Neighbors 2 Proves It Still Too Often Takes Men to Get a Woman’s Story Told in Hollywood
Much to my surprise, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising turned out to be a *gasp* feminist film . . . and I loved it.
It made my heart sing as I sat in the theater watching the story unfold, complete with plenty of “you go, girl” moments. Much like Trainwreck or Bridesmaids, these young leading ladies (led by Chloë Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, and Beanie Feldstein) finally played just as dirty as the boys. From selling weed to launching used tampons, the girls embrace bad behavior as they fight for their right to party. But why are they fighting exactly?
“We don’t throw parties here,” a perky Selena Gomez tells her pledges at the beginning of the film. “In the United States, sororities are not allowed to throw parties in their own houses. Only frats can.” She encourages everyone to google it. They do. This prompts Moretz’s character and her friends to start their own sorority free of archaic rules.
I don’t want to give specific jokes away, but a solid moment includes a comical exchange between Zac Efron and the Kappa Nus in which they discuss the fraternity system’s traditional “bro and ho” theme parties. Perplexed, Efron’s character considers their perspective and concedes that the parties are indeed sexist. It felt good to watch a movie that seemingly understood outspoken, complex, and, yes, sometimes raunchy young women.
But something kept gnawing at me once I returned home. The more I thought about it, the further it ate away at me — especially as I read one rave review after another. While it’s great to see films starring women and surrounding female issues, why did it take five white male screenwriters to get such a “novel” idea — a sorority spin on the classic frat-pack film — made? Do you know how many scripts written by women, about women, and surrounding similar themes likely existed prior to this now (mostly) critically acclaimed sequel?
It truly was a brilliantly crafted film, containing my favorite blend of gross-out humor with heart, but my issue is this: according to a recent Los Angeles Times piece, Seth Rogen and Nicholas Stoller reportedly brought in female consultants Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci and picked Moretz’s brain as they wrote the script. But why didn’t they consider hiring a single credited female screenwriter? Maybe even Rogen’s wife, Lauren Miller, who wrote For a Good Time Call, one of my favorite films of 2012? Or perhaps that film’s co-writer, Katie Anne Naylon, who still has but that one credit on her IMDB page to this day? Other talented writers who could have nailed the material include Maggie Carrey (The To Do List), Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), Leslye Headland (Sleeping With Other People), April Prosser (who landed on The Black List in 2014 for Plus One), or perhaps some other yet-to-be-discovered scribe (ahem, ahem).
For the record: I know I’m leaving out a ton of other talented, accomplished writers like Amy Heckerling (Clueless), Katie Dippold (who has the Ghostbusters reboot out later this Summer), and tremendously successful duo Kirsten Kiwi Smith and Karen McCullah, who wrote Legally Blonde, The House Bunny, and 10 Things I Hate About You.
If I sound jealous . . . damn right I am. We’re all looking for our break.
It’s not Rogen or Stoller’s fault that they’re male. And the film truly deserves to be celebrated; they nailed writing from a perspective beyond their own. But, in some ways, the movie is a missed opportunity. Judd Apatow took a chance on all of these writers early on. He’s since gone on to help contribute to the careers of Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer. I’d like to see the Neighbors 2 gentleman pay that forward and do the same for others. After all, unless the industry pays closer attention to who’s being hired behind the scenes, Hollywood will forever remain a boys’ club where inclusion of the female perspective continues to be a “fresh” idea conceived by “genius” men.