**Caution may contain spoilers**
If you’re like me, you were excited for The Big Sick’s release. I love Kumail, and love that its based on a true story (about him and his wife!) and love comedy. And let me be clear: I truly enjoyed the film. I loved the writing, loved the performances, loved the humor, loved it all. That being said, I have to be honest – about twenty minutes into the film I found myself asking where are the women.
Yes. There were women in the film. Zoe Kazan does a beautiful job of playing Kumail’s wife “Emily,” but let’s not forget that she’s in a coma for two-thirds of the film. Holly Hunter is a powerhouse as Emily’s mom “Beth,” but isn’t it a little stereotypical that she’s an over-protective helicopter mom? Did anyone else groan when we find out that her husband “Terry” (Ray Romano) cheated on her, and that’s what’s causing the friction in their marriage? Let’s be honest: marriage is hard. Pledging to be honest and faithful and loving to one person for the rest of your life seems impossible, but couldn’t they have had marital problems without Terry’s infidelity? Couldn’t they just be two people who were hitting a rough patch without bringing male fragility into play, because she smelled good as Terry says.
Since this is based on a real story, I figured I would do some research. After a little digging, I found an interview with Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (the real Emily). As it turns out, many aspects of the film—as is the norm—were exaggerated for the film, including her father’s infidelity. Which begs the question: Why put it in?
All subliminal messaging aside (other women are more desirable, women have to be strong in situations of infidelity, people have to forgive their spouse when they’ve cheated, the list could go on forever) why did Terry have to cheat on Beth? What did that add to the situation? Wasn’t it enough that their only daughter has a life threatening disease that a team of five doctors can’t identify, and she’s placed in a medically induced coma and her ex is the only one available for comfort and information? I would vote yes.
Even if we move past that, the film has other problems with women. Take, for example, the dozens of women that Kumail meets thanks to his mother “Sharmeen” (Zenobia Shroff) and father “Azmat” (Anupam Kher). As is tradition with Pakastani culture, Kumail’s parents are attempting to arrange a marriage, but Kumail doesn’t want to live a Pakistani-structured life in America, he wants his freedom. Throughout the film we see a slew of Pakistani-American women who are all extremely interested in marrying Kumail, which led me to think where are the women and their own desire for freedom? Kumail can’t be the only one rebelling, where are the women?
But even if we move further away from Emily’s family and Kumail’s family, there’s one place that is glaringly and overwhelmingly male: the Chicago comedy club scene. Sure, we have Kumail’s friend “Mary,” played by the lovely Aidy Bryant, but she’s less of a character and more of a piece of arm candy for her boyfriend “CJ” (Bo Burnham). And if I’m being honest, every other person in the club is a white male. Oh except for David Alan Grier’s character, “Andy,” who snorts cocaine in the bathroom before each set. So I repeat my question: Where are the women? In this film women serve one purpose: spouse. Even Aidy’s character is portrayed very differently on stage. In her comedy she hides behind a huge easel which represents her diary, whereas the male comedians stand alone in front of the audience. When a talent scout tells Kumail that he’s been accepted into the Toronto comedy festival he even glazes over Aidy’s acceptance.
Read the second part of this article at the link below:
Top Photograph: Poster of The Big Sick
Middle Photograph: Kumail at dinner when his mother refuses to speak to him so he writes her notes.
Bottom Photograph: Emily and Kumail on the couch
Photo Credits: Nicole Rivelli