“For those of you who don’t know me out there,
I guess there’s a couple of you -- not!” [Laughs]
Machiavelli argued that it is better to be feared than loved,
but Helen Harris III would probably contend
that it’s better still to be envied.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to honor Lil and Doug
with a short poem I penned while sitting on a swing
in an exclusive resort in Telethaniki.”
The Bridesmaids antagonist lives high up on a pedestal of her own making.
Yet Helen’s gift for appearing untouchably perfect
doesn’t translate into a happy private life.
“These are my kids.” “Oh!”
“Step kids.” “Step.”
Helen doesn’t get that
making people covet what you have doesn’t make them like you.
“She will make friends.
There is much more sense of community in coach,
I promise you.”
By working so hard to be an object of admiration,
she puts up walls that block her from getting what she really wants: friends.
Here’s our take on what it’s like
to be the woman other women hate (but want to be),
and why Helen has no friends.
“There’s a term the young people are using -- BFF.
BFF. And you’re my BFF: best friend forever.”
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The antagonist of a story is usually a dark mirror of the hero,
representing what our protagonist needs to overcome.
“I mean it’s a bernaise. It’s, it’s one of a kind -- I just --
I don’t think there’s a question.”
In Bridesmaids, Annie is crippled by low self-esteem,
so it follows that the villain of her story is a woman who seems specifically designed
to make her feel inadequate.
“Maybe she’ll find a new best friend. And maybe she will be
more successful than you are, and prettier and richer and skinnier.”
Annie has recently suffered a devastating personal loss.
“He was my boyfriend,
and then he left... me when... the business went under, so.”
Meanwhile, her best friend Lillian’s impending wedding
rudely announces to her that her peers have it way more together.
“I feel like her life is going off and getting perfect,
and mine is just like…”
From the start,
we witness voices inside Annie’s head and in the society around her
telling her what kind of woman she should be.
“Why can’t you be more like Kahlua?”
And making her hyper-aware of the ways she’s falling short.
“This is my husband. You don't have a husband.”
The movie begins with her trying to project
the image of the ideal woman.
“I just woke up, are you kidding? I’m sure I’m a mess.”
to a handsome guy
who’s actually obnoxious and awful to be around.
“He’s so hot though.”
“Look, I know you say he’s cute and all that stuff,
but he makes you feel like shit, you know.”
And at Lillian’s engagement party, she’s repeatedly shamed
for failing to achieve her culture’s ultimate feminine success -- marriage.
“I'm not with anybody. I’m here solo.”
All these reminders of Annie’s inadequacy build to the moment when she meets…
Helen embodies everything Annie wishes she was:
she’s wealthy, has married well, and is exceedingly pretty.
“You’re so pretty.” [Helen laughs]
Her name evokes Helen of Troy -- the figure in Greek mythology
whose beauty “launched a thousand ships” and started the Trojan War.
So essentially Helen is the unattainable ideal of womanhood
that’s plaguing Annie.
“Whitney? It’s Helen.”
“Helen Harris?” “Yeah!”
Meanwhile, “Annie” might make us think of down-on-her-luck orphan Annie.
“Help me, I’m poor.”
Yet this story uses Helen as proof
that having all the status symbols in the world will not make you happy.
“Perry never really wants to talk to me, either.
He travels a lot. Like, all year. I’m -- I’m basically just by myself.”
When people appear to have it all,
“We went on a sweetheart honeymoon.”
“Oh, where did you guys go?” [at the same time] “Disney World.”
“Oh...” “We finish each other’s sentences, sorry!”
usually that’s just because we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg
“Kevin can only have sex in bed, in the dark, under the covers,
only after we have showered, separately.”
What’s interesting is that
the evidence of Helen’s unhappiness is blatant, right there out in the open.
“I shared things with you that I’ve never shared with anyone.
Painful things to do with my family and the pain I’ve caused them.”
Annie just chooses to overlook it.
“It’ll just give the pill the little kick that it needs --
honestly, I do it all the time.”
At the engagement party,
Helen is more dressed up than the bride-to-be,
revealing a need to overcompensate.
