Oh, Cinematical, how I love thee... their recent list of problems with chick flicks is right on the money. The problems are hysterically applied, and more importantly... they're true. And thank God, they're written by a female. This list covers the location and disconnection of family, the fact that careers and relationships are not antithetical, the grand romantic gesture, and the offensively gendered idea that shopping will make everything better. Whereas I would've just been angry, author Jessica Barnes takes a rant-tastic look at chick flicks.
1. Two Kinds of Stories -- married or dead?
According to conventional Hollywood wisdom, women are only interested in trying to get married, getting married, getting divorced and then eventually dying of a horrible disease. It doesn't exactly take a Women's Studies degree to see the pattern in most feature films marketed to women -- they are centered solely on personal relationships. I'm not saying that these stories don't have value, but it can't be the only game in town, and I refuse to believe my entire life revolves around making a family, losing a family, and then keeling over after coming to terms with something.
See: Terms of Endearment, Stepmom, One True Thing... and just about any film starring a woman that has been released in the last 100 years.
2. They Make You Feel Bad about Having a Career... and being good at it.
Cut to 2007 and The Devil Wears Prada. This time our fearless heroine goes up against the dragon lady of all bosses and then ... dumps it all and runs off after her boyfriend (a character that was relatively unimportant in the original novel compared to the film version). Or How about Kate and Leopold? A bitter ad exec finds love with a time traveling aristocrat and decides to follow him back to 1876! Yeah, because who wants the stresses of the modern world? You know, like voting and equal rights.
In the world of chick flicks, successful women are by all appearances, terribly unhappy women. Heck, they are worse than unhappy, they are are alone and unloved simply by the matter of their success.
See: The Devil Wears Prada, Working Girl, and Kate and Leopold. [Although I take note with Working Girl. Melanie Griffith gets the guy and and the job, and she's an intelligent character... despite being portrayed by Melanie Griffith.]
3. The Grand Romantic Gesture...or the 'You Complete Me' Syndrome
Have you ever chased after a loved one in an airport? Stopped a wedding? Proposed in the middle of a crowded subway platform? Probably not. If you even tried half of those romantic tricks in an airport, you would be tackled by NSA agents before you even got through the gate. I've been watching movies long enough to know that the grand romantic gesture is usually the most convenient way to wrap up a story line. If you've had your two leads circling each other for two hours, you're probably looking for an economical way for them to ride off into the sunset -- enter the grand romantic gesture.
So what's so wrong with that you may ask? For starters, you could fill an Oprah audience with women lamenting the loss of a romantic spirit that never existed in the first place. Just remember, for every girl out there waiting for Lloyd Dobler to stand outside her window blaring a Peter Gabriel song, there's a guy cursing the day that John Cusack was put on this earth.
See: Jerry McGuire, Notting Hill, and Love Actually.
6. Shopping Makes Everything Alright
In the ultimate chick flick, Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts is a woman who has worked as a prostitute on the streets of L.A. Presumably she's a streetwise gal. But what's the worst thing she feels happens to her? Not the murder of one of her 'co-workers' or her best friend's drug habit. What makes her stop and re-examine her life is that she isn't allowed to shop -- because being denied access to a Rodeo Drive boutique is right up there with the great tragedies in life, I guess. Never has mindless consumption been so pronounced as in last summer's chick flick behemoth, Sex and the City. I lost count of the amount of 'ohhs' and 'awws' when Carrie is shown her new shoe closet by Prince Charming/Mr. Big -- I still gag thinking about it.
See: Pretty Woman and Sex and The City.