Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chickflicks are a disservice to one and all...

 A couple weekends ago, I finally saw a chick flick that has been recommended to me since it came out. I'm not a big chick flick watcher for a lot of reasons - and yes some of them are psychologically connected to my own "chick flick" scenario that didn't turn out so "chick flick" after all. Alas. The movie I speak of is P.S I Love You. Dah! Was that a collective sigh? You liked it, didn't you, chicks? Well, a lot of chicks did. That movie (and previously novel - books to movies - another rant for another day) encompasses everything that makes chick flicks, chick flicks. Drama, love, relationships, cheesy girl-pal humor, drama, a hot dude (and I won't argue there - hello Gerard Butler!), and undying, pure, fantastical, "true" love. Two people really, really, in love. And what does that spiteful universe do? Well it kills one of them - the man. The love.

I didn't really like it. I didn't buy it. And above all, chick flicks kinda frustrate me on a lot of levels. They're just not... real.

You're thinking "Well no kidding! Of course they're not real. What are you, completely daft?" Well... sometimes. But as much as we (chick flick watchers... and/or... a lot of chicks) "know" these movies aren't "real"... we all kinda wish they were. That's why chick flicks, even if they're just plain terrible (see: When in Rome... oh so painful), can consistently hold their own in the box office. Shore, a chick flick's never going to win an Academy Award or Golden Globe, but they're also not going to go the way of M. Knight Shyamalan's career after Airbender (I've heard... and that's enough). We like them cause we wish they were real, we want them to be real, we want the true, unrequited, beautiful, even drama-filled happy ending that every chick flick produces over and over again. And there's nothing real about it - no matter how much we want it.

So. Established. We know chick flicks aren't real. Thus let me ask you this, WHY do we expect our lives and relationships to still mimic them? Why, when we fall in love with our best guy friend, do we still cling to the hope that he will eventually fall in love with us even after he rejects our continual manifestations of our feelings baked within chocolate chip cookies, or price tagged in "Oh... I just saw this t-shirt and thought of you"? Do you think because he talks to you "like no other girl" and he's "so glad he has you to go to" it means "and I will eventually love you?" Noooot usually.

Why do we think that mutual loathing of an attractive man and an attractive woman immediately becomes a whirlwind passionate relationship because they're both "forced" to travel long distances together because she's a criminal and he's a cop so naturally, THESE are the ingredients for truly bringing forth that deeply emotional response called unconditional love (see: whatever that stupid movie was with Jennifer Anison and Gerard Butler... trying to be the romantic comedy of Mr. and Mrs. Smith... not even close). I love the mutual loathing to love storyline. Happens everyday right? Mmmm, not really. Sometimes, I guess. "I hated him and then I married him" happens... maybe. But that's the exception... not the rule (see chick flick: He's Just Not that into You... actually one of the more useful ones I have seen! I enjoyed it mucho).

Chick flicks do us all a disservice. They make us subconsciously create unrealistic and ridiculous expectations of scenario's and circumstances that they tell us are ideal environments for looooove (see: planning a man you've fallen in love with after 2 days wedding to another chick who happens to be petty and awful). They make us cling to idealistic scenarios and hold each other (particularly dudes) to a female expectation of response and desire. Let's talk about the elephant in the room: Twilight. Do you know, as much as "we know that these things aren't real", I've heard MANY women chide that their husbands "aren't like Edward. Why aren't they like Edward?" Well, BECAUSE he's NOT REAL. That guy, that guy doesn't exist in any sphere and frankly, I kind of find him a wuss. He's a female manifestation of what females think they want in a man: he's unconditionally, unequivocally, blindingly in love and adores her more than (everyone together) he adores his own life." Puh-lease. I've heard many a man comment on this particular saga in exasperation, "Dudes wouldn't react like that. That's not what a dude would do..." It's creating an unrealistic expectation in less than probable circumstances of characters that don't actually exist. This, to me, does us all a great disservice.