“The whole gown, and the ooh... you know, thing.
It’s just weird, right?” “Well...”
Her step-kids clearly despise her.
“F-[BLEEP] off, Helen.” “Okay, put a quarter in the swear jar.
So cute.” “Sweet kids.”
And her desperate possessiveness
of a woman she’s known for less than a year tells us
she doesn’t have any long-lasting close relationships in her life.
“You’re my angel and soulmate.”
So the miserable Helen reveals that Annie’s problem isn’t that
she’s not desirable, successful, or rich enough --
it’s that she’s wasting time wanting to be a Helen.
“Let us shower Lillian with gifts and love.
Repondez s’il vous plait. Yay!”
Annie’s only way forward
is to stop looking outward at the Helens of the world,
and turn inward instead.
“‘Cause you’re your problem, Annie. And you’re also your solution.”
To reconnect with her passion and take responsibility for her life.
“Oh! Don’t... This didn't happen because of Helen.
This happened because you didn't get your tail lights fixed.”
Women want to be Helen
but that doesn’t mean they want to be around her.
“I don’t have any female friends.” [Sobs]
Deep down she craves female closeness. All she really wants is to hang out...
“Maybe sometime the three of us could go to Rockin’ Sushi together.”
“Thank you, Annie. I -- I would love that.”
But she’s her own worst enemy when it comes to forging real bonds.
Here’s what Helen Harris teaches us about how not to make friends:
First, there’s no warmth under Helen’s sunny persona.
Her surface friendliness is a mask for cool aggression.
“Everyone should experience first class at least once in their lives.
And Annie shouldn't miss out just because she can’t afford it.”
Think of the scene where Annie and Helen meet.
“There she is, maid of honor.” “Oh, hi!”
Helen is syrupy sweet,
but she still manages to get in a subtle jab highlighting that
Annie is a fixture of Lillian’s old life.
“So lovely to meet Lillian’s childhood friend.”
When Annie can’t help remarking on Helen’s beauty,
Helen patronizes her.
“You are so cute! Oh, you’re so sweet.”
She then tops it all off by marking her territory,
asserting how close she and Lillian are.
“They are literally joined at the hip. Which is good, because so are we!”
Nothing about this interaction
is inviting Annie to like Helen or enjoy spending time with her.
So her behavior reveals that she’s not trying to make a friend here --
she’s actively making a frenemy.
“I'm so glad we were able to do this.”
The pleasant facade mixed with disdain
might remind us of Mean Girls villain Regina George.
“Oh my god, I love your skirt, where did you get it?”
Somehow Helen’s or Regina’s transparently fake performance
of niceness feels meaner than open hostility.
“I feel fine.” “Are you sure?
It wasn’t that gray kind of lamb? You ate a lot of that weird chicken.”
Make people feel bad about themselves.
“Personally, the Paris theme’s a bit, ‘Been there, done that.’”
We turn to friends to feel better.
“You’re a total catch, and any guy would be psyched to be your man.”
But Helen has a way of making people feel less than.
“Yeah, and I’m much smaller than you, so you’ll handle it.”
She strategically belittles others, and makes a point of being exclusive.
Her loving toast to Lillian has the hidden agenda
of telling the rest of the room they’re outside her inner circle.
“And Dougly... I’m sorry, inside joke.” [Laughs]
Her first exchange leaves Annie feeling like this:
“She’s great, isn’t she?” “She’s awesome.”
Helen is evidently threatened by Annie.
“She certainly enjoys playing tennis now. It’s funny how people change, isn’t it?”
She sees Lillian’s childhood friend as a competitor for the best-friend title,
rather than as a potential second friend.
“I’m happy to say that I have four new friends.”
But if Helen is so thirsty for female bonding, it’s silly that
she stops at one best friend when she could try to make more.
“I think if you’re growing, then you’re changing.”
“But, I mean, we’re changing from who we are, which we always stay as.”
“Not really, I don’t think so.”
Annie complains that, while it seems like
she’s ruined every event leading up to Lillian’s wedding,
really, Helen is to blame:
“It’s all HER fault. It is not mine!”
Sure, Annie is making excuses,
but she does have a point about most of the disasters she’s taken the fall for.
Helen slips her a really strong pill on the plane,
“Holy shit. What did you give her?” “I don’t--”
initiating Annie’s breakdown.
“There is a colonial woman on the wing.
She is dressed in traditional colonial garb. Get off!”
Helen initiates the one-up-man-ship during the toasts at the engagement party.
“I feel I can communicate with you with simply a look.”
And she provokes Annie’s scene at the bridal shower
by announcing the Paris trip immediately after Annie’s presented her gift --
intentionally interrupting a nice moment between the old friends.
“Thank you.” “You’re welcome.”
“I feel really bad, Lil, I didn't get a chance to actually
get you a present because I’ve been so busy organizing the shower.”
So it’s clear that Helen is trying
to drive a wedge between Lillian and her maid of honor.
“I told you about Paris, Helen. I told you about this whole idea!”
which isn’t a very nice thing to do to your new best friend.
Buy your friends.
“Guess who Helen is friends with and who’s designing my wedding dress.
Lady St. Petsois JuJu.”
Helen tries to win people over with wealth and connections.
“We are going to a restaurant tonight. I know the owner, so...”
At Lillian’s bridal shower,
Annie’s heartfelt gift speaks to how well she knows Lillian,
but because Helen has no decades-long history with the bride,
she feels the need to upstage Annie
with a surprise that’s unnecessarily over-the-top and expensive.
[Screams] “What woman gives another woman a trip to Paris?”
Helen’s overcompensating suggests a deep-seated fear of not being enough.
She can never be sure that people actually like her for her.
“I think people just ask me to their weddings
because I’m good at organizing parties.”
So she resorts to ever-more extreme measures to make people want her around.
“Ladies and gentlemen, here with us tonight is
Lillian's favorite band, singing her favorite song.”
Her overreliance on money to form the basis of emotional connections
keeps her from developing the skills that hold relationships together,
like perception and empathy.
When Lillian is missing on the wedding day, Helen can’t understand,
since all the external details seem exactly right.
“The dress looked fantastic. It had come in from Paris.
I had organized everything to the, you know, last, final detail.”
But she’s been ignoring the signs of how Lillian’s feeling inside.
“Helen just took over everything, and everything just got out of control.”
as well as how her excessive spending
has cloaked the whole day in stress for Lillian’s family.
“My dad can’t afford the wedding.”
People like Helen assume that
adding more money into an occasion automatically makes it better --
but it’s not always the case that expensive equals good.
Sometimes money gets in the way of comfort, intimacy, and having a good time.
“I am not paying for this shit.”
Move too fast.
We glean from Helen’s engagement party speech that
she and Lillian bonded over a tipsy weekend on their husbands’ business trip.
“And they were working the entire weekend,
and we just sat and drank wine and ate peanut brittle.”
And in eight months’ time,
Helen has embellished a good rapport with the wife of her husband’s employee
into a full-fledged best-friendship.
“Lillian, you are my best friend.”
But just as Helen can’t buy a best-friendship, she can’t fast-forward
into being Lillian’s bestie.
That kind of true bond has to develop at a natural pace over years,
as two people get to really know each other.
[Laughs] “We listened to Hold On probably 10,000 times
when I got my driver’s license.”
Doing too much.
“An attendant will meet you at the stables.” “Where?”
“The shower is over the second bridge. Pink lemonade?”
Most of us might struggle with finding the time to do enough
for our friends and show up when they need us,
but Helen proves it’s possible to do too much.
“Look at that f-[BLEEP]-ing cookie! Did you really think that
this group of women was going to finish that cookie?”
Giving a gift that’s too big
can make the receiver feel uncomfortable or inadequate.
It draws all the attention to the person gifting,
and so you could say it’s selfish.
“It’s just a little pre-wedding vacation.
And while we’re there, we’re gonna meet the designer of her dress
and have a fitting.” [Gasps]
We see all this in Helen’s choice
to hand out puppies as party favors at the shower
[Screams] “No, no! She does not get a party favor!
