Skank-shaming Amy Schumer


Trainwreck (MA). Director: Judd Apatow. Starring: Amy Schumer, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, John Cena, LeBron James. 125 minutes

It's not hard to see why Amy Schumer was offended. Last week, Melbourne KIIS FM breakfast co-host Matt Tilley earned the ire of the extremely funny and proudly feminist comedian by suggesting the character she plays in Trainwreck is a 'skank'. Schumer — who, reportedly, is a prickly interviewee at the best of times — was visibly nonplussed by the comment, and by Tilley's ill-judged attempts to justify it — which included wondering facetiously if he had watched the wrong film.

Schumer stars in the film as Amy, a career-driven journalist who, motivated by the words and deeds of her philandering father (Quinn), has chosen to eschew monogamy in favour of the boozy pursuit of strings-free sex. It's a vastly different path to that taken by her sister Kim (Larson), who is married with a pre-teen stepson. Amy is content enough however — at least until she meets and falls for nice-guy sports doctor Aaron (Hader), who throws up an unforeseen challenge to Amy's prodigal lifestyle.

Tilley's sleight comes not just from his apparently missing the fact that the screenplay, written by Schumer, is semi-autobiographical. It cuts deeper than that. While some might debate the morality of the on-screen Amy's behaviour, the character is invested with the kind of sexual agency we are accustomed to seeing from male characters, especially as portrayed by Hollywood. It is a potent subversion of gender stereotypes, that skank-shaming such as Tilley's only serves to undermine.

The film boasts director Apatow's loose, sprawling directorial style and a large cast of weird and endearing characters, including pro-wrestler Cena as Amy's built but sexually unimaginative boyfriend Steven, a hilarious Swinton as her tactless editor, and NBA star James, playing a version of himself who is both Aaron's patient and his confidante, as willing to give advice as he is unwilling to chip in for lunch. (A scene where gangly, 185cm Hader takes on hulking, 203cm James in a game of ball is priceless.)

But this is every inch Schumer's film. Apart from writing the screenplay, she owns every scene that she is in, bringing a great deal of emotional depth — especially in the scenes between her and Larson — to go along with the heavy helping of humour. The characters she has drawn are not perfect, but they are utterly human. Tilley's comment then, sitting too easily as it does in a tradition of harmful double standards regarding male and female sexuality, not only denies women agency, it robs Amy of dignity.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is assistant editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: Trainwreck, Judd Apatow, Amy Schumer, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, John Cena, LeBron



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Existing comments

Unlike secular media I expect Eureka Street to discuss morality not gender stereotypes. Let's discuss ethical standards not excuse immorality. Bad behaviour by some men does not excuse bad behaviour by some women

Peter | 30 July 2015  

Does Eureka Street really have to be too concerned what a commercial shock jock has to say about anything? If one has any brains, one does not earn a living by spinning CDs and talk about inane things all day long, does one?

Alex Njoo | 30 July 2015  

Peter< I'm not sure how you can neatly exclude the issue of gender stereotyping from any discussion on morality. If you think any moral discussion of "sex outside marriage" is inappropriate, then I'm afraid you are in for a rude awakening - it is happening. (And that's not excusing it, but just acknowledging the reality and the ethical/moral implications inherent in gender expectations.) It's not all black and white.

AURELIUS | 31 July 2015  

Great article. Good to see some intelligent discussion on this interview from a writer who actually understood Schumer's point.

Sara | 13 January 2017  

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