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

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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  1. One Response to “The Impression That I Get: On Chick Flicks”

  2. By jessica murillo on May 9, 2008

    I just wanted to comment on the whole idea of “chixflix,”I think it’s great and i will be one the many checking out your blog regularly. Also, I bet you girls are all excited to see “Sex in the City?” I saw the previews and it looks like it’s going to be a great movie!

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