So here's my thing about chick flicks. They make me sad. Yep. You're delving a little into some of my vulnerabilities here so bear with me... or turn away. They make me sad because it makes me feel hopeless and alone. Many women turn to chick flicks for comfort in their times of single sadness or right after a 'break-up' to build their hopes (i.e. false hopes) back up to expecting non-realistic scenarios (including him "finally realizing we're perfect for each other and so he will fly all the way to Italy to reunite with me and beg for my love back even though he broke up with me...") Oh my friends, it's not going to happen. This, to me, is a disservice. You can have hope... but not false hope. False hope gives you a greater precipice to plunge down once reality sets back in. And reality isn't so bad... there are some good things about it... because REAL love vs. vampire love is something that DOES exist and worth looking for... it just doesn't exist in the far-fetched and far-flung scenario's fed us through Hollywood chick flicks.

That said, there are 'chick flicks' I really love: Return to Me, Notting Hill, You've Got Mail, Sweet Home Alabama, Sleepless in Seattle, and so on. They really don't make great chick flicks anymore - with average looking people (Tom Hanks? No one would call him a heart throb but everyone LOVES his chick flicks...) having average interactions that could be a little more plausible than, well, your dead husband leaving you notes every month (or so?) for a year until you get over it. It's a lovely thought... but it creates a false expectation.

I don't watch chick flicks often for a few reasons - I think it's really hard to do a good chick flick, I think it's a fine line between complete cheesy cliches and plausible scenarios (500 Days of Summer - excellent), and it creates false hopes and expectations of real life relationships or scenarios that are truly a rarity if every happening. We would like them to happen. We'd like to dream that that proud British rich man actually has a heart of gold and has fallen in love with you with the mere exchange of some witty remarks and sarcasm (oh yes, I did it) and despite your eternal vow to loathe him, find yourself loving him too as he constantly redeems himself and builds a perfect facade of exactly everything you've wanted your whole life. It's a pretty picture... but then the credits roll... and you're back to your day to day living, but now with a little bug planted in your subconscious telling you "someday your prince will come..." And he will, just perhaps not on a white horse with tickets to that thing you like (now there's a great commercial).


19 comments:

Jessica said...

First of all- agreed. Chick flicks are ridiculous. I'm not ashamed to say there are lots that I kind of like (yeah one of them might have been P.S...), but then I'll watch just about anything in the theater, however bad (Airbender, since you brought it up. I expect so much more from you, M.!). There are also lots of great ones that I love (Pride and Prejudice...though not sure why that came into your rant, especially not the Andrew Davies version that is about as true to the book as possible. The Keira Knightley one would have fit better. Anyways, my point is that Jane Austen is on a level light years about movies like "You've Got Mail" and "P.S...I Love You blah blah blah" but don't you have a degree in english? you should know that...and that's my mini-rant about Jane Austen. Oh and a chick flick that's won an Oscar? Sense and Sensibility) and, if you love "You've Got Mail" you will LOVE "Shop Around the Corner", the first movie version of that story with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Mitchell and the Wizard of Oz (I forgot his real life name)- it's everything that a chick flick (a degrading term that really doesn't fit this gem of film-making) should be, and it's about more than romance- I just don't have the words to tell you how wonderful it is. It has been one of my favorites for a long time (and it's on youtube if you're really interested and don't feel like renting or buying).

Anyways, I got way off track here since what I'm really commenting to tell you is that yes, in a segment of the population that falls...a little to the left of the Bell curve we shall say...I'm sure Twilight does create unrealistic expectations. Nearly everyone that I know personally recognizes that Edward is a bizarre concoction of Stephanie Meyer's hormone-crazed imagination (which just made me think...how do we think her husband feels about this? poor guy). People were laughing out loud in the theater at the last movie whenever he went on a romantic rant. So. The point. I know Edward isn't real, I know chick flicks are insane. The only fictional man who gives me an inflated expectation of someday romance is Jim Halpert. I can't help it. I know he's not real. I just wish...that someday...Emily Blunt would disappear OK?!?

