Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy’s new buddy cop movie The Heat opened in theaters on June 28. A decade ago, though, the movie might not have even gotten made. But thanks to the success of director Paul Feig’s previous film Bridesmaids, the landscape for female comedy is evolving and hopefully his newest film is just the beginning.
Female comedy itself isn’t changing. There have always been hilarious, fearless women out there making us laugh until it hurts; that’s certainly not something new or anything that needed to evolve. What is changing, though, is the opportunity that these women are being given. Slowly but surely these funny ladies have been center stage proving that they are just as funny as men and won’t simply play the supporting role of wife or girlfriend — they’re taking the lead.
Bridesmaids was seen by many industry insiders as a risk though, and not the hit that it ended up being. A movie with an almost all female cast doing universal comedy that isn’t exclusively funny to women, a type of comedy that has been traditionally male dominated in mainstream media. A movie like that had a lot of people betting that it would fail. Not surprisingly it was a hit with critics and movie goers alike, but most importantly, with the box office success it experienced, Bridesmaids proved that funny women were financially bankable. And as you might guess — what’s in between your legs matters a lot less to the movie studios once you’re not as big a risk to that green paper lining their pockets.
The Heat is the latest experiment in the financial viability of female-driven comedy and Sandra Bullock’s second time playing an FBI agent. And just like the women in comedy, the real women in law enforcement also had to blaze some trails in order to get where they are today. Below are some facts about women in law enforcement:
- According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on the federal level, the amount of women varies between specific agencies, but on average about 20 percent of sworn officers are women. Women in local law enforcement agencies also vary, but are typically lower than the federal level, averaging around 15 percent.
- Approximately 40 years ago, women only represented 2 percent of the force.
- Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship of the Indianapolis Police Department were the first female officers to be assigned patrol duty in a car. They were required to wear skirts, heels, and had to carry their guns and handcuffs in their purses. See a picture here.
- In 1973 LAPD sergeant Fanchon Blake sued the LAPD because the Chief of Police would not allow any women to take the lieutenant exam. It took seven years to settle the case, but in 1980 she won her lawsuit and her story was later chronicled by the Los Angeles Times.
- In 1985 Penny Harrington became Chief of Police in Portland, Oregon, and was the first women to lead the police force in a major city.
- As the role of women in law enforcement evolves, so are uniforms. Women are slowly but surely representing a larger number of the force, and many uniform companies are now taking notice and making more female-friendly designs. For many years women wore the same uniforms as their male counterparts, and this didn’t just present an aesthetic problem but a safety concern as well- A man’s pants have a longer rise, so they sit higher on a woman’s body. This translates into a female officer wearing her duty belt higher than was intended, not just increasing the strain on her back, but also slowing her response time if needing to quickly reach for a firearm.