Chix who love flix, analyzing so-called "chick flicks."

The Impression That I Get: On Chick Flicks

May 8th, 2008 by Meredith | Posted in Posts | 1 Comment »

Just where did the term “chick flick” come from, anyway? We toss the phrase around lightly these days, because it’s gotten accepted into the everyday vernacular much the same way “Google” has become a verb (“I don’t know, why don’t you Google it?”). The term is now a genre in and of itself, much the same way movies are “fantasy” or “action-adventure.” Of course, you probably won’t find any directors calling their movies “chick flicks,” since the term still has a demeaning quality to it– besides, the word “romance” just sounds much better, doesn’t it? But for every term that’s got a negative connotation to it, there are hundreds of people that put their own spin on it and make the word positive, or ignore any bad associations with it. So what if “Clueless” and “The Devil Wears Prada” are “chick flicks?” They’re still good movies (in the eyes of many viewers, anyway)!

One “chick flick” actor clearly doesn’t like the connotations of the term; Mark Feuerstein, an actor in the chick flick (or not) “In Her Shoes” said:

“It’s not a chick flick. Guys should go see this movie because if anybody has a brother out there or is interested in their relationship with their family – or enjoys seeing Cameron Diaz in a bikini – this will appeal to you.”

Thus, the negative connotation of “chick flick” is that it’s a movie strictly for females, and then men will be bored. It also implies that “chick flicks” don’t have what “In Her Shoes” does -a real-life examination of interpersonal (especially familial) relationships. It’s ironic, actually, since, on the one hand, the quote’s coming from a guy, so how could he know what a chick flick is really all about? On the other hand, women tend to be very focused on relationships of a variety of types, and place special emphasis on them. It’s no wonder why many chick flicks find their basis in this facet of everyday women’s lives– if it’s what women deal with every day and find important, why not make it the focus of a movie?

The term has worked its way into popular culture to the point of being embedded in other works. Consider this exchange from Sam and Dean, two brothers on the CW’s hit series “Supernatural”:

Sam: Hey, Dean. What I said earlier, about Mom and Dad, I’m sorry.
Dean
: (holds up hand to stop Sam) No chick flick moments.
Sam
: Alright… jerk.
Dean
: Bitch.

The term can easily be understood without explanation because of how quickly and pervasively the term has become known, at least in the United States. But the term itself is fairly new, originating either in the late 1980s or early 1990s– no one’s quite sure, but at least one source cites Brian Shipkin as the originator, in 1992.

WiseGeek featured a very interesting tidbit on just what makes a movie a “chick flick,” along with that crucial element that can ensure the movie doesn’t bomb:

The female characters in a chick flick are usually strong women who overcome adversity to reach their goals. The key to a successful chick flick is a message of female empowerment, although a snappy soundtrack and closets full of designer clothes will also help boost ratings.

WordSpy’s also got an interesting mini-conversation on just what a “chick flick” is:

Is “Chocolat” a chick flick because Juliette Binoche’s character concentrates on empowering her gal pals and values her Nipples of Venus truffles above the restless charms of Johnny Depp’s travelling man? And if “Chocolat” is a chick flick, then where does that leave “The Sweetest Thing,” a grotesquely unfunny comedy about a jock-like troika of female sex fiends who, if they really were men, would be locked up for gender abuse?

And if “The Sweetest Thing” is a chick flick — and most reviewers have labelled it one — then why isn’t “Miss Congeniality,” a movie starring Sandra Bullock as a klutzy cop who enters Miss Universe to catch her man (or in this case, woman)? For that matter, I’ve not heard anyone call “Bridget Jones’s Diary” a chick flick either…

The more I think about it, the more complicated it gets. There are whole web sites devoted to arguments among movie fans and rival lists of top chick flicks.
—Charlotte Bauer, “Chick schtick,” Sunday Times, October 20, 2002

There are countless film critics out there, and just as many methods for rating movies, from little guys in chairs to thumbs, from stars or check marks to tomatoes (fresh or rotten). RottenTomatoes.com, a user-based movie review site, considers a movie “fresh” (and presumably worth seeing) if it gets an average of 60% or higher on the “Tomatometer,” and a movie only gets a “Tomatometer” when it has at least five reviews from “Approved Tomatometer Critics.” Those critics aren’t “regular movie watchers” like you and I, but paid professionals, or, in the words of RottenTomatoes.com’s FAQ, “critics that fit within a set of standards – mostly from accredited media outlets and online film societies.”

