I went on a chick flick binge over the last few days. First, I watched Raising Helen, the 2004 movie starring Kate Hudson who has grown on me over the years. I started off hating her blonde, wide eyed, bright-smile look but have come to realise that she can be quite watchable. The movie is pleasant enough for a Friday evening when all you want to do is curl up in front of the television.
Then, I watched The Devil Wears Prada, which is running in theatres currently. The clothes are gorgeous and Meryl Streep is commanding as usual. The story is hackneyed though and the ‘message’ quite skewed. Are they trying to say that a) people in high fashion have to be evil, b) good people have shabby hair and dowdy coats, c) you cannot have a demanding career if you want to have a nice boyfriend? Not very encouraging. And Anne Hathaway really needs to stop being such a wimp.
Yesterday, I watched Failure to Launch, which was just plain bad. For a romantic comedy, it had neither enough romance nor enough comedy and Matthew McConaughey looked good only some of the time. Sarah Jessica Parker gangled her way through the movie emoting as little as possible and doing the quirky cute thing she does that is not really quirky and definitely not cute.
However, I am feeling rather satisfied. Chick flicks give me a warm, cosy feeling that lets me deal with real life much better. In the end, things work out. There are gorgeous men, fantastic clothes, parties. In the end, there is music.
Now, this is not something that women who want to be taken seriously will admit to easily because the term chick flick comes with its share of derogatory connotations. According to Wikipedia:
The term chick flick is slang, often derisive, for a movie that appeals mainly to women or young girls, either by design or in popular opinion. While the term is relatively new, the concept of films designed to appeal specifically to women has existed since the early days of cinema and has been known by other colloquial terms, including “women’s pictures”.
Chick flicks sometimes focus on romance or relationships. Sometimes they have many female characters and/or a female lead. Sometimes they are romances or romantic comedies. Sometimes they are patterned after the story of Cinderella (e.g. The Princess Diaries, A Cinderella Story, Ever After).
Many men dislike chick flicks seeing them as sissy or uninvolving. An often-used joke when creating exceedingly masculine characters is to have them be secret fans of chick flicks.
Critics of the term have pointed out that movies aimed specifically at men are not labeled so derisively.
In the 30’s and 40’s, these movies were known as the “woman’s film”. However, they have come to mean:
“chick flick”, chirrupy and upbeat, sings a different tune, more defiant and ironic, postmodern and post-feminist, like the growling braggadocio of “grrrl power”. Where “grrrl power” says “I can be cute and assertive too”, “chick flick” says: “I’m emancipated but it’s OK to long for romance, to get hung up on a guy, to obsess about mothers or children.”
~ Molly Haskell, film critic
What puzzles me a bit is that action movies with oversized monsters mouthing inane lines expressing that ‘they’ll be back’ become legends. Totally unrealistic stories, which basically pander to the male fascination with fast cars and faster women are considered cinematic classics. But movies about women who like the ‘feminine’ things–clothes, love, men–are somehow indicative of stupidity. Trivial and shallow thoughts exist among people of all genders–sex, clothes, gadgets, cars, power, beating someone up are just some of them. On the other hand, genocide in Rwanda, riots in Gujarat and global energy issues are again open to all of us to think about. And there are no records that men give these more thought than women.
So, in essence the categories can be serious movies and light, frothy movies. Or good movies and bad movies. Derision for a category that is basically women’s fun movies seems a little unfair because there is no such term for their male counterparts. Or is there?
When I’m in the mood to kick back and relax, I’ll continue to choose chick flicks. Movies aimed at women–what’s so wrong with that?