For Better and Worse, Women Prove They Can Be Like Men, in Raunchy Comedies, Action Flicks, Kick-Butt TV

“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” queried the genially misogynistic elocutionist Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” a half century ago.

In 2011, for better and worse, moviemakers and television show producers are answering that question with “Yes they can” demonstrations that would have shocked Higgins out of his argyles.

Last week, Universal’s “Bridesmaids” became  producer Judd Apatow’s highest-grossing movie ever — ahead of “Knocked Up” — with a cumulative gross that is now more than $148 million, and counting.   Now we know: women doing raunchy humor can sell tickets.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid, because if you follow Hollywood at all, you know how success breeds every sort of copycat production imaginable.  Yes, moms and dads of little girls, you’re going to have to cope with examples set by dozens of movies and TV series episodes and awards show appearances and videos in which females fart, belch, scratch themselves, talk dirty and engage in scatalogical humor.  And they won’t be as funny as “Bridesmaids.”

Wendi McLendon-Covey

Comic actress Wendi McLendon-Covey recounts that “Bridesmaids” was initially met with skepticism when Kristin Wiig and company did a reading of the script in 2007.  She says most studios were only interested in female ensemble flicks if they followed the “Sex and the City” recipe.  With “Bridesmaids,” she  hopes “other studios will start taking a gamble on funny girls, because we’re interesting…There are a whole lot of girls out there who aren’t afraid of making themselves look stupid, who aren’t vain, who can do what the boys are doing.”

Milla Jovovich in "Resident Evil"

Right.  And on another front, thanks to stars including Angelina Jolie and Milla Jovovich, females are doing what the boys are doing as leads of big-budget action thrillers, too.  And on the TV side, kick-butt chicks abound.
Maria Bello’s forthcoming “Prime Suspect” Detective Jane Timoney looks even harder-edged and more physical than Helen Mirren’s beloved tough-as-nails British TV character.

And expect the new “Charlie’s Angels” to be lots edgier than their predecessors as well, with girl-girl and girl-guy fight action and more.  The show’s tagline: ‘They’re Angels, Not Saints.”

Maria Bello NBC photo

Of course, whenever there’s a trend, there has to be a counter-trend, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that upcoming shows like “Pan Am,” and — especially — “The Playboy Club” are poised to remind us of the bad old, martini-soaked days of women past.  Right where the Henry Higginses of the world wanted ’em.

Angels Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh ABC photos