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You’re sitting in the back seat of a car with your best friend, you’re 13 years old and driving to hers for a sleepover. Having bought the snacks, you’re now excitedly chatting about what films you were planning to watch. Maybe it was The Proposal, maybe Legally Blonde, maybe bothYou can’t remember. Her dad, who’s driving, turns his head slightly towards you and kills the conversation with the simple observation “Oh, so you’re just watching chick flicks.”

 

Chick flicks.

 

I’m sure you can guess the condescending tone with which he said those two words. A tone that still rings in my ear each time I turn to Netflix to watch Wild Child.

 

Now films and television are a saving grace during various lockdowns and isolations because Friday nights can no longer be spent with friends at the pub, it’s film and pizza instead. But what if, one evening after another day of work, you’re not in the mood for that critically acclaimed, three-hour epic, or a Hollywood classic, or a Christopher Nolan mindbender? What if you’re “just” in the mood for Miss Congeniality? So you sit down and put it on, but there’s that condescending undertone, and it’s become a guilty pleasure.

 

This might seem a bit dramatic for what’s essentially feeling a bit tired and choosing an easy-going, comfort movie to pass the evening. But it’s no lie that the chick flick gets a bad rep, it’s looked down on, dismissed. Which is interesting to me because there doesn’t seem to be anything about the chick flick that makes it less than art. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anything discernible about chick flicks at all. Why is Footloose a musical, but Dirty Dancing a chick flick? Why is The Breakfast Club a coming-of-age story but Mean Girls not?

 

Think about it. What do Chalet Girl and Breakfast at Tiffany’s have in common other than the intended demographic? Or Pretty Woman and The Notebook? Is it the fact that they all have a good romance, and chicks love a good romance? Shakespeare often wrote about love, are they all chick flicks? Essentially the only common feature is that it’s cinema designed for women to watch (I guess that’s in the name.) But why? There isn’t a specific genre named after men, the Fast and Furious franchise just counts as ‘Action’.

 

Why isn’t there a ‘Him Film’ genre, or an ‘Enby-Telly’ section on streaming services? (other than the fact that the names aren’t quite so snappy— Dick Flick maybe?)

 

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There’s a pretty simple answer really, and it all starts in the early twentieth century with ‘woman’s pictures.’ This genre of film centres on female protagonists dealing with what was considered to be female concerns (I’ll leave that up to your imagination). Because the male demographic was the main focus, as male has been the baseline throughout history, cinema was being created for men on the whole and thus it was deemed that there needed to be a female-friendly genre that was, apparently unique. A novelty, if you will, despite the new demographic making up over half the population.

 

Although it wasn’t until the 70s that the terms ‘chick flick’ was coined, the roots in ‘woman’s pictures’ were inescapable. As with all things associated with femininity over the years, this distinction of women’s cinema over just regular old moviemaking also connoted bad cinema. Despite it now being over two decades into a new century and almost a hundred years since the birth of cinema, not much has changed. In light of this, I’m pretty sure that chick flick just isn’t cutting it anymore.

 

History lesson aside, how have we gone this long without acknowledging the merit within these films? She’s the Man and Ten Things I Hate About You taught me more about Shakespeare than school ever didWhy can’t I engage with my favourite Austen novel in the context of 90s high school students and Paul Rudd? (That one’s Clueless by the way) The thing is, I just don’t see why we have to continue labelling these wildly varying and unique films with one, deficient term. A term that has got such a bad rep that young women can’t really enthuse about these films (despite the fact that they defined much of their youth) lest they be judged for enjoying chick flicks.

 

I guess what I’m saying is that these films are straight-up fantastic, so you won’t be catching me calling them ‘guilty’ pleasures any time soon. These modern ‘woman’s pictures’ have helped define fashion and culture as well as served as accessible introductions to difficult issues of injustice across the board.

 

Perhaps this argument would be more convincing coming from someone not from the intended demographic, but I’ll be defending chick flicks until the day I die. So be quiet and let me watch 13 Going on 30 in peace.

Alice Chamings

Nottingham '21

Final year English with Creative Writing Student. Big fan of a cuppa and a cheeky cake ?
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