I know that wasn't worth all the blathering that came before, and that I started off with a "first of all..." and never got around to the "second...". How about this: Second, you haven't seen a bad chick flick until you've seen either "Made of Honor" or "Love Happens" or "The Accidental Husband". "Love Happens" was definitely the worst of those- somehow Aaron Eckhart ruins every movie he's in. Either that or he purposefully chooses terrible scripts.

Anyways, I could blabber about movies all day long so I'll cut the nonsense off here.

jaime said...

1. I LOVE that commercial! I have it saved on my IPhone to watch whenever I choose.

2. The Last Airbender was awesome! I've seen it twice. I don't care what the critics say and I hope he makes the next film. M. Night has skilz I tell you.

3. I somewhat agree with you on the chick flick department. Their predictable and cheesy. I'm more of an action flick type girl...but then again there are moments when I just need to watch a romantic movie. Here are my top favs that I own:
Ever After, 300 (half naked men...that's all I need to say on that), Down With Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Hitch, Ladyhawke, Pillow Talk, Walk to Remember, She's the Man (do teen movies count as chick flicks?? Cause I love me some Amanda Bynes!).

Lastly, I'm glad I'm not dating an Edward (he's a little girly), though Scott did tell me that if I fell in a river and he calculated out in his head what the odds were for him dying to try to save me, he wouldn't jump in if it were to cost him his life...maybe it's the chick flick in me, but I think he should at least try.

Annie said...

OK, first, I did love PS I Love You. Sorry. But mostly I totally agree with this entire post. I do like me a decent chick flick, I agree they're fewer and far between and most of them are ridiculous. I do loathe Twilight. And I completely agree that they are messing up women's expectations of love and marriage. I might have my own rant, er, post about it soon.

Andrea Jolene said...

Jessica - Jane Austen and an attempt to make it into a movie (see: pending books to movies rant) are different. Ha! There ARE some "good" chick flicks for sure (as I mentioned) - and all ya'll have named some I forgot. Excellent ones!

But mostly, it's about unrealistic expectations and cheese. They just don't make them like they used to (see: Jane Austen NOVELS... and PS: I've read a lot of things in my day as an "English Major" and first, I can tell you that Jane Austen isn't the definitive "make or break" English major novelist. Try some Vonnegut, Stienbeck, James, oh heavens Milton and Shakespeare! and second, expecations of English majors are ridiculous 1. You must have read every novel ever written and 2. You are a wiz at spelling and never have typos. These things are lies. ;)).

Andrea Jolene said...

Jamie - Oooo you named some good ones! Yeeeeah, they don't make them how they used to (and how is 300 a chick flick?...guess I had to of seen it?)

Jessica said...

whoa whoa whoa- Pretty sure I never implied that Austen was the end-all-be-all of English authors, just that she (and what I really mean here is not "she" at all, but the 90's incarnation of her most famous novel which of course was not made by her, but which I maintain is wonderfully faithful to the spirit and letter of the book- but I await the coming rant on that topic with glee) does not belong in the same category as Twilight (in my opinion). No offense was meant by bringing up your English background, just that I felt like I was preaching to the choir.

And Kurt Vonnegut happens to be one of my favorite writers, thank you very much, though I think James is over-rated. I'm flawed, what can I say?

And I'm a librarian, I know all about stereotypes :)

AND...no, wait, I'm done actually. Thanks for enlivening my work day.

(oh, and whatever you think of my nonsense, you really should try to watch "Shop Around the Corner" someday)

Rachelle said...

You mention "I hated him, and then I married him." Isn't reality a little more like "I married him, and then I hated him?"

jaime said...

Well...maybe 300 isn't a true chick flick, but I've yet to meet a guy that likes it more than me and I'm a chick. It's got men with the most glorious abs ever seen kicking Persian butt! That totally skews a woman's view on love...those abs aren't even attainable for a normal man.

Andrea Jolene said...

Jes - Darn strait!! Just kidding. My rant is mainly about the expectations... I think Pride and Prejudice (both versions) are grand movies... but there's no Mr. Darcy. Not really; and many women want their "Mr. Darcy" or their "Edward" or their "Spartan ab man", etc. Unfortunately.We talk of unrealisit expecations of beauty society places on women; and sometimes neglect to acknowledge the unrealistic expectations placed upon men. Chick flicks do this more than any other genre I've seen.

