The Chick Flick

In the Atonement comments, Trooper got me thinking about chick flicks.

I formulated my personal definition of “chick flick” in 1999, during a viewing of Hilary and Jackie. It was after the Academy Awards showed a clip of Emily Watson where she’s in Russia, making funny quips to people who can’t understand it. It looked like a light-hearted romp.

About a third of the way through the movie I realized I had been duped. That scene, taken in context, was desperate and sad. And worse, this was a chick flick.

I believe that good movies are good movies. There are niche movies, sure, that not everyone can appreciate. (Like, I dunno, maybe Tron is too techie or was at the time. Or The Passion of the Christ was too Jesus-y to capture the atheist audience.) But I sort of resist the notion that a good movie geared to one sex isn’t going to resonate with the other. I mean, after all, you either are a chick, or you’re dealing with them all the time, right?

Romantic comedies, for example, aren’t (or shouldn’t be) chick flicks. Howard Hawks couldn’t have made a chick flick if he’d wanted to, but he could direct Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. Same for Michael Curtiz (Casablanca and Elizabeth and Essex).

And since I know plenty of chicks who hate so-called chick flicks, I’m going to stick with the idea that chick flicks target a particular type of chick.

So, for me, a “chick flick” is one about woman making each other miserable. Then, one of them contracts a terrible disease, and the other(s) all rally around supportively, sometime prolonging the misery to the actual death scene. If men are involved, it’s usually as comic, loutish and/or completely clueless characters.

That’s Hilary and Jackie. Jackie is a jerk. This is apparently due to her multiple sclerosis. Hilary coerces her husband into having sex with her, and then gets pissed when he does.

Beaches. Bette Middler and Barbara Hershey treat each other like crap and then one gets cancer.

The message seems to be “Life is miserable. Men are useless. Women are catty, but they’ll be there for you when you die.”

So, by my definition, Atonement doesn’t really qualify as a chick flick. (But you know, it probably does qualify as another kind of pic, which I’ll comment on shortly.)

However, La Vie En Rose (the biopic about Edith Piaf) has a very similar message, without the positive part about women. It might be a new subsection of “chick flick” with the added message of “Women are catty, and you’ll die alone.”

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