How many films that might be considered a “chick flick” get a high “FRESH” rating? Well, “Romance” isn’t even a selectable option when it comes to narrowing down their “Best of” list, though because comedy often finds its way into chick flicks (see “Miss Congeniality,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “The Princess Diaries” and many others), one could easily look at that genre of films and find “chick flicks” within.

In the Comedy genre, sub-category Romantic Comedies, RottenTomatoes.com gives the following films its highest “FRESH” ratings:

  • “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – romance was definitely a plot point in this movie, but it was a mind-warping movie, too. People may have seen it more for the big-name stars (Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood) than the romantic premise (forget all your bad relationships ever happened), though.
  • “Punch Drunk Love” – Anything with Adam Sandler is automatically a comedy, but when he plays a bumbling guy in love, the laughs become secondary. But still, any guys in the audience probably saw it for Sandler, not for the fact that the movie could possibly be construed as a “chick flick.” After all, “chick flick” and “date movie” aren’t always the same thing… right?
  • “Amelie” – The famous French film.
  • “High Fidelity”
  • “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – Practically the eponymous chick flick. Even if the term was used long before the movie came out, often this film comes to mind when people think “chick flick.” It’s got all the stereotypical elements, and doesn’t try to hide it. In fact, it’s almost shameless with its chick flick-ery.
  • “Secretary”
  • “Shakespeare in Love” – One of my favorites, and quite ironically, a favorite of an ex-boyfriend of mine, too. I guess some guys don’t mind “chick flicks?”

333 movies in total on RottenTomatoes.com’s list of  “freshest” romantic-comedy movies– that’s far too many to analyze in just this post alone, but it’s refreshing to think that chick flicks -or date movies, or rom-coms, whatever you call them- even if they’re marketed toward women and hope to appeal to female sensibilities, they also have an element that can and does appeal to guys, or even non-conformist, non-stereotypical women.

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Happily Ever After? Further Discussion on the Cinderella Story in Chick Flicks.

May 8th, 2008 by Chelsea | Posted in Posts | 1 Comment »

We’ve all either seen or are somewhat familiar with the movie “Pretty Woman;” it was Julia Roberts’ first breakout performance as the prostitute with the heart of gold. Roberts’ character, Vivian Ward, had an urban street-smart shell that eventually falls off to reveal a softer, more refined character.

We see the same story line happen in “The Princess Diaries” as well, although this one is intended for younger audiences. The character Mia is an unfortunate looking and socially awkward teen who is rescued from her seemingly pathetic existence by her rich grandmother and transformed into a striking beauty who, by the end of the movie, manages to land the guy and realize that she likes herself for who she is.

Am I the only one who finds it rather ironic that she finds all this out only after she gets rid of her unibrow and her knobby knee socks are replaced with nylons? This transformation is the quintessential Cinderella story: the princess is rescued from the tragedies of poverty and whisked away to riches and fame to live, well… happily ever after.

While we all toil away at our 9-5 jobs day in and day out, we can’t help but be completely enraptured by this idea of complete transformation and rehabilitation, so much so that we can only assume (if rather naively) this transformation and rescue leads to happiness. This may be why movies like “Pretty Woman” and “The Princess Diaries” are still making money in the box offices. When the daily grind gets too tedious, we all wish Prince Charming would come rescue us, but if he’s too busy, like the rest of us, maybe a movie is the next best thing to actually living happily ever after.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITE CHICKS!!!!!

May 5th, 2008 by Laurie | Posted in Posts | 1 Comment »

Come Wednesday one of my most favorite “chicks” is going to be celebrating another year on this planet.   HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARGEAUX!!!!!  I wish you love, health and good wishes on your special day.    After finals are over, I am taking you and the rest of the chicks to a fabulous dinner to celebrate!!!!    I am paying, so you and the rest of the chicks have to pick a place!!!!   So,  girls get your party duds ready because we are taking the birthday girl out!   🙂

Do Chick Flicks Typecast Women Into Particular Roles?

May 5th, 2008 by Laurie | Posted in Posts | 5 Comments »

The movie 27 Dresses is a formulaic chick flick. it has the cute actress Katherine Heigl as the ultimate “good girl” while the actress who plays her sister is the ultimate “bad girl” Heigl plays the caring and loving bridesmaid who is there for all her girlfriends, there for her selfish sister, but also is pining away for her boss. Her sister comes to town, steals the boss away from Heigl, and plays the ultimate self-absorbed, selfish air head. In the end Heigl not only gets her man but also gets the dream wedding. This movie addresses not only the issue of pitting one women against another, but also touches on the fragile relationship of sisterhood. It typecasts women as being in competition with each other over a “man”. In the end the “good girl” wins the guy. The bad girl doesn’t get the guy. This good girl/bad girl dynamic is usually how women are characterized in chick flick movies. The female heroine wins in the end by being the “good girl.”

