t a woman, who is safe and protecting herself, casually have sex without feeling bad about it? It’s OK within gay culture, straight men are expected to sow their wild oats — and have you seen the divorce rate? More casual sex before walking down the aisle might do the world some good. So let’s make Amy enjoy sex, even if it’s not with her future husband, even if there isn’t a future husband. Gasp!
This new-found optimism from owning her sex life would then allow her to stand up to all the haters in her life — her dad in particular. It was pops who planted the monogamy-isn’t-real seed at a young age, but instead of it coming across as advice about an alternative lifestyle that should be carefully considered, it comes off as inherently flawed because her dad is racist and homophobic and womanizing and just plain unlikeable. Let’s eliminate the daddy-issues and make her dad this wise sage who knows a bit or two about life and isn’t such an asshat. Because, like it or not, he kind of has a point.
So now she’s confident, has a great relationship with her stable father, and still has that great job. Now she just needs to get her sister, and everyone else around her, to lose the Judge Judy attitudes, and accept her for who she is.
She can definitely still meet Adam. But instead of the icky predictable relationship montage, filled with all the things us girls are supposed to long for, she can be herself. And for my hypothetical version’s sake here, “herself” would include no shame in her game. Maybe she’s not interested in settling down just yet. Or ever, for that matter. I’d want her character to be able to say “Let’s just keep it casual” — if that’s what she decides she really wants. Maybe she continues seeing other people, maybe not. Why can’t ambiguity be a more acceptable status with women when it comes to their romantic relationship status?
So then our dear Amy is empowered. She’s no longer ashamed of not wanting what everyone else thinks she should want or having random people project what they want onto her — i.e. that painful baby shower scene where she’s accosted by uptight domestic engineers. She won’t have to pretend and become a Knicks City Dancer to show how girly she can be or face plant on a mat to make up for her past. And Adam would have understood when she had to rush out of his acceptance speech to take an important work call or risk being fired. Don’t you think he would have taken the call if LeBron tore his ACL or something during a game? Fantasy-Amy wouldn’t have apologized for that. She likes her job and gets to keep it. It’s a shame she has to lose it, not because her work sucks, but because almost has sex with an underaged intern. While we’re at it, let’s cut that part, too. The fantasy Amy only sleeps with interns who can legally consent, and doesn’t become a farce of the drunk cougar on the prowl trope.
This fantastical version would have possibly made for a less entertaining film, but at least it’s more authentic. A realer portrayal would lift the anti-hero veil Amy’s character has been cloaked in, and then she’d be an actual hero. Flaws and all. Unconventional, joint-smoking l lifestyle and all. And then she’d be able to walk off into the sunset, maybe all by herself. Which is perfectly OK.