How Amy Schumer’s faux-bisexuality functions as feminism

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Amy Schumer has become a bonafide star with her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, and new film Trainwreck, which means that she’s come under fire almost as much as she’s been praised. It seems to come with the territory for famous and successful women in our takedown culture. As a fan of the self-identified feminist comic, I want to add to that conversation in terms of the kind of pro-queer visibility she has created in her comedy.

Trainwreck Premiere - Arrivals

From the beginning of her series, Amy utilized girl-on-girl kissing to make points about how women are positioned everywhere from porn to the gym to professional athletics. On the first season of her show, Amy had a sketch where she makes out with Amber Tamblyn. She told TVLine:

“It’s a scene about how I’m like recommending a porn to her. It’s porn for women, and then watch the together. It’s sort of a comment on what sex would be like from the women’s point of view in porn.”

The porn in question is a gross view of a man disregarding his female partner’s pleasure entirely before climbing off of her and asking not to be touched. “Did you show me this so I would decide guys were gross and lez out with you?” Amber asks. Amy nods and Amber says, “It worked.” As the camera pans out, it’s revealed that they are actually playing in a scene being watched by a guy on a laptop. Clearly this kind of situation would only happen for two girl friends in a staged and oh-so-unreal scenario. The realistic porn the women watched, however, would never sell to horny men who aren’t interested in how women are participating in sex.

While a guest on this week’s Kill Me Now podcast with Judy Gold, Amy tells the out comic that she “only watch[es] lesbian porn.” As a straight and self-professed “very sexual” woman, Amy Schumer could easily fall into the category of using same-sex titillation for cheap laughs or ratings ploys, but most of the time the jokes are the kinds queer women would laugh at themselves versus being the butt of the joke. 

In another sketch on Inside Amy Schumer, Amy plays a macho fitness instructor that makes jokes about Ellen and Anne Heche and “eating pussy for breakfast,” but when a woman in her class goes in for a kiss, Amy tells her she’s read her signals all wrong. It’s a play on lesbian stereotypes that highlight how hard it is to truly tell if a woman is interested in women without her explicitly saying so, even if it seems like she’s blatantly hitting on you, “Melissa Etheridge.”

In Season 2, Amy played a tennis player that kisses her ball girl in a sketch that showed the hyper-sexualization of conventionally attractive female athletes.

Then this spring as the host of the MTV Movie Awards, Amy performed a bit where she made out with bisexual model Amber Rose while sitting in the audience and onlookers seemed confused. This was followed two months later by a kiss shared an on-stage with Tina Fey while accepting her Peabody Award. And while they were closely timed and may seem like Amy’s idea of a continuous joke, it was actually Tina’s idea.

“I really wanted to come down here tonight, and in a Madonna kind of way try to, like, feed off her youth and maybe suck her soul out in a very awkward, staged lesbian kiss. But when I pitched that idea to Amy’s camp, they came back with such an immediate ‘yes’ that it kind of grossed me out.”

The 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony - Show

In Trainwreck, Amy’s character (loosely based on herself and also named Amy) says she’s slept with three women, but while on Judy Gold’s podcast, she says she’s never had sex with a woman, but she’s made out with “a couple.” When Judy asks if it got her excited, Amy says yes, it did, but: 

“…it wasn’t really a situation where we really could have done anything else. It was like a make-out at a bar.”

So while Amy Schumer isn’t bisexual-identified, she is a forward-thinking feminist comic and TV star in contemporary pop culture who is inclusive of queer women in her comedy. Tig Notaro was a writer on the first season of Inside and also made a handful of appearances on the show. (She has since moved back to LA as her career has taken off.) Much like Tig’s straight BFF Sarah Silverman, Amy is a vocal LGBT ally, telling The Daily Beast on the day the marriage decision came down:

“I’m moved. I would’ve cried, but I was already in full hair and makeup. I’ll have to celebrate on the plane back to New York. What do I drink on the plane? I’ll either go wine or Scotch, depending on the vibe.” 

She also photobombed a gay couple’s engagement photo session, making for some unforgettable shots.

Amy’s sense of humor and the way she does comedy is an honest, modern take on the kinds of things we see as truths without really questioning their basis. She told Vulture:

“I really want people to go, ‘Oh yeah, things are fucked up, and we shouldn’t accept it as the norm.’ It’s totally cathartic for me, and I’m really glad to say these things that I mean and have never heard [on television] before.”

"Trainwreck" New York Premiere - For The Wrap

And now that kind of humorous sincerity is on the big screen. In one Trainwreck scene, Amy is sitting among a group of her sister’s married friends, young mothers who decide to play a game where they come clean about a secret they have never told anyone before. One of the women admits she let her child watch an episode of Glee that had homosexual themes and girls kissing each other. Amy’s confession: She once lost a condom inside of her because she got pounded so hard that it became stuck to her cervix and she had to fish it out with her finger. Her realness is met with Bridget Everett‘s just-as-truthful response of being tag-teamed by her husband and his brother on Christmas morning. Yeah, letting your kids watch Glee is nothing, lady.

The film also includes Amy’s dating a man (played by John Cena) who is supposed to be a catch except for the fact he says some really gay things (including when he’s coming, which isn’t even really a problem for her) and Colin Quinn plays her father as a homophobic, racist and all-around insensitive kind of guy, but it’s otherwise a film queer women can enjoy. Amy is looking for the same kinds of things in life that most women are: A career she’s content with, a family she can spend time with and a relationship that doesn’t complete her, but makes her feel happy with a person that treats her well and wants the best for her, and vice versa. (I do agree with some criticisms of the film, like it’s weird that Amy doesn’t have any friends and ultimately, it suggests monogamy and sobriety are better choices than any others, but that’s neither here nor there. The movie is called Trainwreck.)

trainwreck

Overall, the huge success of Trainwreck is another signifier that the future of mainstream comedy includes allies like Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman and Broad City‘s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, and lesbian/bi women are better off for it. And with the continued accomplishments of Ellen DeGeneres and more recent developments for Kate McKinnonFortune Feimster, Tig Notaro (whose comedy special Boyish Girl Interrupted premieres on August 22 on HBO), there’s hope that gay women comics aren’t too far behind.