It’s no secret that Hollywood has a woman problem. Women are underrepresented behind the camera in shocking numbers. They rarely (with notable growing exceptions – hi, Katniss!) have the opportunity to lead a blockbuster. And the only genre of film they do dominate in – the romance/romantic comedy – is both derided and on the decline. I myself have many arguments against the “chick flick.” They can be chock full of misogyny or internalized misogyny. The convoluted plots only work when the protagonists are lying or hiding things – the opposite of how good relationships work. There’s many a plot that could be solved with, “Well, have you tried talking to her?” And there’s the compulsive need to give us a happy romantic resolution – or in the Nicholas Sparks oeuvre, an excuse to cry for 20 minutes. But chick flicks, despite their flaws, can be both an amazing resource and an empowering tool.
I could write an entirely different article talking about the relationship between our scorn for the chick flick (and by extension its actresses) and its recent precipitous drop in quality. But plenty has been written in that vein. Instead what I offer is an impassioned plea; watch a chick flick. Here is my reasoning.
1) Rare opportunity to see the female gaze.
The men in chick flicks are attractive and buff, but slightly soft, The camera lingers on their chests, arms, stomachs, and sometimes even their behinds. In a chick flick, it is expected that women have desires, and the camera allows them the same freedom as men. They get to be sexual subjects, agents of their own consent, not just objects or prizes.
2) Often there are male protagonists; but these guys talk about feelings.
They express emotions. They use their words. It’s a fantastic example of modeling adult behavior. Emotional intelligence and the ability to communicate this way is vital to a healthy relationship. Let’s show more of that, please.
3) Representation! And LGBT representation! On- and off-camera.
Representation is important. It just is. Here is where we will see a wealth of women and a smattering of LGBT characters. They have jobs and feelings and relationships and friendships and lives. They are fully-drawn-out characters. A welcome change from the sexy lamp we often find in other movies.
4) Within the framework, chick flicks can surprise you.
Yes, sometimes the scripts are formulaic. There are no “twists” we can’t guess. But inside the basic package lies a world of nuance that can be fascinating. Moral complexities, the bonds of family, some really great zingers, and portrayals of real people can all be found here.
5) Women are people.
It is simply galling to me that there are movies for everyone, and then movies “for women”. Everyone expects women to identify with the male characters that helm the biggest budget of movies because they represent the human experience. But heaven forbid we ask men to identify with female characters. The joke is that if men go see chick flicks on a date, sex is certain to thank them for this herculean effort. I really want us to think about this. What is it that invites the scorn? Movies that focus on romance are silly because… romance is only for girls? Sure. Because men don’t fall in love. Chick flicks are silly and not worth watching because… they are mostly about ladies doing lady stuff? Man, too bad half the people in the world aren’t women.
We can argue that chick flicks aren’t as well-constructed, but there are a significant portion of sci-fis or shoot-em-ups or gross-out-comedies (or jeez, horror) that are objectively, laughably awful. And if romances don’t get as big a budget, don’t attract high-status people, or produce smaller profits, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. It’s time to stop hating on the chick flick. Do you think movies for women are inherently less good because girl stuff is less important? Or is it because women are less important? That’s a sketchy moral place to be in. If we assume a) women are people and not a monolith; b) things that interest women (50% of people) are inherently valuable; and c) movies can be terrible or amazing independent of genre, it might be there’s no reason to hate chick flicks besides misogyny. Oops!
So go ahead. Watch a chick flick today.