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Why We Love/Hate "Chick Flicks"

What's a film-loving feminist to do? Don't let the label deter. There are many films worth seeing that get pegged as chick flicks.

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For some time there has been a glimmer of good news.  There is a brand of "chick flicks" that are targeted at younger women (perhaps because it's safer to empower young women): a combination of feminism and girl power that engages the post Title IX generation.  Films like  Legally Blonde, Blue Crush, Bend it Like Beckham and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants show young, strong female characters.  But once you reach adulthood, your film counterparts are pitted against each other and characters seem to be solely focused on getting and keeping men.        

No matter how far we may have advanced in the public sphere, the feminist battle with the movie industry is not gaining ground. Quite frankly, looking the early part of 2009, things are getting worse.  The studios released several films that were easily lumped into a pattern, and not such a good one.  Films like  Bride Wars, Confessions of a Shopaholic and He's Just Not That Into You -- produced and written by both men and women -- were laced with misogyny so blatant that critics across the country took note. Anne Thompson, who has been writing about women and Hollywood for a variety of publications and currently blogs at  Thompson on Hollywood, comments, "I get very unhappy with the kind of misogyny that is so much about laughing at the foibles of women.  A lot of men seem to think that it's very amusing for women to turn on each other and behave badly."  The next couple of months don't look to be any better, if trailers for the upcoming Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Aniston films are any indication.

And yet with all the complaints about the chick flick, the genre has become the only place where women have significant roles in the studio system.  But wait, that may be changing now too. Thanks to Judd Apatow and his merry band of comedians, now we have "bromances," chick flicks without chicks.  Films like  Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up and the current  I Love You Man are embraced by the studios since they appeal to guys.

So what's a film-loving feminist to do?  Best advice would be don't let the label deter.  There are many films worth seeing that get pegged as chick flicks.  When a good film about women opens in your neighborhood you must GO on opening weekend no matter what its genre.  It's that simple. The more we support these films, the more of them will be made.  It might take a little work to find them, but every ticket makes a huge difference.  On the other hand, don't be complicit in perpetuating the trend of misogynistic films just because they are out there.  Read up on the films and know what you are spending your time and money on.  Hollywood listens to the cash register both when its full and when its not.

This article was originally posted by The Women's Media Center at www.womensmediacenter.com. The WMC is a non-profit organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, dedicated to making the female half of the world visible and powerful in the media.

Melissa Silverstein is the writer and editor of Women & Hollywood.

 
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