Burlesque is rather hit-and-miss in regards to decent women characters. Though to be fair, the ‘misses’ are largely to do with the cardboard-cutout characters and a storyline that was ripped of Coyote Ugly (which was hardly original itself). Basically, Ali (Christina Aguilera) comes from Small Town, Iowa, to Los Angeles. She wants to be a dancer, except the closest job she can find is as a barmaid in a burlesque club named, just in case the subtlety was a bit too much for you, Burlesque. Soon enough she impresses owner Tess (Cher) and becomes first a line dancer and then the lead act when the stock Bitch Who Comes Good character, Nikki (Kristen Bell) is unprofessional one too many times. Along the way, she gets involved between two guys, almost chooses the wrong one, naturally ends up with the right one, and helps Tess save the club. (Thanks to an idea she got from Wrong Guy, no less.)

See, whole plot in about a hundred words.

Yes, it is terribly cliched. Not to mention very vanilla – the pregnant dancer whose place Ali takes gets respectably married and appears to remain part of the club despite Tess having no use for her. And Maria Bello and Bridget Moynahan from Coyote could totally kick the asses of Tess and Nikki respectively. But for all that, it passes the Bechdel test damn well, with most of the dialogue taking place between the women – namely, Ali, Tess and Nikki – about business; the way the shows are performed, who gets top billing etc.

Something I really didn’t like was Natalie, the fiancee of Jack, the Right Guy that Ali ends up with. We never see Natalie until after they’ve broken up – she’s conveniently stashed away in New York, selfishly pursuing her career – so you know from the beginning that she gets dispatched off-screen. (I was actually surprise at Dianna Argon’s minuscule cameo after they broke up on the phone.) I realise I’m griping about sloppy writing in a movie that appears to be ripped off a movie that was utterly unoriginal in the first place, but I really hated the way they used a conveniently absent fiancee to justify Unrequited Infatuation. At least on Jack’s part; to the movie’s credit, Ali doesn’t appear to think of him as anything beyond a friend once she realises he’s engaged.

So all in all, very hit and miss. I never thought I’d say this, but I think Coyote Ugly is the better movie of the two. Despite that, I did like that most of the dialogue was between women in a professional context (in fact, I don’t believe there was a single exchange of any significance between two men in the entire movie) and that Ali never thinks of Jack romantically until after he breaks up with Natalie. Is it a particularly good movie? No. But if it’s your thing, then it’s fun, and there are far worse examples of its genre when it comes to female characters.


  1. jmtorres says

    I feel like it’s worth noting that the only reverse Bechdel/male conversation not about women I caught was between the two gay guys, discussing the having of lunch for five seconds. Too many movies with queer characters just have a single token queer character who never gets to talk to another queer character, let alone sleep with and potentially have a relationship with another queer character. So yay for Sean and Mark.

    • scarlett says

      Oooh, I forgot that bit. Yeah, I did like how Coco’s all ‘he’s hot for me’ when you knew it was Sean he was hot for. And not only that, but they got a ‘morning after’ scene and an awkward, getting-to-know-you scene. Hell, Mark got more screentime that Georgia’s husband.

      I have a feeling that Sean and Tess’s ex-husband have a few brief exchanges but as i said, nothing significant.

  2. Casey says

    This sounds like a good movie for me to turn my brain off and enjoy, regardless of how problematic it is…I mean, for some reason I already find it less annoying than Coyote Ugly just ‘cuz I already like burlesque stuff.

    • Scarlett says

      From what I understand, sometimes they play it too straight for real burlesque – Tess and Ali both get a ballad – but mostly it’s played humourously.

  3. says

    GG, email me about this if you want. This sounds like it could be an actual design issue rather than a personal taste complaint. I’m interested in the former. I’d like to know what you mean by “smaller screen” (Ipad? Mobile phone? Just a smaller monitor?) and how precisely it’s hard to read. You can use the contact form here:


  4. Casey says

    It’s difficult to explain, my dislike of the grey/green/salmon backdrop is purely superficial, but my problem is a part of what Susan said, it’s too wide and the various shades of grey in the boxes make some things difficult to navigate in the toolbars/sidebars (and the larger text bugs me, I like medium/small-ish stuff). I mean, when I first clicked on the site after this reformatting I figured it was made to best accommodate anyone with colorblindness/sight issues, so whatevs. *shrug*

    • says

      It’s narrower than the old theme. And the font is not bigger.

