A few days ago, I was talking to a male friend of mine who claims that he has never seen “Mean Girls”  because, “it’s a total chick flick.”  This bothered me. Why should he write off a funny, iconic, and even important film, as a stupid movie that only girls and women would enjoy? Why did my mind immediately associate “chick flick” with “bad movie?” I felt like a traitor to women as I argued that “Mean Girls” was more than your regular high school movie for girls, defended Tina Fey, and eventually linked him to a “Best Mean Girls Quotes” compilation on YouTube. Sure, the film is targeted at women, but why does that make it a poor film unless proven otherwise?

[bctt tweet=”Evidently, the public believes that a women-centric film is inherently bad.” username=”wearethetempest”]

We should begin by establishing what a “chick flick” is. The first entry on Urban Dictionary defines it as a “film that indulges in the hopes and dreams of women and/or girls. A film that has a happy, fuzzy, ridiculously unrealistic ending.” Entry number eight scathingly defines it as a movie “that makes women the heros [sic]  and show life from a woman’s perspective. Most men hate these films cuz [sic] they are cheezy [sic] and dumb. Pussy-whipped men like them…or pretend to.” And entry seventeen so eloquently says:

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 12.55.53 PM
Urban Dictionary

While not the most reputable source, Urban Dictionary is an accurate gauge of the general public’s opinions and thoughts. Evidently, the public believes that a women-centric film is inherently bad.

The chick flick mentality has permeated our perception of other films that center around a woman (or women). These films don’t incorporate romance or love into its primary formula, yet, we still tend to focus on those aspects of the film. For example, Katniss from “The Hunger Games” is a badass archer who volunteers for the brutal Hunger Games in order to save her sister, yet all the media (seriously, there are so many pieces about this) can discuss is “Team Peeta or Team Gale?”

During the release of Darren Aronofsky’s excellent “Black Swan,” all anyone talked about was the lesbian sex scene. The selling point of the polarizing “Spring Breakers” was “Disney girls go bad.” No one would watch these films and call them chick flicks, but we still tend to analyze them as such simply because they are fronted by a female cast.

[bctt tweet=” How often do comedies fronted by men come with taglines like that? ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Let’s talk “Bridesmaids.” When it first came out in 2011, it was marketed heavily as “’The Hangover’ for women” or that “these are smart, funny women” (and that is a direct quote from the poster). Yes, there is more to that sentence, but compare the difference in font size. The selling point in that phrase comes off as “Check it out, everyone! Women, too, can be smart and funny!” How often do comedies fronted by men come with taglines like that? “Bridesmaids” is not a “chick flick,” a “rom com,” nor, as it insultingly has been called, a “chick flick with balls.” “Bridesmaids” is a funny, well-made film that happens to have a primary cast of all women. Period.

In all fairness, there are some pretty terrible “chick flicks” floating around. But there are also bad action films, bad horror films, bad animated films, bad thriller films, and so on. Why are “chick flicks” the only genre so often labeled as the guilty pleasure films that must fundamentally be a big pile of suck unless they prove themselves otherwise?

[bctt tweet=”Yes, you read that right– this movie beat a Marvel film at the box office.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Besides, the numbers indicate that someone is watching these so-called “bad” movies. 2014’s critically unsuccessful, by-definition “chick flick” “The Other Woman” even knocked out “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from first place in North America. Yes, you read that right– this movie beat a Marvel film at the box office. 75 percent of the tickets were bought by women, so the guy in the comments talking about ticket sales’ correlation to men wanting to ogle Kate Upton’s boobs is probably high off of the mothballs in his mother’s basement. The fact of the matter is that “chick flicks” make money. They’re light, often ridiculous, somewhat satisfying fun.

[bctt tweet=”These are critically and commercially successful films, but are decidedly non-feminist.” username=”wearethetempest”]

We’re all aware of the severe imbalance and underrepresentation of women in cinema, which has inspired arguments in favor of “chick flicks” because they focus on women’s problems and lives. This defense is flawed because of one glaring fact: all of our problems do not revolve around relationships, sex, and men. The Bechdel Test has become the standard by which feminist film critics judge the depiction of female characters in films. They must satisfy the following three requirements:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

By this definition, “The Social Network”, “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” (Part II), and even the “Star Wars” trilogy fail. These are critically and commercially successful films, but are decidedly non-feminist.

Being a woman comes with the hefty responsibility of carrying everything as a sociopolitical statement. From my choice of dress, to the music I like, to the career I decide to pursue, represent not only myself, but women as a group. The inequity between men and all other sexes is so frustrating, and as we become more and more entrenched in the fight for equality, our lives become dominated by it.

[bctt tweet=”Movies are not dichotomized by your sex.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Often times, women are embarrassed to admit how much we enjoy entertaining romantic comedy-esque fantasies because we’re afraid of being stereotyped as your average, emotional, romance-obsessed female. Honestly, I’d be more than glad to spend the holidays in Europe and fall in love with a hot English guy who’s totally into me. Freddie Prinze Jr can most definitely take me to prom. You wouldn’t even have to ask me twice if I wanted to wake up tomorrow morning as Jennifer Garner.

I’m choosing to make a career out of filmmaking and I take pleasure in several “chick flicks” that may not be the pinnacle of cinema, but are good fun anyway. I watch these movies the same way guys watch movies and fantasize about winning over Mila Kunis while avenging a nasty breakup, marrying Heather Graham, or simply being the effortlessly cool James Dean. These movies entertain our wildest fancies, but it’s only the “chick flicks” that are automatically pushed to the lowest-tier of films because of these fantasies. 

The only equivalent I was able to find was a “guy-cry film,” which Fox headlines as “Chick Flicks for Men.” In an effort to justify these unbecoming, girly emotions, “guy-cry films” generally revolve around sports, parent-child relationships, or redemption. For the record, there are some fantastic women-driven films that are also about sports, parent-child relationships, and redemption— but these are written off as lady movies and therefore not given the credit they deserve.

Movies are not dichotomized by your sex. I am a woman, and I love “Clueless” and “Mean Girls” and “Easy A”. But I also loved “Dr. Strangelove” and “End of Watch” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. My being a woman does not guarantee that I will like or dislike a particular film.

My being a woman does not guarantee anything at all.

  • Shayan Farooq

    Shayan was creating mini documentaries profiling Pacific Asian artists for the USC Pacific Asia Museum of Pasadena. You can follow her on Twitter, but not in real life.