She does not get a dog!”
It’s an elaborate gesture with maximum drama and cuteness,
but it saddles each party guest with the huge unasked-for responsibility
of caring for a demanding baby animal.
“I did slightly overcommit to the whole dog thing.
It turns out I’m probably more comfortable with six.”
Perform your friendship.
Helen’s need to constantly put her friendship with Lillian
on display is another red flag.
“You better not keep my Lil on a leash, because I still need my drunken
Saturday nights at Rockin’ Sushi, okay?”
Boasting about having fun together doesn’t really bring friends closer together.
It just turns your friend into an accessory to flaunt in public.
Finally, Helen’s biggest mistake is not being herself.
Her instinct in any situation is to fall back on inauthenticity.
“I’m proud of you, Lil.”
[Screams] “Shut up, Helen!”
Even when she finally starts to open up to Annie,
she still resorts to false flattery.
“I don't think that Brazilian food really gave us food poisoning.”
“No, I -- it did.” “No, I don't think it did.”
Helen is doing herself a disservice by being so disingenuous,
because her pretension masks a more sensitive, kind soul underneath.
“It was really nice meeting you.”
It’s that inner person that Lillian fell for.
“She’s actually really cool, Annie.
She’s really… She's a good one. I’m telling you.”
And maybe this is why
Helen gets so desperate to grasp onto her new friendship.
At last she’s found someone who likes her for her.
“You made me realize how I can trust people again.”
Unfortunately, though, her need to always win, to be better than everyone,
leads her to make choices that are detrimental to her own happiness,
like driving other women away.
“You used all my ideas.” “Thank you. I know, it really came together.”
The image-obsessed culture that Helen thrives in may care
about being able to fill a party and having people you can point to
as so-called friends, but it doesn’t make room for the things
a real friendship consists of.
“Is he coming?” “I’m coming after you!”
“Sorry, Rodney, we’re on a budget!”
So it’s no wonder that
Helen doesn’t really understand how to be a friend.
“I don’t know what's happened to her.”
“I don’t know. You should know, right? You’re her best friend.”
To be envied is to experience a distance between you and another person.
You’re up high; they’re down below.
“I looked up to Naomi pretty much my entire life,
which meant she was looking down on me.”
While this distance might offer the cheap thrill of an ego boost,
doesn’t it feel better to be close to someone?
“You’re like my sister, and I love you.”
Today, there’s more pressure than ever
to present the perfect picture to your Facebook friends,
but if there’s one lesson Helen teaches us,
it’s that you don’t make actual friends by getting people to wish
they had your life. Envy inspires resentment, not love.
[mocking] “Oh, hi, I’m Helen. Oh... You live in Milwaukee? I’m sorry.”
Helen’s and Annie’s friendship breakthrough finally comes when
Helen does the thing she’s been working so hard not to do:
show an imperfection.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you look ugly.
It makes me kind of happy.”
Suddenly, Annie can see Helen as a human being,
and so she can relate to her.
“You’re an ugly crier, but that’s okay.”
Even then, Helen resists the moment of bonding.
"I look ugly? No, I don’t. I don’t really look ugly.”
She’s not used to the vulnerability that’s required to have
a real friendship, but at least, she’s on her way.
“I wanna apologize to you personally for all of the things that have gone down.
I know that I hurt you, and
that I created a distance between you and Lillian.”
In Bridesmaids, the love object that women compete for isn’t a man --
it’s a friend.
“I just want to thank you for carefully selecting me
as your maid of honor. I know you had, uh, some other choices.”
And this set-up is so rare and interesting
because our culture generally doesn’t place the same value on friendship
as it does on things like romance, careers, money, or family.
But in Bridesmaids, the love of a friend is truly a prize worth having --
it makes everything else in life better.
“I love you.” “I love you.”
So while Annie spends most of Bridesmaids feeling bad
she’s not more like Helen, looking back over the story,
it’s really Helen who’s been deeply envious of Annie for having
the most precious thing of all: a best-friendship.
[singing] “That’s what friends are for...”
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