February 9, 2009

Is it Sexist to Hate on Chick Flicks?

Hello, have you read this article here? It's about chick flicks. More precisely, it's about why we should "kill the chick flick." Don't get me wrong, I hated Made of Honour, and I haven't even seen every movie the article discusses, because some are not even released yet, but the article creates this false dichotomy between chick flicks and "feminist" movies, but what the hell is a feminist movie, I'd like to know! Feminism is not a monolith; it has many different and sometimes conflicting theories and messages. Not only that, but feminist taste is ANYTHING but monolithic. For example, I HATED the Sex and the City Movie, but a very good feminist friend of mine loved it. When she said that, I didn't think this disqualified her from being a feminist, I thought that we had different taste in movies. Simply put, I thought the Sex and the City movie dragged on too long and relied on gross-out gags for humour While it did not necessarily fit in with my personal feminist ethos, I also found some good feminist messages in it. For example, the fact that Samantha ends up alone and happy to be alone is a marked improvement over the show, where closure is supposedly produced in the final episode by giving all four women a heterosexual male mate. Yeah, half of the movie was carried by fashion, but fashion is art, and the people who say it's not, in my experience, are misogynistic jerks who under-value everything historically associated more with women than with men in modern Western culture.

What really pisses me off about this article is that it doesn't consider that so-called "chick flicks" could be a valuable form of social parody. Women are obsessed with being skinny and getting married in these films and this is a reflection of how contemporary society tells us we should be. And while it's debatable how well films like 27 Dresses do this, why do we have to assume they are completely vapid from the beginning because they are aimed at women? They is usually at some point some sort of didactic critique of these internalised bourgeois values that make women anorexic and neurotic in my experience with chick flicks. For example, in 27 Dresses, the protagonist sort of realizes that being the maid of honour for friends who weren't really that close to her was stupid. She was being used. How does she deal with this? When she finally gets married, she makes every one of those women wear the exact horrible dress they made her wear. It's not a profound rebellion, but it's there. She learns a lesson; being obsessed with weddings was a way to distract from a shitty life where she did a job she was over-qualified for and had a boss she thought she was in love with her actually just used her as a dry-cleaning pick-up and delivery service.

Bride Wars, as well, could be interpreted as a homosocial female buddy flick. A film that illustrates how women lose their friendships with each other by focusing too much on heterosexist rights of passage like weddings. Why, might we ask, is having the perfect wedding so important to these women that they would destroy a friendship for it? The film, regardless of how well it critiques such discourses, illustrates the product of young girls being socialized with Barbie wedding gowns and to be obsessed with their "special day."

Is there no place for female satire in this world? That's what I'd like to know. I actually think this might be the real problem, because in order to see something as a satire of a specific group of type of person, you have to take this group of type of person seriously to begin with. Maybe chick flicks aren't the problem; maybe it's that most people, including the author of that article on chick flicks, don't take women seriously enough to satirize them. Maybe they don't see Kate Hudson as an exaggeration and an attempt at a humourous critique when she's obsessing over her wedding dress in Bride Wars instead of her high-powered legal job....I hope one day we can take women seriously enough to satirise them and for society to get it. After all, no one thought Tropic Thunder, Wedding Crashers or Stepbrothers were supposed to be realistic reflections of men in our society - they were satirical, even if not always clever. Women will only be equal when we can make fun of them too...

2 comments:

Steph said...

A certain best friend of mine once made me go see Made of Honour.... For the purposes of anonymity, let's just call her Dalta Shicaire. That was two hours of my life I will never get back. So thanks, Dalta.

Rants, I agree with you on the SATC flick. It went for all the cheap gags and annoying cliches (montages of ill-suited assistant-hopefuls, montages of ill-suited fashion choices, montages of wedding dresses), etc. Ugh. I am not sure how they are going to milk a second movie out of this franchise...

How about a list of your favourite "chick flicks". I'll start: my favourite is "A League of Their Own". Does that count?

rantsalamode said...

"A League of Their Own" is amazing! That movie made me a feminist! I looved it. I made my parents take me to see it in theatres. Gina Davis became my HERO! I will for sure make a list of my favourite chick flicks. Good idea!