When I was grappling with what I could possibly devote my grad masters thesis to, I came up with a lot of ideas, one of which was to examine the portrayals of young, “working” women in romcoms. The problem with that idea is that I don’t even like romcoms that much, so I decided not to spend hours of my life watching and analyzing Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker as they stumble through dating on the silver screen.
As it turns out, however, inquiry into such a fascinating realm of media does not need to be limited to end-of-program study. Especially when you find yourself, on a particularly lonely/relaxing evening, curled up with your dogs and some snacks, watching Something Borrowed* (2011) and you realize that, years later, the same romcom stuff is going on. As this is a blog post, however, and not a thesis, I am going to focus in a very unacademic way on a case study known as:
Now let me first explain that, despite my interest in studying portrayals of women in Ms. Hudson’s film genre of choice, I don’t watch romcoms very often, so I could be way off with my observations here. Feel free to argue with me.
Kate Hudson’s characters in movies often resemble the sort of women who I would never want to be locked in a room with. It’s like she is a caricature of the “sassy blonde who always gets what she wants,” which is the sort of description that Dee Reynolds would make up while creating a vision board for her future.
Speaking of blondes, the last two movies I have seen Kate Hudson in, she has been the blonde half to a best friend duo that includes a more likeable, kind brunette. We have the aforementioned Something Borrowed (which I swear I only rented because I have a soft spot for Jim from The Office), in which Hudson plays Darcy, a rich party girl who has steals her best friend Rachel’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) old crush and only chance at happiness.
Then we have that Bride Wars (2009) film in which Hudson’s uber pushy character, Liv, is pitted against Anne Hathaway’s sensible character, Emma. It seems almost laughable that Hollywood would continue pumping out this blonde vs. brunette stereotype, but in the hetronormative, whitewashed world of the romcom, this is the easiest way to indicate when your character is a spoiled hussy.
Or a kind soul.
While there are so many additional aspects of these plot set-ups that I find abhorrent—like the fact that they could even pretend that someone on a teacher’s salary could afford a wedding at the Plaza in New York. Or that while the ripe old age of 26 is when the ladies in Bride Wars are planning these elaborate weddings, it is over and over hammered out in Something Borrowed how 30 equals “old maid.” Or that the entire plots of both of these films revolve around dubious friendships being tested by struggles over wedding dates and men— let’s focus on the matter at hand, shall we?
In both these films, Hudson’s character is used to “getting what she wants,” often at the expense of her sweeter, dark haired best friend from childhood. While her character Liv is a high-powered lawyer in Bride Wars, Darcy of Something Borrowed is…well, we don’t know what she is. We know she has a lot of money (it is her $2000 Chanel purse that re-acquaints Rachel with Dex, her old crush and Darcy’s current fiancé) and that she lives an elaborate lifestyle of partying, shopping, and sunning herself in the Hamptons. Her characterization is further enhanced by her wardrobe of short, expensive dresses and flowing casual wear that accentuates just how laid-back and sexy she is.
Hudson’s self-absorbed characters are juxtaposed by her brunette best friends, who by nature of their hair follicles, are sweet and willing to roll over to Hudson. They work in unglamorous fields (Emma is a teacher and Rachel in an unglamorous lawyer–I bet you a million dollars she does pro bono work), and are presented as “the girl next door,” who will do just about anything for their vapid best friend. Until it gets to be too much and they discover that there is actually something they want, which is interesting, because this conflict is actually where the plot point of each movie starts.
It is over the course of these films that the sweetness of our brunette heroines is tested. While Emma devolves into a monster over the realization that she wants something for once in her life that she will not give up to Liv (a wedding at the Plaza), Rachel enters into a similar struggle, except her struggle involves sleeping with Darcy’s fiance.
As films such as Something Borrowed so accurately portray the gray areas of moral dilemmas (ha ha), despite this major friendship faux pas, we still find ourselves rooting for Rachel, mostly because Darcy is shown over and over again to be nothing more than a self-absorbed see-you-next-Tuesday.
Throughout the course of the movie, we are reminded not just of the moral differences between Darcy and Rachel, but also of their intelligence level. Darcy whines several times that Rachel is the “smart one” and good at thinking, (usually while attempting to manipulate her). Even though everyone believes Darcy when she says she was accepted into Notre Dame, we are told she had terrible grades, while Rachel excelled in school and attended NYU for her law degree, where she was very unfashionable with glasses and curly hair.
In Something Borrowed, we are informed, by way of ambient sex noises and Darcy’s assertion that she is “more sexual,” that Darcy is, indeed, “sexy.” In contrast, we only see Rachel the morning after, she’s holding hands and cuddling. So very sweet of her. There is also a scene in which Rachel attempts to make her lover jealous by imitating Darcy’s dirty dancing moves, only to fall on the floor and, as Darcy says, “break her vagina.” Rachel’s simultaneous sweetness and responsible characteristics are further enforced by her wardrobe of biz casual wear from Ann Taylor and J-Crew, and sundresses.
In the end, however, everything is smoothed over, more or less, by having babies. As it is in real life. Emma and Liv are suddenly willing to share their important day together when they realize their impending due dates are the same, while a more tense, awkward reunion between Darcy and Rachel on the street is tempered by their exchange about Darcy’s happiness over her pregnancy.
Because who doesn’t love a preggers Kate Hudson?
* It should be noted that Something Borrowed isn’t actually funny, so it doesn’t literally fall under the categorization of “romcom.” Then again, I fail to see the humor in most romcoms and the film was probably marketed as one anyway, so just go with it.