Changing the ending of Muriel’s Wedding was a betrayal of its feminist spirit

Marriage was, and still is, for many women, an expected social and legal milestone. For conservatives especially, it’s commonly viewed through the prism of paternalism: something that, in the words of the former prime minister Tony Abbott, “evolved many centuries ago to protect women and children”. Such attitudes are broadly reflected in state reliance on married unions and associated domestic unpaid labour to maintain economic growth, while carrying strong cultural implications. In film, female protagonists are more likely to be in pursuit of relationship goals than career milestones. Reinforced by the rating success of this year’s Bachelorette, the search for a husband is often deemed the loftiest height for women, especially when an audience is watching.

Refusing to capitulate to marriage, as Muriel and Rhonda did, defiantly bucked this trend. In doing so, the film exposed the narrow avenue for fulfilment within a traditionally patriarchal institution. In 1994, Hogan radically repurposed romantic comedy for feminist commentary, apparently supporting whilst actually sabotaging the genre. But now, in 2017, he serves up a moral staler than a wedge of wedding cake under a pillow. The goal is once again coupledom, albeit with your BFF in tow.

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