Why I Hate Chick Flicks

Anyone who’s seen my DVD collection or spent any time with me at all will be experiencing several emotions right about now: anger, confusion, shock, betrayal…GOTCHA! I have nothing but the highest respect and love for many, many films that align themselves with the genre. What attracts my loathing is the blatant sexism of the designation. Action, comedy, drama, horror, musical, classic, psychological thriller, romantic comedy…these are all legitimate genres. But whenever the phrase “I love chick flicks” emerges in conversation, I inevitably cringe. In another world, I might smile, nod, and agree. In this one, I cringe, smile, nod, agree, and spend the rest of the night silently ruing the misogynistic stereotypes of the marketing world and our own collaboration in perpetuating them.  If you’ve never experienced the same existential agony over the phrase’s implications, stay with me one more moment.

According to urbandictionary.com, the definition of “chick flick” is “A film that indulges in the hopes and dreams of women and/or girls. A film that has a happy, fuzzy, ridiculously unrealistic ending.” See what they did there? If chick flicks=  hopes + dreams of women  and chick flicks = happy, fuzzy, and ridiculously unrealistic, then hopes + dreams of women = happy, fuzzy, and ridiculously unrealistic.  God love the the transitive property of equality! To play the devil’s advocate for a moment, a guy friend once summarized the cons of romantic comedy as “propagating the illusion that all women want the same thing and therefore the male expectation that if you put enough niceness coins in, eternal love will automatically pop back out.” I feel that. I really do. But therein lives another assumption that all romantic comedies inevitably follow the same plot and the same end goal:  a guy, whether good, bad, or indifferent. Which, upon brushing up and reviewing the broad range of films and shows consigned to the “Chick Flick” heading, is blatantly untrue. The genre has been changing for the past ten years, but we as an audience have not been changing with it.

We live in the midst of an entertainment industry that legitimizes James Bond over Easy A. Going on the record as loving and enjoying both, the only discernible lesson ingrained in my subconcious from Skyfall was along the lines of “don’t sleep with a hot British guy, because you are an invaluable pawn who will inevitably die after a convenient shower scene.” I can think of at least ten meaningful and empowering instances of social and political commentary on real issues from the first half hour of Easy A alone, yet its still categorized as happy, fuzzy, and unrealistic in initial public opinion. Even though for over a decade, chick flicks themselves have laughingly made use of their own traditions in order to discredit them.*Sigh* So, in response, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten “chick flicks” that appropriate the stereotypes by encoding wise and valuable lessons within the hilarity.

1) Bridget Jones’ Diary- Bridget Jones is my spirit animal, in addition to being the most classic example of the re-appropriation of chick flick culture. The beginning of the film finds Bridget a hot mess, but not for the reasons she or the suffocating societal pressure seem to indicate. Losing weight, sobering up, quitting the whole nicotine scene, and abstaining from a long list of in-exploded mine fields are symptoms rather than solutions. The real moment of truth comes knocking with a healthy dose of self-respect, the realization that these short-cuts to transformation are simply not good enough.

In addition to these obviously empowering overtones, I simply adore the film’s approach to love and sexuality- the sheer messiness, confusion, and lack of suave, traditional romance. The fact that love, in the truer sense, comes with a greater probability of  running through the streets of London in your underwear during a snowstorm than of sitting down to a candlelight dinner and a bed of roses. And that is enough.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

Don’t ever answer the phone like this:

Confidence isn’t always wisdom. It will invariably be your mother on the other line.

 When the choice is between society’s single woman past 30 witch hunt and your perverted boss:

Sleep with Hugh Grant if you want to, but don’t fall for the “Oh well, you’re my last resort” line. Hold out for this:

Even after all those biting reindeer sweater remarks. God, this guy’s good. Or if that’s too unrealistic for you, hold out for cats. DON’T SETTLE.

