Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

How ‘Anchorman’ Failed Feminism So, So Badly

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

We’ve all heard of the film and we all love its cast, but does Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy stand the test of time? The 2004 film was a huge success. The star-studded cast featuring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd has immense comedic capabilities, there’s no doubt about that. But what exactly is the joke of the movie?

Set in a 1970s newsroom, the film tells the story of the company’s first female journalist, Veronica Corningstone (played by Christina Applegate), and her fight against the sexist workplace that she enters as she proves herself worthy to earn an equal spot as co-anchor alongside Ron Burgundy (played by Will Ferrell). It follows the same arc as many comedies of this era: the man is thriving, he encounters conflict, he suffers a loss, and then he re-enters his original position while gaining a girlfriend along the way. Oh yeah, and the leading woman gets some recognition too by the end.

Why Does Feminism Matter?

First off, I want to set the record straight about feminism. It is not the belief that women are better than men, or that we deserve different treatment. It is the idea that men and women deserve equal treatment in all aspects of life. This is important to note! In this film, Veronica isn’t asking for special treatment, but rather equal treatment in her profession.

I also must acknowledge that I am aware that this film is a satire of sexism in the 1970s. I know that this film’s writers, actors, and directors do not hold these negative opinions of women. However, if the film is making a political commentary, there should be some sort of resolution to the gender conflict occurring in order to make a point, which there is not.

If Disrespect is The Punchline, It Isn’t A Good Joke

There is a crass scene in which the two anchors are insulting each other back and forth. In his arguments, Ron says phrases including, “You’re just a woman with a small brain, with a brain a third the size of us, it’s science,” as well as, “You are a pirate hooker,” and “You have a dirty wh*re-ish mouth.”

In response to these harsh insults and lies regarding her femininity and dignity, Veronica responds with phrases such as, “I have more talent and more intelligence in my little finger than you do in your entire body,” along with, “You have bad hair,” and “You have way too much pubic hair.”

While she is still responding with disrespectful insults, they are far more based on reality and truth than his. When breaking down Ron’s insults, we see deep roots of misogyny and prejudice against women, playing into stereotypes of the “working woman” that were perpetuated at this time. Viewers of the film can clearly see the truth behind Veronica’s insults and the lies within Ron’s. However, it doesn’t diminish the harm spread by his harsh words. Spreading language like this on a large-scale platform still harms women and the respect that they are given in day-to-day life.

*Spoiler Alert* Conflict (Not) Resolved!

The conflict of this movie surrounds the men fighting back against the destruction of their workplace (AKA a woman being hired). What is the issue with this, you may ask? Well, it’s the ’70s… so clearly women are innately distracting. In addition, she’s good at her job, and women are NOT supposed to be good at their jobs, especially not more competent than any man. These were opinions strongly held by men of this time, but the remains of their sentiments still exist today.

At the end of the film, Veronica keeps her job! Conflict resolved! Except… not a single character actually acknowledges any of their wrongdoing. There is no “moral of the story” learned by these men. Veronica only truly gets her credit because one man decides that he loves her, and therefore, she is reinstated.

In order for any of the harmful jokes made in this film to have any purpose or meaning, there should be a moral of the story showing their misguided ways. Instead, the woman is saved by love. This is an overdone trope that completely invalidates Veronica’s skills and worth.

What’s The Point?

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is now almost 20 years old, which means it is not necessarily sweeping the nation anymore. However, it’s still extremely relevant and often referred to as one of the best comedies of all time. Workplace sexism is not as prevalent now as it was in the 1970s, but it is still very prominent.

Women still face significant barriers to equality in the workplace today. They are still subject to sexual harassment, they are still undervalued, and they are still paid less than their male counterparts. This battle for equality is still happening today, which is why misogynistic movies such as this are still relevant and dangerous. What we see in the media affects us. We learn from examples, and the things that we learn shape us and our actions in life. It’s important to recognize misogyny when it is represented in media. It’s also important to know why this is dangerous to women’s rights, even today.

Want to see more HCFSU? Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest!

Hi! My name is Shaina Francis and I am a Senior at FSU double-majoring in Media/Communications Studies and Political Science. I have a passion for making the understanding of politics attainable, as well as for music, and all things movies.