A Letter to Hollywood: Keep Films Like ‘The Heat’ Coming

The Heat movie poster.

Dear Hollywood Movie Executives,
As I have driven by my local movie theater this summer, I’ve been struck by how I haven’t wanted to see most of the movies. You haven’t been getting much money from me.
But I’d like to talk to you about The Heat, which opened nationwide last weekend. 
I’m not a buddy-cop movie aficionado; in fact, I could count the number of films in that genre that I’ve seen on about a half of a hand, tops. But The Heat? I wanted to see it. So you got some of my money.
Judging from the crowded theater at a weekday afternoon showing–including a trio of dude-bros in front of me–and the fact that the film came in second at the box office, you got some of lots of people’s money.

The Heat promotional still.

There’s money in this for you. What’s “this”? This is producing and releasing blockbuster films with female leads. 
I know, I know. You’ve been hesitant to do so. Men’s stories have long been the standard-bearer of literature and film. Men’s stories are universal, women’s stories are for women. In the middle of June, 90 percent of feature films were about men or groups of men, and Man of Steel had about six times the number of showings as all of the films about women combined. 
Mullins (McCarthy) and Ashburn (Bullock) work together.
Stories about (white) men have been easy for you for a long time. Just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s good or right–or even the most financially sound.
When Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig, who directed The Heat) was released, it passed up Knocked Up as Judd Apatow’s highest-grossing film. Pitch Perfect made almost $100 million worldwide. 
Is this just our petite lady-ration? One big female-fronted blockbuster per year? 
Please sir, I want some more.
The Heat delivers just the kind of big escapism that one would expect from a summer blockbuster. Melissa McCarthy is absolutely amazing. She is a national treasure. And while the film is fairly formulaic, the punch lines are not. 
Ashburn and Mullins also drink together.
Officer Mullins (McCarthy) roughs up and arrests a man soliciting a prostitute. He feels her full wrath because he tries to excuse his actions by saying his wife just had a baby and everything downstairs was messy. There is not one punch line about Mullins’s weight. More than one man comes to her in desperation because she’s not called them back. While Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) walks the stereotype line (she’s an “unlikable” but highly successful single woman), she’s a good agent, and she and Mullins complement one another.
Spanx (Ashburn’s, not Mullins’s), vaginas, areolas … the premise of the film may be masculine, but women weren’t just inserted into men’s roles. This female-centric comedy worked. Women are funny.
And I’ll tell you what–those dude-bros in front of me were laughing hard when Mullins was criticizing Ashburn’s Spanx (because her “furnace” couldn’t “air out” in them). 
Mullins is shocked by the concept of Spanx.
Women are funny. Female writers are funny (Parks and Recreation‘s Katie Dippold wrote The Heat). Female performers are funny. Jokes about strictly female experiences are funny–for everybody.

If women can laugh at men’s jokes–which doesn’t seem to be a problem–then men can laugh at women’s jokes. It’s pretty simple. The Heat shows us that. Cops, whiskey, drug rings, and a refrigerator full of guns and ammo may feel masculine, but Ashburn and Mullins show that women can wield it all.

The Heat made me laugh and cry.

I want more. I want theaters to be packed with genre films with women at the helm–in character, with the writing credits, as directors. The Heat 2 is already in the works, but there is so much opportunity for women in blockbusters. And I want dude-bros going to those movies in droves. I bet they will, too.

Now you need to believe it.

These female-led blockbusters are always “surprise,” hits, but how many times can you be surprised by the success of movies with female protagonists? At some point, you need to realize that people like this.

If you take up my plea and fund more female-centric films, I must warn you: some of them might not be awesome. Some may be mediocre, or bad. Just like movies with male leads. When Freddie Got Fingered bombed, the takeaway wasn’t that men can’t carry comedies. Remember that.

When the film ended, I stopped the trio of teenage boys and asked them if they liked the movie. It was unanimous: yes. I asked if they ever thought about not seeing it because the main characters were women. It was unanimous: no. (One exclaimed, “Not once.”)

If you don’t believe me and my dude-bros, here’s some recommended reading: NPR, Jezebel, Women and Hollywood, and Vulture all give the film favorable to glowing reviews.
One more thing: we need to talk about marketing. These movie posters are an atrocity. Mullins’s weight wasn’t an issue on-screen, but clearly your marketing departments felt the need to drastically change her.

Make them stop that.

No.

Sincerely,



Leigh Kolb is a composition, literature and journalism instructor at a community college in rural Missouri.
  • It could have done without the “you’re a little girl where are your balls” joke and the I’m 100% woman not trans scene, which was pointless and basically saying unattractive = trans… I’m sick of that equation. Also what was with the effing racist muck at the beginning. Those things made what was otherwise a decent buddy cop comedy uncomfortable to watch, I really wanted to like it more than I did.

  • I 100% agree. I didn’t adore the film, but I have a very low bar for movies like this–and I guess I was more focused on how important it was that it exists, you know? But it *definitely* had problematic moments.

  • I’m just really concerned and curious to know if any strangers behind me in the movie theater have labeled me as a Dude-Bro…

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  • GhostFish, I agree with you 100%. While I love Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, I found the film racist, ableist and transphobic. (http://www.btchflcks.com/2013/07/am-i-the-only-feminist-who-didnt-really-like-the-heat-or-why-i-want-my-humor-intersectional.html) And not funny. At all. I so wanted to love this and sadly, I didn’t.

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