BONUS ROUND (because I can): This incompetent fist fight between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant:

2) Easy A- Watch as Brandon gets a standing ovation while Olive gets shamed and shunned after their imaginary sexual exploits and try telling me that you didn’t want to simultaneously cry and punch the world in the face. As hilarious as this movie is, it’s equally devastating and gritty, because the end goal is not Penn Bagdley’s nineteen-eighties’ tribute (although, it certainly can’t hurt). It’s engaging with double standards, depression, and baseless hatred against gays in a way that’s manageable and palatable to the Saturday night crowd. It’s highlighting serious issues in ways we can laugh at even as we acknowledge their unfortunate reality.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

Ever say anything awkward at a party? Pull this one out of your arsenal:

Classic and timeless recovery.

On logic in the Internet age:

Touche.

On people’s fascination with gossiping about and judging your sex life:

So many problems solved in one simple sentence.

3) Silver Linings Playbook: Mix Jennifer Lawrence, mental illness, and dancing into one bag, and you get my happy place. If you only see one movie before you die, this is the one. Absolute. perfection. It is a genre-chameleon, changing its colors and blinking all the stage lights just to highlight that this whole social construction thing is an elaborate performance. For all the genuine devastation and tragedy, this is perhaps the most hopeful and optimistic view of human nature and possibility ever to maintain a convincing realism. Except there’s absolutely no way that grande finale would have landed them a five, unless divine intervention was involved.

So much is possible when you place the power you’ve given to the world’s opinion back into your own hands.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

There’s nothing more bad ass and admirable than accepting yourself and all your alleged flaws:

That’s right, Bradley Cooper. That’s right. Come at me, bro.

Next time someone tries to slut shame you or one of your friends:

That’ll shut em up. Bitches.

Don’t let society tell you what to want:

Everyone. But just ignore them.

BONUS ROUND: Literally, the funniest dance scene since time began:

4) Eat Pray Love- This is the moment when I confess that before watching this movie, I wrote it off as just another chick flick marketing self discovery  in the form of another man. I know. I’ll just go ahead and find the cone of shame. There are countless examples of empowering screw-society’s-expectations-its-alright-to-be-alone attitudes in the genre, but almost none suggest any practical methods for attaining that sense of contentment and security or evading the inevitable guilt that accompanies wanting something for yourself. In addition to serving as The Art of War for self-forgiveness, it also  lends an interesting complexity to the art of self-reliance by suggesting that love is not always the problem, any more than it is always the solution when any unresolved existential crises come knocking. You don’t have to be alone in order to achieve inner peace and self-awareness, any more than you have to be in a secure relationship. There’s no one correct formula for this whole transcendental experience thing. And that monologue on “Ruin is the Road to Transformation”? Flawless.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

This isn’t normal, but it happens to everyone:

I know zombies are very fashionable these days, but seriously. Go find your passion again.

Food elicits deep emotions. Food is love. Let’s all just admit it:

Eat dat pizza. Blonde hair, don’t care:

Yes, it is that easy.

5) (500) Days of Summer: Also known as (500) Days of Dichotomy Deconstruction…postmodernism, have I told you lately that I love you? Although it offers a plethora of commentary and advice regarding modern relationships, the real beauty of Tom and Summer is their simultaneous division and interchangeability. Experience is circular. It changes you. And changes you again. And again, until your head is spinning and you don’t know what to believe anymore. You will lose your shit and rant about suicidal cats, I promise you. Also, that awkward moment when you realize everything you’ve ever thought has been placed into your subconscious by an outside source…there’s that.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

 Expectations and reality…*SPOILER ALERT*

…they don’t always align.

Disillusionment happens:

You know what’s hidden under this suit? A. giant. guilt. trip.

Down with the Hallmark cards! Rage, rage against the sentimentality:

Let it out, JGL. Just let it out.

6) Mean Girls: In addition to being insanely witty and quotable…no. You know what, Mean Girls speaks for itself. You go, Glen Coco!

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

Animal v. Girl world…:

Yeah, they’re not that different.

But the first rule is:

Never put anything in writing.

This distinction between passive and aggressive:

There is none. Except one takes more balls.

