Must We Kill The Chick Flick So That Quality Movies Starring Women Can Live?

Illustration for article titled Must We Kill The Chick Flick So That iQuality/i Movies Starring Women Can Live?

The Times of London talks to feminist historian and Fellow of Oxford University Diane Purkiss, who says of chick flicks: "The heroines are getting dumber and dumber." She continues:

"The entertainment industry allows you, the audience member, to pat yourself on the back and say: 'I'm smarter than her, I'm more together than her, and I'm not as stupidly anorexic as her.'" The Times' Kevin Maher notes that ten years ago, we had spunky heroines like Bridget Jones (and in music, the Spice Girls). But now?

The recent Anne Hathaway/Kate Hudson catfight Bride Wars or the forthcoming Confessions of a Shopaholic are aimed exclusively at women, and yet feature female characters who are variously neurotic, idiotic, label-obsessed, weight-obsessed, man-obsessed or weddingobsessed, and often all at the same time.


And! He doesn't hold back:

Increasingly, the modern Hollywood women's picture or so-called chick flick has become home to the worst kind of regressive pre-feminist stereotype and misogynistic cliché.


Maher has an explanation for the state of chick flicks, and here's another blockquote, because he is just so good at breaking it down:

The chick-flick heroine that emerged then was often ditzy, yes, but she also had recourse to irony, self-satire and intelligence. When Bridget the movie appeared in 2001 and eventually scooped more than £150 million at the international box office, the chick flick became a hot Tinseltown property. However, for every smart-thinking Bridget Jones, Legally Blonde or Devil Wears Prada there appeared a slew of movies that appealed to the genre's baser instincts.Films such as 27 Dresses, Made of Honour, License to Wed and What Happens in Vegas were cookie-cutter movies defined by lazy stereotypes (wedding overkill, anyone?) and explicit anti-feminism.

Melissa Silverstein of Women & Hollywood counters: "Women go to these movies, because they want to go to the movies. And most of the time there are no other options out there." But Maher has good news: The glut of "chick flicks" — that is, dumb, cheap-shot movies aggressively targeted to women with the sole purpose of taking their money — may die down. Once the market gets flooded, the appetite wanes, and actual quality films — with women in them — like Michelle Williams' upcoming road movie, Wendy and Lucy, can shine.

Is It Time To Kill The Chick Flick? [Times Of London]

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Personally, I don't get why so many people think discussing pop culture (which is what movies are) and how they present stereotypes seems to be taken so personally. No one is saying you can't like a dumb movie, of any ilk. We all have "guilty pleasure" films. I, for instance, like movies like Big Trouble in Little China. It's not exactly "deep" or meaningful, but it's a damn lot of fun.

No one is judging you for enjoying a dumb movie. What we're discussing is how, when you spend money in the theater on movies like this, it sends a particular message. That's just capitalism. And studios, through a combination of greed and ingrained cultural issues with sexism, racism, classism, etc. pump out the same stuff over and over expecting the same results. So while I agree with folks that a huge part of this is just base money grubbing...that's not the only issue involved. We act like cultural stereotypes don't effect the things we produce, watch, or promote. They do. They clearly do. Films don't exist in a vacuum, nor are they produced in one. Maybe they aren't thinking "gosh, we hate women..." but they are thinking "women like shopping and hate themselves and need a can we bottle that?" That's still sexism playing a role in what is made "for women".

The point in all of this is that going mindlessly to the theater and putting down your money for stuff like this is something that you are perfectly within your rights to do. But don't then lament it when you don't get better movies. With that money you're saying "I want more of this.". And that's fine. But studios won't see that maybe "you want this" because you had a crap week and you don't want to watch something deep and meaningful, but you still want movies that tell great stories and don't turn all women into awful cliches. If it is really all about money, then we're at least culpable in what gets made.

I just don't think it's worth trading good stories for this kind of stuff. I don't see anything fun about these. They're awful and vapid and promote the idea that women are awful and vapid. I don't see what's lighthearted or fun about that anymore. It's tired and old and I think we deserve better. Even in our lighter comedies.

Where are the Elizabeth Bennett's of today? The clever, funny women, who make mistakes and aren't perfect, but actually resemble someone you know? We get watered down versions like Bridget Jones...which is fine, but hardly the entirety of what's possible. What happened to the spirited characters Katherine Hepburn played? Or the elegant, complex ones Audrey Hepburn played? Or further, where are the Buffy's or her equivalent in film? You can use a stereotype to do something interesting, if you know what you're doing.

My point is really that discussing our pop culture is really important, and acting as though everything we're presented with is "harmless" just because it doesn't come right out and say "women are stupid and vain" doesn't mean it actually is. If we don't look at it then we're just perpetuating it ourselves. Critical thinking is not a negative habit and it doesn't destroy "fun".

If you want to watch something "fun" that isn't overly deep or meaningful this weekend...go watch Coraline. Not only will you be supporting a great female character, you'll be be supporting real live people who are out of work while that studio waits to see if a stop-motion animated film that's been in production for 3 years can be successful. If you put your money towards that, you'll be sending a clear message that you want more movies like this, movies for all ages, that take care and effort, and that really respect not only characters, but stories as well.