We do a lot of (deserved) shit-talking about romantic comedies. But if anything can melt our cynical hearts, it is an earnest young Oklahoman man watching 30 "chick flicks" in 30 days — whose favorite was Bright Star.
Nick Waters, 28, runs a public relations business from his home in a small town in Oklahoma, population 6,000. His description of himself includes, "I'm a husband, and have been for seven years." And he says he set out to watch and blog about 30 chick flicks in 30 days — an experiment that just wrapped up — in order to better understand women. Especially his wife.
The phrase "chick flick" has such dismissive, limiting connotations that it's a bit of a shock to actually read Waters' blog and see that not only did he end up with a more diverse range of films than you might expect (Leap Year and Valentine's Day, yes, but also Whip It! and I Could Never Be Your Woman), but he approached the project with an almost heartbreaking sincerity. Whether some of Hollywood's most pandering and callous projects are worthy of his generosity is another matter.
But let's take a look at some of what he learned — a different perspective, shall we say. Or the textual equivalent of a photo of cats and a squirrel playing.
In Critical Mass, we described Leap Year as taking "the sexist premise that women are forbidden from popping the question year-round and add[ing] every rom-com cliché and Irish stereotype. The result: 'The cinematic equivalent of a Shamrock Shake.'"
Waters' takeaway: "Kiss your spouse often. Make plans to have no plans together. Love each other because you can." And here's a guest review on his site, via video:
A few other highlights:
On My Life In Ruins:"Of all the movies that I've seen so far, this film is the first to-a) cause me to feel the sensation to want to cry, and b) feel that sensation multiple times. Admittedly, I did not, but let me repeat, I wanted to cry. Honestly, it was my pride that kept my cheeks dry."
On Sex And The City: "More than once I turned my head the opposite direction during this movie while couples…umm…yeah. I still would have been uncomfortable (at those times) watching this chick flick with anyone other than my wife."
On Mamma Mia: "Interesting note: Translated from Italian to English, "mamma mia!" means 'my goodness!'"
On It's Complicated: "A question came to me: what would it look like if men, and women loved each other within their own marriages like these two did in their affair? The answer hit me: husbands SHOULD have affairs-with their own wives! Meet for lunch; 'court' each other."
On Couples Retreat:"Remember, true intimacy begins (and continues) through transparency with your spouse."
On He's Just Not That Into You: It "influenced me to believe that most guys are jerks (myself included). I also felt resentment toward men, and even confided in my wife the disliking that I had developed toward my own gender. TAKEAWAY: Being a nice guy isn't genetic, it's a choice. Have boundaries in your marriage to protect it; honor them. When a person chooses to love, they choose to be vulnerable."
Pride or no, Waters cried during Bright Star.
After all that, I feel like a grinch for saying that some of these movies may actually have dubious value in terms of teaching anyone about real-life women and all of the things we want. And yet Waters used the project not just to glean "what women really want" generalizations, but rather try to see the best in everything, even when the product probably didn't merit it. As they say in Hollywood, one lesson is clear: sounds like Waters is a very nice guy.
30 Chick Flicks [Nick Waters]