Critics Divided On Whether Bad Teacher Sucks (For Women)

Based on the trailer alone, friend-of-Jezebel Manohla Dargis issued a verbal eye-roll in the direction of Bad Teacher. "Evidently nothing says new motion picture entertainment better than a female movie star in Daisy Dukes bending over and sudsing a car as if she were in a 2005 Jessica Simpson music video," she said earlier this month, suggesting fans of women at the movies see Bridesmaids again instead.

Then she saw it. In today's review, she sounds positively delighted, noting that Cameron Diaz "taps into her inner thug. It's a beautiful thing," and calls out several funny women in the ensemble. She concludes,


With "Bridesmaids" still doing gangbusters at the box office, Hollywood apparently thinks it's time for the ladies to get their hands and other parts dirty. Well, if that's what it takes to get women out of the house, off the pedestal and into the same serious comedy club where the boys frolic and play, I say let her rip.

Contrast that with Karina Longworth's scathing takedown in The Village Voice:

The general argument holds that because studios produce so few films built around strong lady protagonists, Hollywood must hate women. But be careful what you wish for. Here, a "strong woman" means a lazy, lying, scheming, slutty, and obstinately materialistic one, whose sole redeeming virtue is her hard body (which the camera shamelessly ogles, as if the men watching need their hand held to look at an actress's ass), who is so delusional that she thinks her ostentatious assholery is rock-star sexy, and whose delusions are essentially validated by narrative resolution.

She wondered how Diaz and her co-stars really felt about "punishing material based on the worst male-invented stereotypes of the way women deceptively control men and compete with one another."

But was she holding it to too high of a standard? David Edelstein suggested the reviewers chill out and see Bad Teacher for what he thinks it is: "a good, raunchy, gonzo comedy in the spirit of Bill Murray pictures like Meatballs and Stripes, but with a woman." And Daniel Walber writes in IndieWire,

I wouldn't argue that "Bad Teacher" is the kind of female-driven film that Hollywood so desperately needs. But it also can't be so easily dismissed as being part of the problem.... It seems to be less sexist so much as it is the inevitable result of a film consciously about despicable people.

But here's the most damning indictment of all: "Elizabeth isn't so much a one-dimensional stereotype of the manipulative bitch as she is a one-and-a-half-dimensional product of bad writing." Roger Ebert basically agreed. That could be reason enough to pass, although a better test might be whether or not you laugh.

Bad Teacher Is Bad, But Not Necessarily Bad For Women [IndieWire]
No Apple For This Teacher [Sun Times]
Cameron Diaz Is Deliciously Good As Bad Teacher [NYM]
When The Teacher Gets High Marks In The Raunchy And The Profane [NYT]
Related: The Living Is Easy, The Women Are Missing [NYT]
Bad Teacher And The Downside of Equal Rights In Hollywood [Village Voice]