HOLLYWOOD —Let’s face it, on May 27, movie theaters across the nation will be invaded by women in the must-see “chick flick” of the year, “Sex and the City 2,” the sequel to the highly successful “Sex and the City,” which grossed more than $60 million on opening weekend back in 2008. But the inevitable question that continues to ponder my mind is why are we so quick to categorize a film as a “chick flick”?
For starters let’s discuss some key criteria of this unique genre. First, the film has to star a woman. I know this is pretty sexist by all requests, but most chick flicks seem to center around a female main character. Second, the film has strong emotional undertones. The primary goal of the film is to elicit specific emotions from the viewer; particularly that element of vulnerability and sadness. Some notable films include James Cameron’s “Titanic” and “The Notebook”, a tearjerker that will make even the toughest alpha male cry. Third, the film is deemed by many a love story. Such films include “Pretty Woman,” “Notting Hill” and “ Sweet Home Alabama.” Fourth, the film sometimes consists of an all-female cast. I’ve only encountered three films where I’ve noticed this “The Women” starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and Jada Pinkett Smith; “Waiting to Exhale” starring Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston; and “Steel Magnolias” starring Julia Roberts. Lastly, if it’s a film that’s a romantic comedy by most standards in Hollywood, it’s a “chick flick.” “The Proposal,” “It’s Complicated” and “The Ugly Truth” are a few examples.
The genre became notable when studios realized they could increase box-office revenue by making films targeted towards the female viewer. What many studios discovered is that women do indeed attend the multiplex; they do enjoy movies just as much as men do. At the same time, these films have been deemed by societal terms as “chick flicks” because by most standards they solely appeal to the female viewer, but I have an argument with that assumption. It is known that women are emotional creatures, but guess what? So are males. Many characteristics emulated by women in these films are characteristics that both sexes embody; they’re just not always displayed in the public sphere.
So if a film like “The Notebook” can cause a man to shed a tear, the filmmaker must have done something right. Men cry, but according to societal standards we’re not supposed to let that be known. This is the problem with labeling films of a particular genre; we begin to isolate moviegoers because some are afraid to venture into that theater where they may be judged. Just to be fair, action films are viewed primarily by males, but I saw “Iron Man 2” this weekend and there were just as many women in the theater as there where males. So women enjoy action flicks just as much as men do.
Making films gender specific is problematic because every film has something to offer to both sexes. Men and women both engage in relationships, encounter grief and deal with sadness. Furthermore, males gossip as much as females; it’s just not seen in the same light. Instead, it’s known as male bonding.
Something important to be learned with “chick flicks” is their ability to provide insight to men on what women think about them and vice versa. They’re excellent learning tools. By some standards, many considered “The Blind Side,” starring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, to be a “chick flick,” and it’s hard to categorize that film. It had large massive appeal, it grossed more than $200 million at the box-office and it was a film both men and women were praising.
Yes, Sandra Bullock was the star of the film, but the film also starred Quinton Aaron in the pivotal true life story of football star Michael Oher. This becomes a difficult film to typecast because while there are elements of a typical “chick flick” in the film, there is so much more going on as well. Guess I just proved my point. As viewers we like to categorize films by genre because we have an idea of what the film will be about before spending our money. Having preconceived notions of what a film is about before actually seeing it, hurts us. As a viewer, we never know exactly what to expect when seeing a film, you might have an idea based on that particular genre, but surprises always occur.
The “chick flick” has more to offer than we’d like to see. So before we judge a film as being solely geared to the female viewer, perhaps we can examine the film a bit deeper to see what it has to offer not only to the female viewer, but to the male viewer as well. We might surprise ourselves!