      Are you saying the darker shades of gray in the sidebar boxes make the items within harder to read? If so, that might be a design issue to address. The other stuff is… well, no background we choose is going to please everyone, and your other complaints are based on inaccurate perceptions, so I can’t really deal with those.

    • Attackfish says

      It’s actually really hard for me visually with the high contrast of the letters against the background (on my computer the background reads really close to white), and then the high contrast to the brightly colored sidebars. It would also really help if there weren’t a pattern in the sidebar.

      At least the sidebar isn’t animated. I ran into that last week on a blog, and had to leave the site, it made me so nauseated.

  5. says

    Jenn’s words:
    Just so we’re clear, every comment from Patrick’s on down is totally off-topic, and this whole chain will be deleted in a few days. I really should’ve deleted them all from the get-go, but Casey had already replied and… I guess I was sleep deprived at the time, because I really should’ve deleted that one.

    Translation of the rest of the comment ala SBG:

    If you don’t personally like the new style, that’s okay, but please refrain from mentioning it in posts where such personal opinion has no relation. We can’t please everyone. All comments not related to this article of Scarlett’s will be removed.

    If there is something about the new style you think is prohibitive and/or a larger issue other than an aesthetic taste thing, please address those issues in private, via email using this form. We will strive to make sure the site works optimally for as many people as possible, but 100% perfection is, well, a pipe dream.

    Peace out,

    THL Staff, but most Jenn, who works her ass off to make this site what it is.

  6. Casey says

    I wouldn’t say my perception is so much “inaccurate” as it is a matter of my taste. I thought the old lay-out looked more professional. Also, I liked the bullet-points for the most recent comments/popular posts/necessary stuff sidebars.

  7. Jane says

    I kinda liked Burlesque, but mostly because it was shiny and flashy and there was a lot of dancing. And if I can’t have plot or at least explosions, I go for dancing. It was nice, though, being able to see movie with women that are strong and confident and Cher is just. Well she’s awesome.

  8. says

    Gosh, I didn’t mean to call you a liar! I’m sorry it came off that way! *embarrassed*

    I guess I should take the rest of this to email.

  9. Robin says

    I have to agree with a lot of this. While it wasn’t terribly original, Burlesque was certainly fun. I’m not a huge fan of either Cher or Christian Aguilera, but they both did a fine job in this. My biggest problem with the plot was how quickly Ali got over her objections to Jack’s sticky romantic situation at the end. It felt incredibly rushed and a little hypocritical of her.

    Another reason I still prefer Coyote Ugly is that I like Adam Garcia a lot more than Cam Gigandet, but that’s just a personal preference.

    • Scarlett says

      I agree. The freaking NIGHT that he had broken up with his FIANCEE? OVER THE PHONE? When she appears to have had no interest in him before that? (First, thinking he was gay, then putting him off-limits for being engaged.) IMHO, it feels like TPTB realised they were running short of time and had to quickly get them together. So yeah, when Natalie comes storming in to discover that Jack’s already *living* with someone else, I felt like I was *supposed* to feel for her when actually I was thinking, what, you couldn’t see that coming?

      Mind you – speaking of seeing things coming – my sis and I were sniggering when Nikki cut the sound because we KNEW Ali was about to save the day by belting out a song.

      • Robin says

        In hindsight, I think another reason the super fast hookup bothered me is because Jack has just broken up with Natalie who was played by Diana Agron. I really like her on Glee, and my affection for actors tends to spill over into their other roles. So even though I had almost no emotional investment in the character of Natalie due to her being offscreen for most of the movie, I didn’t want to see Diana end up sad and lonely. If that makes any sense.

        • scarlett says

          Hee, I have decade-long celebrity followings/loathings based on the first thing I saw them in. Like, there’s always a little bit of me that’s going to see Will Hunting, not Matt Damon. (Even though my twenty-year-eight self would probably yell at the guy to stop whining about his crap childhood were I watching it for the first time.) And Kevin Bacon’s character in Sleepers so deeply distressed me that fifteen or so years later I still don’t like watching him. (Probably didn’t help that films two and three were Flatliners and that one were he becomes invisible and goes around raping and killing.) I *know* it’s completely illogical but it’s the way my moviegoing mind works.

          Re: Dianna Argon. I’d love to see more of her in Glee. She’s not the best singer by far but I think Quinn is far more fleshed-out than Rachel. I was looking forward to seeing her in Burlesque based on the fact she was credited fairly high up, and when it was over I was like ‘huh? where was she?’ (Sis had the common sense to read the closing credits.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *