Monday, October 5, 2009

I am not a chick

How much am I loving this movie reviewer's mea culpa in the Toronto Star for his use of the phrase "chick flick" when he describes a film? Peter Howell, I don't know you, but you are now a friend for life. 

From the link:

I hate the term because it's a form of contempt masquerading as hip lingo. Implicit in every use is the qualifier "only," even if the word is unspoken: "It's only a chick flick."

A film that supposedly appeals mainly to women can't be taken seriously because it's only a chick flick.

I've been annoyed by this for a while. Not the term "chick flick" per se, because I think it can describe a movie's overall tone. Sex in the City, Confessions of a Shopaholic, even my beloved Bridget Jones' Diary might fall into this category. Might. It's still pretty derogative, if you ask me, but I'm willing to go with it. 

However, the definition seems to have widened to include EVERY movie with strong female leads and that appeals mostly to a female audience. Regardless of tone or theme. Your friend gets raped outside of a bar and you are trying to escape from the police after killing the jerk? Chick flick. Your daughter is diabetic and dies after having a baby? Chick flick. You are a poor black woman in the 1930s who is raped repeatedly and forced to marry an old man? Chick flick. Why is it that so many films with female leads get this dismissive label?

Julie & Julia is the most recent film to be branded as a chick flick. And yeah, it's a comedy, but it's not about shoes or making it in the big city. Meryl Streep is not a chick. Nor am I.


Spy Scribbler said...

Drives me crazy. Men can be so dismissive of anything with a female lead. It's aggravating.

I'll never forget when I took my books to Half-Price books, and the girl smirkingly said to her co-worker, "Chick Lit."

Irritating. If they had given "chick lit" a different name, I bet it would still be popular.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Lucky for me, romantic comedies are me and my honey's favorite movies. He loves movies with strong female characters. The fact that the women are usually gorgeous, doesn't hurt either!

The term chick lit doesn't bother me when it's used for lighthearted movies or books geared mainly towards women. However, the term being used for nearly anything with a female protag is patently ridiculous.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

Excellent points. Now I want to know which movies you were referring to.

Janna Leadbetter said...

I get it, I do. And I wince a little too over the chick lit reference, much the same way.

WendyCinNYC said...

The book world tends to use "women's fiction" which I like a hell of a lot more than "chick lit" (eh, okay) or "hen lit" (no!)

Melanie, the movies are: Thelma and Louise, Steel Magnolias, and The Color Purple.

Anonymous said...

This bothers me, too. The condescending tone more than anything, and the assumption that it can't be taken seriously if it's a chick flick (or lit). Someone recently told me that the film adaption of "The Importance of Being Earnest" was a chick flick. I had no words.

Kristina said...

What makes me crazy is that if you take any number of "chick flick" or "chicklit" or "women's fiction" plots and you reverse the genders, you'd get "love story", "comedy" and "literary fiction" with no gender qualifier as if male characters represent the universal and female characters are the (light, fluffy) sideshow.

I heard Elizabeth Berg recently quote what Augusten Burroughs said about her: "If you had a penis you'd be John Updike."

WendyCinNYC said...

Marissa--That's awful! Poor Mr. Wilde, a chick like the rest of us.

Kristina--Yep, absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I'm not apologizing. I do use the term chick flick as dismissive. If the main theme of the movie is love and relationships, no matter what the lead character's gender, its a chick flick to me.

I want action, adventure, monsters, spaceships, car chases and explosions.


WendyCinNYC said...

Ed, so basically anything without explosions is a chick flick. Okay.

But what if the action movie has a female lead, hmm? What then? Because I'll turn into The Bride from Kill Bill if I hear you callin' me a "chick."


Anonymous said...

I loved the Underworld series with Kate Beckensale, as an example. I have no problem with female leads as long as they're killing people. ;)

Kathryn Magendie said...