Chick flick is a slang term, sometimes used pejoratively, for the film genre catered specifically to women's interests, and is marketed towards women demographics. They generally tends to appeal more to a younger female audience and deals mainly with love and romance. Although many types of films may be directed towards a female audience, the term "chick flick" is typically used only in reference to films that contain personal drama and emotion or themes that are relationship-based (although not necessarily romantic, as films may focus on parent-child or friend relationships). Chick flicks often are released en masse around Valentine's Day. Feminists such as Gloria Steinem have objected to terms such as "chick flick" and the related genre term "chick lit", and a film critic has called it derogatory.
Generally, a chick flick is a film designed to have an innate appeal to women, typically young women. Defining a chick flick is, as The New York Times has stated, more of a parlor game than a science. These films are generally held in popular culture as having formulaic, paint-by-numbers plot lines and characters. This makes usage of the term "problematic" for implying "frivolity, artlessness, and utter commercialism", according to ReelzChannel. However, several chick flicks have received high critical acclaim for their stories and performances. For example, the 1983 film Terms of Endearment received Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role. More recently, the film La La Land (called a chick flick in some circles), featuring both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, won Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Both of these actors were well known for their roles in chick flicks before jumping to the academy level.
Some frequent elements of chick flicks include having a female protagonist, thematic use of the color pink (along with metaphorical allusions of the color), and romance and/or dating-based storylines. Longtime producer Jerry Bruckheimer has remarked about the plots, "How do you cope with money and love?"
Women are typically portrayed in chick flicks as sassy, noble victims, or klutzy twentysomethings. Romantic comedies (rom-coms) are often also chick flicks. However, rom-coms are typically respected more than chick flicks because they are designed to appeal to men and women.
Female MSN.com commentator Kim Morgan has written,
[C]inema just wouldn't be the same without movies for and about women. And we don't just mean movies about pretty women, but all women and their issues – something many guys don't usually have the patience for in real life. That's what sisters are for, right? Right... sisters or movies.
The term "chick flick" was not widely used until the 1980s and 1990s, but was probably first coined in the early 1970's by Brian Callaghan of Montreal Canada during a discussion of movies in a school yard. It has its roots in the "women's pictures" of the early twentieth century, which portrays the woman as a victim and housewife, and later the film noir of the 1940s and early 1950s, which portrays the threat of sexualized women. In the 1950s, many women who were in the workforce during World War II faced the transition back into the home. Brandon French notes that the women's films of the 1950s "shed light on a different cluster of issues and situations women faced in their transition from the forties to the sixties: romance, courtship, work, marriage, sex, motherhood, divorce, loneliness, adultery, alcoholism, widowhood, heroism, madness, and ambition."
The 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's, commonly known as one of the "classic" films from the golden age of cinema, is sometimes considered an early chick flick due to common elements such as dealing with loneliness, obsessive materialism, and happy endings. Author Molly Haskell has suggested that chick flicks are very different from the women's films of the 1940s and 1950s in that they now "sing a different tune." She feels that they are "more defiant and upbeat, post-modern and post-feminist."
In the U.S. in the 1980s, a succession of teenage drama pictures also labeled as chick flicks were released, many by director John Hughes. These often had a different and more realistic tone than previous chick flicks, with dramatic elements such as abortion and personal alienation being included.
Several chick flicks have been patterned after the story of Cinderella and other fairy tales (e.g. A Cinderella Story, Ever After, and Pretty Woman), or even Shakespeare in the case of She's the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You. In addition, a large number are adapted from popular novels (e.g. The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada) and literary classics (e.g. Little Women). While most films that are considered chick flicks are lighthearted, some suspense films also fall under this category, such as What Lies Beneath.
After the blockbuster success of the 2008 drama/romance film Twilight, Paul Dergarabedian of Media By Numbers remarked, "[t]he word 'chick flick' is going to have to be replaced by big box-office girl-power flick" and that "[t]he box-office clout of the female audience is just astounding, and it's been an underserved audience for way too long". He also said, "they have no trouble finding money for the things they're passionate about." According to Fandango.com, more than 75% of Twilight's opening-weekend audience was female.
Criticism of the term
The term chick flick has generated several negative responses from the modern feminist community. Most criticisms of the genre concentrate on the negative consequences that arise from gendering certain interests, in this case film. Author of The Chick Flick Paradox: Derogatory? Feminist? or Both?, Natalia Thompson, states that chick flicks are "an attempt to lump together an entire gender’s interests into one genre."
While the tailoring of interests may seem helpful and natural, many critics argue that unnecessary gendering can have negative consequences on many different social groups. There is evidence from Russian social scientist Natal'ia Rimashevskaia that gender stereotypes further perpetuated by the media can lead to discrimination against women and limit their "human and intellectual potential."
More criticisms of the term arise from actual content of the films in the chick flick genre and how the content affects society's perception of women. Some say that chick flicks are micro-aggressions. Micro-aggressions are actions or exchanges that degrade a person based on his or her membership in a "race, gender, age, and ability."
Critique of the genre
Despite the genre's popular successes, some film critics take issue with the content most chick flicks have in common. Although the subcategories represent different plot lines, all five[which?] have several characteristics in common. Many chick flicks can have the "ironic, self-deprecating tone" which film theorist Hilary Radner associates with chick lit. This tone is one of the defining characteristics of the genre, and many[quantify] feel that it lacks substance compared to other genres.[need quotation to verify] Radner also goes on to say the genre is "incredibly heteronormative and white-washed." These common characteristics of the genre can lead to criticism from minority groups and social-justice activists. More issues with the genre emerge from the opinion that chick flicks play to every woman's "patriarchal unconscious".