7) An Education: An Education is Jane Eyre in memoir form: serious, unforgettable, and extremely British. I’ve found that when guys see the words “sexual awakening” on the back of any movie, whether it’s accompanied by the Sundance Film Festival insignia or no, the beginnings of panic seep into their expressions. But despite the semi-recumbant, intertwining bodies on the cover, the movie’s point drives towards the heart of misconception and whether education is best taught in school or life, theory or experience. The happy ending derives not from undoing mistakes, but from accepting and responding to them. Ruin lies not in what you do, but in what you don’t- and that’s an equation we as human beings often get backwards. Its classic coming-of-age material that evades both cynicism and cliche. Pretty damn remarkable for a good ole bildungsroman.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

 Better to make mistakes than never do anything at all:

“If we never did anything, we wouldn’t be anybody.”

Sometimes you’re screwed no matter what you do:

Sometimes education isn’t by the book:

And then you get the worst of both worlds. That is the beginning of wisdom.

8) He’s Just Not That Into You: I have a friend who basically requires that you watch this movie before you become “real friends.” If you’ve never seen it, it sounds extreme and absurd. Trust me, it’s not. The HJNTIY proverbs are much more transformative within friendships than romantic relationships. Because the simple fact of the matter is we lie to each other to ease the pain of rejection. Whether a guy never calls you back or runs away screaming when he sees you coming, we’ll say ANYTHING to divert the situation away from that sense of rejection and humiliation: he’s scared because he likes you too much, he’s scared of your emotional maturity, blah blah blah. We’re experts at spinning the truth- we’re presidential campaign ninjas. But everyone needs at least one friend who’s not afraid of brutal honesty when it’s really needed.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

 This is the square root of all evil:

Honesty is the solution:

Brutal. Honesty. No feelings spared.

But don’t forget what it means to have feelings:

Break down those walls. Feel the feels. Do stupid shit. Join the club. We have cookies.

9) Love Actually: Love actually is all around. The themes: love and optimism. But the British choose to take a leaf out of the eskimo’s book and endorse love in all its definitions and forms ,wherever one can find it: in and out of relationships, friends, family, random strangers. Love in all its realism, absurdity, belief, hope, destruction, and catharsis.  This is the Beatles anthem version of romantic comedy.

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

 This British child is an adorable seer. Best possible attitude ever:

Say it loud, say it proud. Say it with a smile on your face.

Because sometimes love can make you dance like this:

…but for every Colin Firth that ever overcomes a language barrier, there’s an Alan Rickman that makes you feel like:

Your life is a lie. Go listen to Joni Mitchell and cry your eyes out. We all love you anyways, Emma.

BONUS ROUND: This dating advice from Alan Rickman (aka Severus Snape)…

10) Gilmore Girls: Sorry, not sorry, I snuck a television show in here, but I also saved the best for last. Seven seasons of pure, unadulterated brillance and fluent Lorelai Gilmore-isms: Booze is the adult milk and cookies, You can’t get into Harvard without wilderness skills. Almost anything can be dirty. Amy Sherman-Palladino took two strong, beautiful, independent women, breathed life into them, and taught me an alternate value system in which I can live unapologetically. Sure, it’s just a tv show, but it’s also a rare gift and a life-altering opportunity to be told  as a teenager by the entertainment industry that it’s not a crime to be a woman:

Even though:

Lightning Round: Practical Advice in Three GIFs or Less

This important distinction between attraction and rightness:

Reasons why pie wins every time.

These tears. Forget break-ups. When you cry, cry for coffee:

This quality PERSPECTIVE:

Cats, Princeton boyfriend. Same difference. Calm yourself. It’ll be fine either way.

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4 responses to “Why I Hate Chick Flicks

  1. This was so very beautiful. I agree 100% that the term “chick flick” is idiotic, and this post reminded me that I need to be sure to stop using it. I still do every once in a while. Also, your choices. Love those movies so much…Gilmore Girls too. It’s such a wonderful show. And I may actually watch Eat Pray Love and He’s Just Not That Into You now. 😛

    • So glad you enjoyed it! And no worries, I still let the occasional “chick flick” escape my lips as well! You definitely should watch them and let me know what you think! 🙂

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