In Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig plays – for a comedy – a wonderfully complicated character. One who loves her friend but is prepared to totally ruin her bridal shower; who can organise a hen night but so badly that everyone gets the shits; who can flirt with a policeman, and then throw him out when he suggests she’s avoiding something. In Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty, she turns up as The Girl. The one whom he must impress, whose sole role is as moral compass. Shame.
And let’s not let the women writers off the hook. Lena Dunham, who writes possibly the most important TV series of the last five years, created a wonderfully spikey character in Adam. A character who is at the same time loving and gross. Except in the latest series, in which he seems to have turned into some perfect cookie-cutter boyfriend: supportive of her ambitions, saying the right things when her friends go mental, always there for her.
I think this is the third time I’ve written about the difficulty that the sexes have in writing about one another. There is always a temptation to write a character who is the-person-who-would-solve-my-problems and, in doing so, deny them an independent life. There’s probably a good reason for this. The film/TV/Book is about Character A, not character B. Give B too full a character and it becomes about them. But some people manage it: Harry Met Sally, Mad Men, even The Bridge.
In the meantime, From Dickens to Dunham, the minimising goes on.