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How Chick Flicks Influence Different Fads: Flashdance & the 1980s

May 5th, 2008 by Laurie | Posted in Posts | 1 Comment »

Flashdance DVD box coverIn the early 80’s, the movie Flashdance generated a whole movement in the fitness industry. Jazzercise classes popped up in towns from coast to coast. Women of all ages flocked to these classes. In particular, it had a big impact on dance wear. Women were tearing their t-shirts, donning leg warmers, and joining their “sisters” in not only getting into shape, but looking rather stylish while working out. Even well known designers were getting in on the act. From Chanel to Ralph Lauren, they were making “designer” torn t-shirts and colored leg warmers to match. It not only affected the fitness and fashion industries, but it also generated a whole movement in the beauty industry. Women were racing to their beauty salons for the “curly” hair that Ms. Beals, who played the main character in Flashdance, donned in the movie. This movie had a big impact on popular culture in the 1980’s.

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Is romance dead, dying, or just sleeping for a while?

May 4th, 2008 by Jennifer | Posted in Posts | 2 Comments »

I was watching television (big surprise there) when I came across some rather bad reviews on the newest romance-inspired chick flick: Made of Honor, starring Patrick Dempsey (of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame, though he’s also recently starred in Disney’s Enchanted) which made $15.5 million at the box office (Iron Man made $100.75 million). Essentially, what the critics were saying was the that the film was “mediocre.” Because I’m not a fan of these kinds of movies, I was quick to say “duh,” but when it came down to it, I couldn’t think of a single romantic film in the last few years that had been a huge box office draw.

This persuaded me to dig further, and indeed, of the top ten money makers in the romance genre, not one had been made in the last five years. Granted, romance movies have never had the draw that action and drama films do, but there seems to have been a real down trend in the amount of money these things are making today. What was even more interesting was that when IMDB voters were asked to rate their top 50 favorite romance films and all but two had not been made in the last ten years whereas the action genre had fifteen recent films and drama twelve.

Top Rated Romance Films

Top Grossing Romance Films

What is this trend saying; is the film industry simply not making good romance films anymore? Are Americans, and specifically chick flick watchers, just tired of seeing the ‘same old plot?’ Were these films just unfairly put up against other movies with a higher box office draw? Or are we just in a slump, in between great American love stories?

It’s somewhat difficult to pinpoint a definitive answer for any of these questions but I do think there has been a definite shift in the romantic chick flick genre that seems to include regurgitating old plots to make new movies. While this happens in all movie categories I think the romance section is especially notorious for the problem.

So what could it all mean? The fact that chicks still watch these box office flops doesn’t mean they don’t know what a good film is. On the contrary, the way the IMDB voters rated romance films seems to suggest they have a very high standard when it comes to good romance movies. I think that in the same way men will watch ‘the fast and the furious 25’ (or whatever) women will watch Made of Honor or The Wedding Planner, etc. It’s an escape, and though it won’t win any Oscars, it can still be an enjoyable way to pass the time….

Below, a video that parodies some of the “regurgitated” plots of chick flicks. Do all the recent chick flicks share the same inherent plot?

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10 is the Magic Number: Girl vs. Boy, Woman vs. Man

May 3rd, 2008 by Margeaux | Posted in Posts | 2 Comments »

The love-hate relationship between the sexes is a theme that is used in many movies. Romance and war makes for an interesting theme because it shows how we are all different yet we are also, all the same. Of course, the application of the theme is adjusted depending on what is the target age group for the movie. Take for example the movies 10 Things I Hate About You and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Both movies revolve around the theme of relationships, how women and men deal with each other, especially when it comes to love.

10 Things I Hate About You film poster10 Things I Hate about You is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. This adaptation is set within a high school setting, and as such, appeals to a younger generation. The relationships between girls and boys in the movie revolves around the ideas of fleeting young romance, experimentation, and finding self. Because the movie is targeted for a younger crowd, it offers a moral at the end of the movie. The moral being don’t drink alcohol, listen to your parents, don’t trust that pretty boy, and give the quiet guy a chance. Perhaps, the biggest moral of all don’t give away your virginity just because everyone is doing it.