In her article Structural Integrity, Historical Reversion, and the Post-9/11 Chick Flick, Diane Negra focuses on several romantic comedies, deemed to be chick flicks, set in New York City after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. She claims that the films "centralize female subjectivity but more compellingly undertake political work to stabilize national identity post-9/11." Political and social upheaval following the attacks led to a need for films that show the importance of protecting gender and family norms, or "ideological boundaries", as opposed to the emphasis on "survivalism" and "homeland security" used to protect national boundaries, seen in the action films at the time. Juxtaposed with the "politically innocent" genre of the pre-9/11 period, the films are rife with political undertones that are meant "to stabilize national identity post-9/11".
While most chick flicks center around a romantic conquest, Alison Winch ("We Can Have It All") writes about films she calls "girlfriend flicks". These movies emphasize the relationships between friends instead of focusing on a love connection; examples include Bride Wars and Baby Mama.
According to Winch,
Girlfriend flicks often have savvy, "nervous," female voice-overs mirroring typical romantic comedies, but addressing female spectators in their assumption of the mutual minefield of negotiating relationships, body, work, family, depression—issues prevalent in conduct, diet, and self-help books marketed specifically to women.
Winch also states that girlfriend flicks criticize "second wave feminism's superficial understanding of female solidarity" by showing "conflict, pain, and betrayal acted out between women". By emphasizing the "complexities of women's relationships", the girlfriend flick breaks the mold for the usual chick flick and allows the genre to gain a bit of depth.
The following films have been characterized as chick flicks by some commentators:
- Love Story (1970)
- The Way We Were (1973)
- An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
- Terms of Endearment (1983)
- Sixteen Candles (1984)
- Dirty Dancing (1987)
- Beaches (1988)
- Steel Magnolias (1989)
- When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
- Pretty Woman (1990)
- Ghost (1990)
- The Bodyguard (1992)
- Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
- Mad Love (1995)
- Waiting to Exhale (1995)
- The First Wives Club (1996)
- My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
- Titanic (1997)
- There's Something About Mary (1998)
- How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
- One True Thing (1998)
- Practical Magic (1998)
- You've Got Mail (1998)
- 10 Things I Hate about You (1999)
- The Story of Us (1999)
- Where the Heart Is (2000)
- Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
- Legally Blonde (2001)
- The Princess Diaries (2001)
- Mean Girls (2004)
- The Notebook (2004)
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
- The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
- The Lake House (2006)
- Enchanted (2007)
- 27 Dresses (2008)
- Sex and the City (2008)
- Twilight (2008)
- The Proposal (2009)
- Sex and the City 2 (2010)
- Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
- Tall Girl (2019)
- Chick lit
- Feminist film theory
- Female buddy film
- "Love means never having to say you're sorry"
- Women in film
- Women's cinema
- Woman's film
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Terms of Endearment shares with films Beaches, Steel Magnolias, and One True Thing the popular status of melodramatic 'chick-flick'.
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Radner, Hilary (2010). Neo-Feminist Cinema: Girly Films, Chick Flicks, and Consumer Culture. Routledge. ISBN 9781136995996. Retrieved 2019-01-01.
As 'chick lit,' both novels have in common - unlike other genres directed at women readers, such as format romances - an ironic, self-deprecating tone [...].
- Radner, Hilary (2011). Neo-Feminist Cinema: Girly Films, Chick Flicks, and Consumer Culture. New York, New York: Routledge. pp. 117–119. ISBN 978-0-415-87773-2.
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- Winch, Alison (2012). "We Can Have It All". Feminist Media Studies. 12: 69–82. doi:10.1080/14680777.2011.558349.
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Officer manages to be one of those rare films that deftly treads the line between guy movie and “chick-flick”.
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- James Berardinelli (1995). "Waiting to Exhale". reelviews.net. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
No doubt about it -- this is a "women's movie" (or, as it's alternatively referred to, a "chick-flick")
- Spindle, Les (August 5, 2009). "The First Wives Club -- Theater Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
The menopausal chick-flick "The First Wives Club" (1996), based on the novel by Olivia Goldsmith, primarily demonstrated that mediocrity needn't preclude boxoffice success
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- Beyrer, Bill. "The Notebook - Review". Cinemablend.com. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
The Notebook is a chick-flick. Not just any kind of chick-flick, but the kind of chick-flick your parents would like.
- Mele, Rick. "The Proposal". AskMen.com. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
this is a chick-flick so Andrew’s choice and what yours might have been aren’t necessarily going to match up
- "The Movie Report Archive: June 2009". mrbrownmovies.com. June 19, 2009. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
(quote) there is something to be said for such a relentlessly by-the-numbers chick-flick programmer that is nonetheless a breezily enjoyable sit
- "Top 10 Worst Chick Flicks". Time. May 26, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
Sex and the City 2 hits theaters on May 27, 2010, and already the news isn't good. TIME takes a look at some other not-so-great films that have been cruelly pitched at female audiences
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- Negra, Diane (2008). "Structural Integrity, Historical Reversion, And The Post-9/11 Chick Flick". Feminist Media Studies. 8 (1): 51–68. doi:10.1080/14680770701824902.
- Radner, Hilary. Neo-Feminist Cinema : Girly Films, Chick Flicks And Consumer Culture. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
- Rimashevskaia, Natalia (2008). "Gender Stereotypes And The Logic Of Social Relations". Russian Social Science Review. 49 (3): 35–48. doi:10.1080/10611428.2008.11065289.
- Thompson, Natalia M (2007). "The Chick Flick Paradox: Derogatory? Feminist? Or Both?". Off Our Backs. 37 (1): 43.
- Winch, Alison (2012). "We Can Have It All". Feminist Media Studies. 12 (1): 69–82. doi:10.1080/14680777.2011.558349.