So that's mainly my chick flick gripe - the unrealistic expectations. Not the quality of the movies... since I mentioned some chick flicks I really do love (Return to Me, and I really do love Pride and Prejudice). I'd never say Twilight and Pride and Prejudice are "quality comparable"... but they do both share the "unrealistic expectation" flaw... in my opinion.

Jaime - mmmm, 300 men of abs.

Andrea Jolene said...

OH... and Sense and Sensibility (again, I love it) won for Best Screenplay Adaptation... not film... though it was nominated. But ya know, ONE chick flick in the history of chick flicks. ;) Oh and... I believe it was categorized under "drama"... The End. ;)

Jessica said...

Best screenplay is still pretty amazing (go Emma Thompson!). But that gets me on another (short) rant- where did Ang Lee go so wrong?!

Clearly I need to start lobbying to add "Best Chick Flick" to the Academy's roster.

Sumiko said...

Chick flicks = vomit. Twilight = double vomit. However, I think that honest-to-goodness real-life love is way better than chick flick love. It's a lot more fun, there's more laughter, there's more adventure, and usually a lot less unnecessary drama. If we acknowledge that chick flicks are mentally vacant escapism, we'll all be fine. :)

Becca said...

So... I have to say both Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with your post. I'll admit I used to buy into all this hook, line, and sinker. I was the biggest chick-flicker out there. But ever since I fell in love for real, I can hardly stand to watch most romantic movies. At least, not seriously. There's always that voice in my head that reminds me, "Becca, it's just a movie--this is not an expression of real love, it's an approximation or an exaggeration of it." Then I can enjoy it.

And... also, I think that what makes so many classics successful love stories is that they're not actually love stories--there's always a bigger picture, and the love story is the means by which to get you there. Pride & Prejudice is titled such because it's a character study of communities who are both proud and prejudiced. There just also happens to be a love story. My biggest irk is when people (the movie industry mostly) reduce the classics to trite love stories instead of the full-bodied social commentaries they actually are.

Craig Barlow B. said...

Andrea, I am so impressed with you. Honestly, this is superb writing. I wish I had discovered your writing talent when I worked for the newspaper, because I would have begged you to write a column. I am very impressed.

Second, I comletely agree. This is something I've thought of for years, which still hasn't cured me of my not-so-secret love for chick flicks. Yes, I love chick flicks. I know that is hard to imagine, considering I'm uber-masculine in every other regard, but this is the only chink in my hyper-masculine armor. Still, I agree. I think chick flicks leave people with false expectations. When those unrealistic conditions are not met, then it's a deal breaker. A lot of deals get broken over information gleaned from chick flicks. If not deal breakers, they are at least causes of unwarranted disappointment. Anyway, I agree. I'm the only guy who loves most of these movies (at least the old excellent ones, of which While You Were Sleeping is king) and so I'm the only guy who ever has false expecations on earth. And that is a fact. Yes, yes it is.

Andrea Jolene said...

Craig

Erm, that's probably the top compliment anyone has ever given me, ever. Truly! Easily makes the top 3... amongst such favorites as "I love your style..." and "Did you know short people are generally smarter too?" Gems. (Thank you!)

Also - you go right ahead and love'em! Just promise me this... only love the good ones. I know I'm asking a lot as most chick flicks will progressivley get worse... but I promise you'll be in a better place for it. Trust me... must like Jasmine trusts Aladdin (wtf?)

Andrea Jolene said...

much... not must. Ahem...

Marisa Jean said...

All I watch are chick flicks. Guess I live in fantasy land, but they make me happy and truthfully, I think they make me work harder at my relationship with my husband. For me, true love does exist, and it's even better (with a little bit of fighting because we're all human) than the movies.

e said...

Andrea! I'm blog-stalking you. Loved this post.

Andrea Jolene said...

E! Just know... since you're stalking me I'm gonna stalk you! Thems the ropes!