How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days film posterHow to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, on the other hand, utilizes the same theme but places it within an adult situation. It shows how men and women struggle with each other, especially when it comes to love. The movie treats sex as a normal part of the relationship, while the previous movie considered it a taboo. In fact, most of the things that the previous movie says to avoid, this movie treats as a normal part of life. Here is where you see the great difference between the ages, and what teenagers are allowed to do versus what adults get away with. There is no moral offered at the end of the movie. If there was one, then it would be about trust.

When both movies are compared to each other, it is easy to see the different treatment of the same theme. Teenagers just don’t have the same freedom that adults have. Freedom is what age buys you.

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Chick Flicks-in-Training: From Disney to Daring

May 2nd, 2008 by Meredith | Posted in Posts | 3 Comments »

This is not simply a story about a frog and a prince. A story about a frog would be biological. A story about a prince would be historical. But a story about a frog-prince is magical, and therein lies all the difference. –Jane Yolen

In our introductory post, Jenn remarked that many chick flicks fall into the “Cinderella-type” category, wherein a female protagonist is in some distress, gets some outside help (from a prince, fairy godmother, friendly forest creatures, or similar), and then manages to win the day and run off into the sunset with Prince Charming (or whatever his name is). Modern visions of the Cinderella story try and avoid the “damsel-in-distress” situation, where the female simply has to be “saved” for the world to be right again. In more modern Cinderella-type “chick flicks” like The Princess Diaries, Maid in Manhattan, and Pretty Woman, the Cinderella-character is more than just “good at heart,” or “pretty in disguise,” she’s also intelligent or at least quick-witted, and what faults she does have (whether she’s a klutz, has low self-esteem, or is egotistical) are portrayed as endearing.

One could look at Disney movies (at least, the fairy tale ones) as sort of “chick flicks-in-training,” teaching young girls what to expect from the “more grown-up” versions of those same movies. Chick flicks, whether aimed at prepubescent young girls or savvy working women, all contain some element from a fairy tale or fable. Few modern chick flicks (at least the ones that aren’t targeted toward younger girls) are “magical” in any way, but that doesn’t mean that the residual feeling left over from the fairy tale element is absent.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sisterhood Through the Ages

May 2nd, 2008 by Chelsea | Posted in Posts | No Comments »

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya SisterhoodPerhaps one theme that “chick flicks” have pounced on is the theme of sisterhood and female relationships. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants are prime examples. How can we fail to see the correlations when the word “sisterhood” is smack dab in the middle of the two titles staring at you? However, there is much more than a title word that these two movies share. Who can deny that many women gain much self-esteem and support from their close knit group of friends? Comparing these two movies is interesting because both movies address different age groups. Divine Secrets covers the lives of many generations of women as well as various ages in their lives. The areas covered in this movie are all more adult issues dealing with alcoholism, depression, abuse, marriages, raising children, and then mending and forming bonds with the children they have raised. The areas covered by Divine Secrets are issues that many women are dealing with and are able to relate to and gain some kind of closure on, even if it is temporary and only on the silver screen.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsThe same can be said for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. This movie tackles issues that younger women can relate to such as first loves, losing friends at a young age, and becoming a part of a divorced parent’s new family. So, now we understand the issues these movies cover, but how does that relate to sisterhood?

One thing always present in these two movies is the love and support of friends that makes going through tough times easier. One thing that has not been lost through generations is the bond that women share with each other and how important these relationships can be.

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The Little Black Dress: Random thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s

April 29th, 2008 by Jennifer | Posted in Posts | No Comments »

Audrey Hepburn in the iconic "little black dress" from "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

Few actresses, or films for that matter, are as iconic as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This picture birthed a minimalist style that women clamored for in the 60’s, and continue to mimic today. Audrey’s large dark Sunglasses and colored trench coats have had such staying power in the fashion world that even the most style inept (author included) of us can follow the influence this movie has had.

One of the most reproduced costumes of this film is Holly Golightly’s little black dress. It’s become a cliche of sorts and a staple in most women’s closets. This garment is sleek and easier to move in than the ball gowns of earlier time periods. It marks a real change for the better in practicality of women’s dresses, and in celebration of the female form as it is.

However, does this fashion free women from their role by allowing them to embrace their bodies, or does it stifle them by reinforcing the idea of the feminine as an object?

In the novel, Capote’s aim was to show the hypocrisy in how the world views promiscuous men vs their female counterparts, though this does not quite come out in the de-sexualized movie, Holly’s character makes it clear that she is not a possession. These characteristics in some way do make the movie pro-feminist. Yet the main character is also shown as materialistic because she’s so willing to marry for money.

But I digress, in either case the sleek black dress, bangs and sunglasses are pieces that have endured the test of time and contine to influence what women wear.

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