Sunday, May 17, 2009

Can we be honest about chick flicks?

My wife recently went with her parents to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. It's not so much that she wanted to see it, but she wanted to spend Mother's Day with her mom, and that's the movie that her mother wanted to see. When I asked her shortly after she saw it how it was, she replied, "It was okay" with very little enthusiasm. When I mention the movie now, she gives something between a groan and a grumble.

Unlike a lot of men, I don't really feel a lot of pressure from my wife to see what people like to call "chick flicks". Usually the movies she wants to see are independent or foreign films, with which I am always okay. We also like to see the Pixar movies and Judd Apatow-related comedies. (Yeah, I know, that last "type" of movie means nothing. I'm referring to movies like I Love You, Man, Adventureland, and an upcoming movie with Adam Sandler that's actually directed by Apatow.)

She has more tolerance for chick flicks, of course, as unless it was somebody's dying wish, there's no way that I'd waste my time with something like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. And no, I'm not saying that's because my taste in movies only allows for artistic, life-altering fare. After all, I believe that I gave a fairly positive review to Punisher War Zone while admitting that it's basically a crappy movie. There's nothing wrong with slumming it every once and a while.

But the thing is with the term "chick flick" is that it implies that it's a movie made for women. The prevaling notion is that men don't want to see it mainly because it's not aimed at them, and we're only interested in action movies or comedies that feature lots of boobs. I resent this notion because I don't see anything necessarily wrong with movies that are primarily aimed at women. I especially don't see a problem with the notion of a romantic comedy where the basic setup is: boy meets girl, boy and girl hook up, boy loses girl, boy and girl reunite for a happy ending. Shoot, that's the plot to some stuff that Shakespeare wrote, so how bad of a formula can it really be?

The problem with "chick flicks" isn't that they're movies for women. They're movies for women who don't have any taste in movies. That doesn't necessarily mean that all women who watch them have no taste in movies. It also doesn't mean that there aren't men with bad taste who liek them too. I suppose that there are some women out there who would see both A Very Long Engagement AND How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. At best, these are movies for somebody who doesn't care about characterization, dialogue, story, etcetera. Again, you could say the same thing about Punisher War Zone, but stupid action movies aren't all that I like. For some people out there, they never challenge themselves beyond anything like Legally Blonde.

What's a shame about this is that for some reason, the genre "romantic comedy" is almost synonymous with "chick flick". That's too bad, as movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall follow the usual romantic comedy formula (although more from a man's point of view) and that's a great film. It has all sorts of silly, colorful characters, but it cares about story and none of the characters simply act as strawmen for the audience to jeer at. (Even Aldous Snow, who's a pretentious rock star, has more to his personality than the things that you can laugh at.)

I can see a woman having somewhat of a soft spot for these movies. After all, I'm rather tolerant toward superhero movies even when they're not very good. (I can find good things about Daredevil, for Pete's sakes.) The reason why so many men aren't interested in chick flicks isn't so much that they have better taste in movies, it's just that those films don't cater to what the "typical" man is looking for in a movie. This reasoning works for why women aren't lining up to see every dumb action movie that comes out.

But let's stop pretending that these "chick flicks" are aimed simply at women. They're aimed at a certain type of woman. How do you know if you're that type of woman? If you list movies like that as your "all-time" favorites. If Just Married is on your all-time favorites list, you need to expand your horizons just a little bit more, just as I would have to if X-Men Origins: Wolverine was on mine.

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