Will ‘Growing’ Change Your Mind About Amy Schumer?

If you’re on this website, you likely have a well-formed opinion on Amy Schumer. Over the past five years, Schumer has swung wildly in the court of public opinion. We loved Trainwreck—then we remembered some of her early jokes about Hispanics. We love how real she is on Instagram—but find her Twitter presence problematic. We love Amy Schumer the feminist, but as a white feminist, we’re still eager to see her overcome past blind spots.

Schumer’s new comedy special, Growing, doesn’t quite feature a woman reborn, or cleansed of past imperfections. But it does, aptly, feature a Schumer who’s well on her way to growing up. The Schumer in this special—now both married and heavily pregnant—retains a lot of her classic irreverent attitude toward sex, drinking, and bodily functions. But whether it’s due to past criticisms or personal growth, that attitude is underpinned with a genuine desire to do these topics justice. (Well, maybe not the drinking so much.) Obviously, the best way to decide how you feel about Schumer is to go watch the damn thing (or at least, like, turn it on and scroll through Instagram while it plays in the background). But short of that, here’s a highlight reel of sensitive subjects Schumer covers in Growing—and notably, what she chooses not to touch.

On Race

If the lesson we wanted Amy Schumer to learn was to stop making jokes based on racist stereotypes, and also to make her brand of feminism a hair more inclusive, I’d say she succeeded. The first mention of race in this special is an off-hand comment about women asking for tampons “leaning in as though they’re about to say something racist.” She follows with the punchline: “and whatever race you thought I meant, that’s your problem.” To me, this seems like a perfect level of engagement with race for Schumer: it acknowledges that racism is alive and well (likely, within her audience), mocks the specific physicality that accompanies racist remarks made in social settings, and stops just short of actually sharing the content of a racist comment or stereotype on stage. I will happily call that progress.

The second comment on race comes in citing sexual assault statistics for women. She notes that one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, then adds that for women of color and trans women, that statistic looks even worse. Yes, it’s a footnote on a joke, not a full-throated roar on the importance of intersectional feminism. But the fact that it’s included tells me Schumer is listening, and learning—and even if she’s not, I’m just glad it was included.

Also, loving the continued activism on her page:

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All hands on deck.

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On Politics

Among the criticisms I listed earlier, Schumer also got in slight trouble back in 2016 for making jokes about Trump. Apparently, a group of fans left her show in Tampa after she dared to call POTUS a “monster.” (I mean…where is the lie?) Obviously, this is not an aspect to Schumer that I take issue with—and in fact, I was curious to see if she’d go in even harder. While she mostly leaves politics out of it, the comments she did make affirmed that she is still, to use the technical term, hella liberal. Here were a few of my favorite comments.

On Colin Kaepernick: “I think there are only two reasons you should get down on one knee, if you’re a guy. If you’re a player in the NFL, and to eat my pussy.”

On Brett Kavanaugh:* “People criticized me [for going to D.C.]. They were like, ‘that was irresponsible, you’re pregnant.’ And I was like, ‘well that’s why I went down there’, you know? I want to be able to tell this kid I did everything I could, you know? And D.C., I heard, has the best cocaine.” 

*ICYMI, Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski went to D.C. to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court and both were arrested.

On #MeToo: “I don’t know what I’m having. I hope it’s a girl. But really just because it’s such a scary time for men.”

Also, this:

On Her Husband

This may seem odd to include on a list of “touchy” topics, given that, unlike race or politics, Schumer’s never been in hot water for her choice of husband. But my favorite moment of the special—and the one that, for me, marked the most personal growth for Schumer—comes about 20 minutes in, on the subject of her husband, Chris Fischer. “I knew from the beginning that my husband’s brain was a little different from mine,” she begins. “And about—” she stops, and shakes her head. “I have to start this over,” she continues, “because I really want to get this right. Because I love him very much.”

Her husband, she reveals, has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Schumer talks about their courtship, sharing early moments when she recognized his mind worked differently, before he’d received the diagnosis. These were not, in any way, moments that created doubt for her, or somehow lessened his ability to be a good partner. In fact, she says the same characteristics that “make it clear that he’s on the spectrum” were the ones that made her fall “madly in love” with him.

Personally, I love the fact that she explicitly discusses his diagnosis, and love even more that she doesn’t shy away from describing that he is, in fact, different. And that that difference is precisely why she loves him. The moment where she pauses, and starts over, felt to me like seeing personal growth happen in real time. She had a moment where she recognized she was entering a sensitive topic, that this topic concerned a group of people she was not herself a part of but very much wanted to show the appropriate respect to, and that, in order to discuss it at all, she would have to do it exactly right. If Schumer applies this same care to all of her comedy going forward, I think she’ll fare better with her critics, and frankly, make more inspiring comedy.

As an hour-long comedy experience, I loved Growing: I laughed a lot, gagged only a little (pregnancy is real sh*t, people!), and came out feeling a personal connection to Schumer that I hadn’t before. As a referendum on Schumer’s character, I’ll say this. If you’ve been disappointed by Schumer’s missteps, and wanted to see evidence that she’s becoming more self-aware in her comedy, you’ll find it in Growing. If you wanted an apology tour and a public renunciation of her entire comedy career, not so much. Beyond the content I highlight above, she talks about her difficult pregnancy, the joys of new period technology, and why she’s glad she waited to get married. It’s honest, a little gross, and felt like the comedy of someone halfway between where I am now and where I’d like to be in 10 years. In other words, someone growing, if not quite grown up.

Images: Instagram (2); Giphy

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