Do you ever feel like you just don't fit in? Of course you do, we all do. But it's never more obvious to me then when I sit down to watch a so-called chick flick. Whether it was the 'woman's picture' from the Golden Age of Hollywood, or He's Just Not That Into You's new message of faux-empowerment, it has been a long time since a movie has more to offer my gender than shopping montages and romantic self-pity. Just to keep it all straight in our minds, what exactly makes a chick flick a chick flick? According to popular definition, a chick flick is "a film, usually about relationships, which is popular with females and comparatively unpopular with males". In other words, anything you have to drag your boyfriend to.
It's time for us gals to unite and start demanding a little more from our entertainment. With plenty of room for stories of love, loss, and marriage, Labels or Love cannot be the sum total of the 'female experience'. So, here's my call to arms with a list of the worst crimes perpetrated by 'chick flicks'. You can't change what you don't acknowledge, so let's begin.
1. Two Kinds of Stories -- married or dead?
According to conventional Hollywood wisdom, women are only interested in trying to get married, getting married, getting divorced and then eventually dying of a horrible disease. It doesn't exactly take a Women's Studies degree to see the pattern in most feature films marketed to women -- they are centered solely on personal relationships. I'm not saying that these stories don't have value, but it can't be the only game in town, and I refuse to believe my entire life revolves around making a family, losing a family, and then keeling over after coming to terms with something.
See: Terms of Endearment
One True Thing
...and just about any film starring a woman that has been released in the last 100 years.
2. They Make You Feel Bad about Having a Career...and being good at it.
Here's a depressing thought: The last movie I could think of that mixed love and career in a positive light was made in 1940. In His Girl Friday, Howard Hawk's screwball masterpiece, our leading lovebirds give us one of the best examples of a gal's (ex) husband that not only supports her career, he loves her because of it.
Cut to 2007 and The Devil Wears Prada. This time our fearless heroine goes up against the dragon lady of all bosses and then ... dumps it all and runs off after her boyfriend (a character that was relatively unimportant in the original novel compared to the film version). Or How about Kate and Leopold? A bitter ad exec finds love with a time traveling aristocrat and decides to follow him back to 1876! Yeah, because who wants the stresses of the modern world? You know, like voting and equal rights.
In the world of chick flicks, successful women are by all appearances, terribly unhappy women. Heck, they are worse than unhappy, they are alone and unloved simply by the matter of their success.
See: The Devil Wears Prada
Kate and Leopold
3. The Grand Romantic Gesture...or the 'You Complete Me' Syndrome
Have you ever chased after a loved one in an airport? Stopped a wedding? Proposed in the middle of a crowded subway platform? Probably not. If you even tried half of those romantic tricks in an airport, you would be tackled by NSA agents before you even got through the gate. I've been watching movies long enough to know that the grand romantic gesture is usually the most convenient way to wrap up a story line. If you've had your two leads circling each other for two hours, you're probably looking for an economical way for them to ride off into the sunset -- enter the grand romantic gesture.
So what's so wrong with that you may ask? For starters, you could fill an Oprah audience with women lamenting the loss of a romantic spirit that never existed in the first place. Just remember, for every girl out there waiting for Lloyd Dobler to stand outside her window blaring a Peter Gabriel song, there's a guy cursing the day that John Cusack was put on this earth.
See: Jerry McGuire
4. Two Words: Wedding Porn
You don't have to tell me that gals can go a little overboard when it comes to 'the big day'. But by the time I sat through the third slow pan of Carrie Bradshaw in a designer wedding gown, I knew that this had gotten out of control. Weddings are a great source of story material; you've got family conflict, romance, traditions, drunken best men – it's all there for the taking. But, I can't help but notice that not much has changed since we were first told about Cinderella putting on her fancy dress for the ball and riding off in a souped-up pumpkin.
See: Sex and The City
5. Single Girls are Unhappy Girls
According to every single chick flick I have seen, my uncoupled status makes me needy, uptight and emotionally fragile. Not to mention that I'm harboring a biological clock countdown that could rival the doomsday device. Close, but not quite. Sure, there is pressure in our society to couple off like it's the boarding gate to Noah's Ark, but never once have I swigged vodka while singing All by Myself in a fit of self pity. Well maybe once, but I was singing Enough is Enough (thank you very much) and song choice really does make all the difference.
See: Bridget Jones' Diary
When Harry Met Sally
6. Shopping Makes Everything Alright
In the ultimate chick flick, Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts is a woman who has worked as a prostitute on the streets of L.A. Presumably she's a streetwise gal. But what's the worst thing she feels happens to her? Not the murder of one of her 'co-workers' or her best friend's drug habit. What makes her stop and re-examine her life is that she isn't allowed to shop -- because being denied access to a Rodeo Drive boutique is right up there with the great tragedies in life, I guess. Never has mindless consumption been so pronounced as in last summer's chick flick behemoth, Sex and the City. I lost count of the amount of 'ohhs' and 'awws' when Carrie is shown her new shoe closet by Prince Charming/Mr. Big -- I still gag thinking about it.
See: Pretty Woman
Sex and The City
7. Where's Our Judd Apatow?
Maybe the worst part of sitting through a romantic comedy/chick flick is that the humor is bland, and sister, I mean bland. I always wonder if one of the reasons the Apatow brand has become so successful is because it combines quality comedy with a romantic story -- and say what you want boys, The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a rom-com.
Critics usually like to point out that the women in Apatow's film are humorless wet blankets...and that is probably a debate best left to another time. The sad fact is looks are king when it comes to an actresses' career and audiences would still rather watch a marginally funny hot chick than a hilarious but average-looking gal. Hollywood doesn't demand the same level of funny from its actresses as it does from its actors, and even though the business is packed with amazingly funny women, they don't get the job. Even when they do (and I'm looking at you Baby Mama), filmmakers still tack on unneeded romantic subplots and watered-down sisterhood. Regardless of what Christopher Hitchens may tell you, chicks are pretty damn funny if you give them the chance.
See: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Along Came Polly
So can we turn this all around? Maybe it is about time us ladies started protesting with our box-office dollars. Don't women want to be superheroes, spies, and renegade cops? Of course we do, but you would never know it from the box office. Think about it, we've got every two-bit comic book hero getting a movie deal, but no one is willing to touch the Wonder Woman feature with a ten-foot golden lasso.
There is plenty of room for all kinds of movies, but when am I finally going to be able to go to the multi-plex and see a movie starring women that doesn't reside in the 'Chick Flick Ghetto'?