Now I shouldn’t be too shocked when it comes to going to see a Melissa McCarthy movie, but I was a little taken back when she opened the movie coming in on a flying golden phoenix and doing a song/dance routine to All I Do Is Win with T Pain himself. The movie that I chose to watch and review was The Boss starring Melissa McCarthy. The film depicts McCarthy as strong independent business woman who also is also a nightmare for her assistant, which gives the film a sort of The Devil Wears Prada complex. Because Melissa McCarthy is not the typical slim actress who is very acceptable to the male gaze, many probably thought that this movie would should true feminism. Wrong. Although The Boss has potential for showing women in a different light, the film can still be analyzed from a postfeminism standpoint.
First let me explain the venue where I watched The Boss. I decided to see the movie on a Wednesday afternoon at about three o’ clock. I honestly have not been to a movie at that time since I was probably ten-years-old and I also have never seen a movie by myself so this was a new experience. I saw The Boss at my favorite local Marcus movie theater in Oakdale, Minnesota. The neighborhoods near the theater are relatively quiet and the only serious commotion going on is that the movie theater is located right next to Highway 36. Now, why is it my favorite theater you may ask? The seats of course! About two years ago, Marcus Theatres in Oakdale had a major remodel of the entire building and transformed from an average looking movie theater into the ultimate movie experience. You are allowed to choose where you want to sit on a touch screen monitor, there’s a bar and bistro, and the seats recline. The reclining seats are probably the only reason I choose this theater over the other one by my house because they make it extremely easy to get comfortable while enjoying a movie.
When I walked into the building it was pretty much a ghost town which is what I would’ve expected at three o’ clock on a Wednesday. My ticket was $7.50 which I thought might have been a little cheaper, but hey you have to pay for those seats. I arrived slightly late and I didn’t want to miss any of the film, so I did not have time to really look at any concessions. But I also wasn’t really pressured into buying concessions as well. Usually you can smell the popcorn right when you walk into the building, but since there were barely any people there at that time most of the staff were not visible or on their phones from the slow day.
I finally enter the correct theater and head to my assigned seat. There were probably five to six other people in the theater and everyone was spread out pretty evenly. It was somewhat difficult to be able to see how other people were reacting to the film, but I did get to see an older couple’s reactions as they were seated near me. The two seemed to enjoy the movie and showed no signs of disgust or disagreement. They also seemed to enjoy theater space as well because the older man had his seat fully reclined as he watched. Now that I explained the venue of Marcus Theaters, I’ll now explain the background of the actual film
The Boss first depicts the life of former foster kid, now successful business woman Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy). Darnell often uses her money and power to her advantage by buying extravagant items and commanding around her quieter assistant Claire Rawlins (Kristen Bell). Michelle’s luck takes a turn for the worse when her ex-lover Renault (Peter Dinklage) turns her into the police for insider trade. After five months in prison, Michelle returns to find out that she has lost everything including her house. Being a push-over, Claire agrees to allow Michelle to live with her and her younger daughter Rachel until she can get back on her feet. Feeling hopeless and lost, Michelle attends one of Rachel’s Dandelion meetings (equivalent to the Girl Scouts). Once Michelle notices the amount of money the Dandelions receive for selling cookies, she decides that this is her way to get back at the top. She creates her own association named Darnell’s Darlings, where they sell brownies made by Claire, in hopes that this plan will make her successful again.
The director of this film is Ben Falcone who actually starred in the film briefly (before McCarthy’s plunged a tennis ball at his throat). Falcone also directed McCarthy’s other film Tammy and weirdly enough is married to McCarthy as well. The movie is supposed to represent the genre of comedy but shows that it might fall under a romantic comedy or “chick flick” category. “…the “chick flick‟ historically targeted and commercially constituted female audiences through a focus on women and contemporary interpersonal relationships…” (Hansen-Miller & Gill 6). Now that I have described the background of the film, I can now analyze how this movie can be seen from a postfeminist view.
Postfeminism can assist in identifying problems and themes in feminism and moving past them. “… postfeminism should be conceived as a sensibility. From this perspective postfeminist media culture should be our critical object- a phenomenon into which scholars of culture should inquire- rather than an analytic perspective. This approach does not require a static notion of one single authentic feminism as a comparison point, but instead is informed by postmodernist and constructionist perspectives and seeks to examine what is distinctive about contemporary articulations of gender in the media” (Gill 148). I believe that the film intended to show women as strong and powerful which in some aspects it does. The character Michelle Darnell hold a large majority of the power in the movie, even when she loses everything she’s still in control. The interesting part of this is that no one really questions her having power and being female. In fact the character’s gender is rarely even brought up which was surprising to me because in most films gender is exploited to make it seem as though it should be a shock that women can be highly successful.
One of the discourses of postfeminism shown in The Boss is the makeover paradigm. The makeover paradigm is mainly discussed television, but it can also relate to many films as well. “Not only is this the implicit message of many magazine, talk shows and other media content, but it is the explicit focus of the ‘makeover takeover’…” (Gill 156). In one scene, the character Claire is getting ready for a date after she has been single for many years. Michelle walks in and insults her outfit and bra choice and tries to persuade her to change into something else. At first Claire is adamant about changing and likes her outfit choice, but after looking in the mirror she end up changing into a tight black dress with the “correct” bra on. Even though it is Claire herself giving the makeover, I still think that the makeover paradigm still appears in this scene. Another discourse that can be applied to this scene and the next is femininity as a bodily property. This basically means that a female’s “sexy body” is her sole identity. The next scene after Claire’s makeover is her date. Before her date was fascinated in Claire’s intellect and personality. Now he is more focused on her looks and newly transformed image. Claire seems very oblivious to this and a great target for the male gaze.
Overall I thought that The Boss was an okay film. Despite its horrible rating on Rotten Tomatoes, some scene were in fact hilarious and had me laughing. Although I enjoy Melissa McCarthy, her movies are becoming somewhat redundant even though she has several different characters. She is constantly playing roles as the clumsy comedic relief in most of her films. I think that I were to watch this in my own home it would be different because at least then I would have the option to stop the movie and actually reconsider if it is still worth watching.
Gill, Rosalind. “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.”European Journal of Cultural Studies 10.2 (2007): 147-66. Web.
Hansen-Miller,D. & Gill,R. (2011)“Lad flicks”: Discursive Reconstructions of masculinity in film’ in Radner,H. & Stringer,R. (eds.) Feminism at the Movies. New York:Routledge. Web.