Few things make me laugh harder than arrogant, narcissistic lead characters, and I don’t think I’m alone. The assholes always get the best audience reactions, the “I can’t believe someone like that actually exists” guffaws. Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) in Happy Gilmore. Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper) in Wedding Crashers. White Goodman (Ben Stiller) in Dodgeball. There’s something fun and indulgent about celebrating a character who’s completely awful in every way, but really entertaining at the same time. Though someone like Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) would, of course, be unbearable if you had to interact with him in real life, that egotist caricature makes him and all his dunce counterparts memorable, almost lovable.
Be a Celebutante, a tongue-in-cheek how-to compendium satirizing the national fascination with spoiled heiresses, relies on this popular appreciation of comically despicable characters and doesn’t miss a beat in establishing its two leads as rich, lazy, and self-absorbed—true hallmarks of the most heralded on-screen comic villains.
But what really caught my attention about this four-episode series was that its protagonists, so skilled in the art of cringe-worthy idiocy, were women.
Yes, Mean Girls did a fantastic job of popularizing teenage audacity from the female perspective, and Clueless helped open the gates before that, but there are too few comedic web-series, network series, and films that chance placing women in the wanton roles we’re used to seeing men play. Celebutante, created by and starring writer/comedian/actors Dannah Feinglass and Danielle Schneider, and predating the pioneering Bridesmaids by three years, makes a great case for post gender normative comedy.
I know, I know. Why should you take a break from Between Two Ferns to give this a shot?
Episode 1: Moneymaker
There’s a reason why how-to guides are popular in many facets of modern media, from blog posts, to books, to infomercials: they’re easy to understand and convincing in their authoritativeness. Guide format works well in the humor world for similar reasons. Its inherent bullet-point brevity allows for a barrage of jokes made funnier by the absurdity that they’re being presented in a quasi-official, step-by-step way. Be a Celebutante has mastered the art of the facetious how-to and the results are worth exploring.
Episode 2: Babymaker
Funny web video is funny web video. Production quality doesn’t matter. People appreciate strong content whatever it looks like, right? Wrong. Production value is hugely important in any case and when their product looks unprofessional or rushed, producers can create a considerable hurdle for new audiences. This is especially true for series like Celebutante, where the show is based on supposedly rich characters parodying an amalgam of VH1-style broadcasts with a very specific, recognizable aesthetic. Luckily, Celebutante’s stars’ appeal is only heightened by the production team’s aplomb.
Episode 3: What’s your AIDS?
It’s alluring to see a woman being funny while playing a character with traits we’ve been conditioned to associate with men, yes. But there’s more to it than that. Though it would be sort of awesome to see a female Kenny Powers, each sex obviously has certain stereotypes that best amplify gender-neutral qualities like douchebaggery. For men, it’s often misogyny or false confidence. For women, superficiality and irresponsibility tend to work well. Don’t believe me? Be a Celebutante offers about ten minutes of near indisputable proof.
Luke Kelly-Clyne is a writer, etc. living in New York City.