Sunday, January 15, 2012

Movie Rant: Why I Dislike the Term 'Chick Flick'

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
In the year since I got Twitter (@laura_grande13) I've become a bit obsessed. It has introduced me to a whole bunch of film fans from around the world and I'm grateful for it. It has also led to some interesting conversations, like the one I had earlier this week about the term "chick flick."

I recently got a comment from some guy who was writing in response to a tweet I wrote regarding the fact that I wasn't a big fan of the movie Love Actually and that I'd never actually seen The Notebook. The guy responded with: "Pfft. What kind of woman are you?" What the what?! Apparently, all women are expected to swoon over tales of romance and unrequited love. I guess we all love movies where a woman has to sweat it out for two hours before a guy finally admits that he loves her. Well, I never got the memo. I didn't say anything in response to the guy's tweet (which is very unlike me), but it irritated me to no end.

A few days later, I got into a Twitter discussion with a follower of mine about the term "chick flick" and we went back and forth discussing the reasons behind our intense dislike of the term (many other women, and some men, that I know also loathe the term). But before you say we're merely overreacting, hear me out.

First of all, I think "chick flick" shouldn't be classified as a genre (or sub-genre) -- most movies of this type arguably fall under the category of romantic comedy. Or even a romantic drama. A "chick flick" suggests that the film will likely be fluffy, formulaic, far-fetched and devoid of a decent script -- i.e. something only women will (and should) enjoy. It stereotypes women in terms of their sex, suggesting we all want the same things in life, i.e. marriage and kids. It's that assumption that only certain movies appeal to women and are, as a result, somewhat of a "lesser" film because of it.

That being said, I realize that not everyone objects to the "chick flick" label. I even know some women who use it themselves and don't find anything wrong with the term. But, I can't help my reaction towards it.

Gender specific genre terms are unnecessary. For example, Die Hard is an action movie -- it's not a "male action flick." Sure, most action films are lambasted by critics the same way romantic comedies tend to be (for a lot of the same reasons, too); however, an action film is never brushed off and dismissed with quite the same flippant attitude that comes with a movie labelled as a "chick flick." I think the label "chick" in and of itself to represent the female gender is derogatory, but that's a whole separate issue.

Naturally, there's our understanding that films are marketed to a specific target audience; obviously certain films will appeal to certain types of people. However, it should never be used to automatically assume an audience. But that is, unfortunately, what happens and the majority of the film-going public buy into it. For example, I love Die Hard but I really, really disliked Pretty Woman. So what does that mean? According to Mr. Twitter Guy, it means I'm not making a "regular woman" choice when it comes to films. But, what it really means is simply that I liked one movie more and didn't enjoy the other. That's it.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard
So, when I see a trailer for a movie starring Reese Witherspoon or Kate Hudson, they aren't "chick flicks", they are romantic comedies. And romantic comedies just aren't my cup of tea (with a few exceptions like Bridget Jones' Diary, for example). It's not because I'm rebelling against a stupid term, but because romantic comedies just aren't usually my bag, and that should be fine.

It's alarming how often movies that aren't even romantic comedies are considered "chick flicks" simply because the cast is mainly comprised of women, like The Help. Yet, male-dominated films, like something directed by Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese, for example, are films, not "prick flicks" (as Gloria Steinhem wrote).

I know a couple of guys in my life who enjoy the odd romantic comedy (Notting Hill, in particular, comes to mind), yet you'd be hard-pressed to see them admit that outside of their circle of friends. And that's just silly. Why does one's gender have to be a factor in which films we like?

Like what you want to like. Watch whatever film you prefer. Despite the fact that the Hollywood studio machine tells us that certain films are geared towards specific audiences, don't buy into it. I'm tired of people assuming I love Julia Roberts' romantic comedies simply because I'm a woman (it happens more often than you'd think). My favourite film is The Godfather -- because I love film and I think it's a great one. But I also love An Affair to Remember and I still bawl when I watch Titanic.