Background 

When you hear the phrase “chick flick” or “romantic comedy” as a category for a movie, what pops into your head? Do you instantly think of Molly Ringwald and Pretty in Pink? Or do you grab some tissues and gravitate towards something like The NotebookNo matter what movie comes to mind when you think of a classic, full on chick flick or romantic comedy most of them have just about the same concept and theme throughout them. Girl wants the guy, guy wants the girl, guy changes his mind, girl changes her mind, and one of them might fall in love with someone else at some point in the movie. Girl does some crazy things to get the guy back and vice versa. This back and forth situation between the guy and the girl could potentially happen for the majority of the movie.

A Ryan Gosling meme

A Ryan Gosling meme 

Basically, it is a roller coaster of emotions until the end where you are screaming at the actors and actresses to just stay together for good or kiss and make up already. Usually in movies deemed as chick flicks there is that happy ending where all is right again and the couple lives “happily ever after.” Chick flicks could be thought of as modifications of various fairy tales with that typical fairy tale ending. We all know that ending where Prince Charming comes in, resolves any issues, and of course: he gets the girl.

The Problem 

In my opinion, an issue with classifying movies as chick flicks is that it makes women feel like that is what they should want or strive to have. Some of these movies could potentially give women the impression that they should be running around all over a city for a guy and getting him to marry her. Or even the idea that women need to be rescued by a man, because women “depend on men.” I think that the messages being sent to viewers from these types of movies devalues women in the sense that they are being stereotyped in chick flick movies by the roles that the women play in them.

Susan Heyn wrote a blog about how chick flicks are bad for society and women as well. She stated, “The fact is that these films, targeted toward women audience members, are a direct reflection of how our society views the female gender. Stereotypes reign supreme in these films, and the abundance of them poses a problem. Collectively looking at films of this genre, we can see that our ideals and standards of behavior haven’t changed all that much from what they were before the feminist movement: women are supposed to be primarily interested in romantic relationships, getting married, having children, and not having much of a life of their own.” Going off of what Heyn said, these films made to appeal to women could potentially be doing more harm than good. Not only are women being stereotyped, as well as men in some cases, but these movies also possibly lead to some unrealistic and high expectations or ideas about romance, relationships, and eventually marriage. 

Pretty Woman 

In the media there are four main portrayals of men and women. One portrayal in particular is women’s dependence and men’s independence. This portrayal is defined as when women depend on men and essentially aren’t able to do everything on their own without the help of a man. While men are the ones who are seen as independent or sovereign. An example of this portrayal can be seen in the movie Pretty Woman. If you are unfamiliar with this movie, Julie Roberts plays a prostitute who gets paid to accompany Richard Gere to various social events. Gere is a rich and successful business man that gives Roberts more than just money, but a complete make-over as well including a new wardrobe that is better accustomed to Gere’s upper class lifestyle and the luxury of staying in a fancy hotel.

This movie is an example of women’s dependence and men’s independence, because not only does Gere provide a lot for Roberts that she probably would not have achieved on her own, but she is also a prostitute who literally relies on men as her customers to make money. Without men wanting to pay her for those services, she would be out on the street without a job and not making any money.

Pretty Woman conforms with this media portrayal and gendered norm of men and women, because Roberts does rely on Gere for financial reasons and she ends up falling for him. As stated in Gendered Lives by Julia T. Wood, “Consider first the prevalence of depictions of girls and women as dependent and boys and men as independent.” Roberts in Pretty Woman is seen depending on him for many things throughout the movie while Gere is not just financially independent, but a powerful, strong business man and upper class figure as well.

However, this movie also challenges gendered norms. Gere doesn’t see Roberts as just a naive and vulnerable woman that is relying on him for everything. He sees her as more than just a prostitute or a woman in need of money and as the person she is on the inside as well. From her time with Gere, Roberts comes to the realization that she has so much potential and just how smart, independent, and strong she truly is. By the end of the movie she knows that she is more than just the prostitute that people see her as and that she does not have to continue to live within that criticized stereotype or partake in that lifestyle and job. Although this particular movie both conforms to and challenges gendered norms from the type of media portrayal discussed, it is also the ultimate idea of a chick flick that was mentioned in the beginning. Pretty Woman has tons of romance, comedy, and conflict, but in the end the guy does get the girl.

Conclusion 

So what is the big deal with chick flicks after all? While they may be very entertaining and at times easy to relate to the stereotyping of women and even men in them is something that I disagree with. The unrealistic aspects about love and relationships that people could possibly take away from them is also unhealthy. Marisa Meltzer wrote in Five Problems With Chick Flicks, “A study that came out in late 2008 from Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University claimed that romantic comedies do indeed promote unhealthy expectations in their fans. The relationships had “both highly idealistic and undesirable qualities,” the researchers found. Problems are solved easily with a sweeping gesture, since they “have no real negative long-term impact on relationship functioning.” Teenage fans were especially susceptible to buying the romcom myth and having unrealistic expectations for their own relationships.” The presumptions from these types of movies can make it difficult for reality to be differentiated from fictitious situations. 

Chick flicks and romantic comedies have been around for quite some time now. It seems to me like they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, at least not while there is still an interest shown in them. This category for movies is one that people should care about and be cautious of, because of the unrealistic expectations that they can lead to. This is something important to all of us, because it could potentially have an impact on your relationship or experience in general with a man or woman if they take the ideas from a movie like a chick flick to heart. In addition to that, it is crucial to recognize the stereotypes being portrayed in these movies and avoid them by understanding that women don’t need to be dependent on men and that they can be equally as independent as men. For the future we as a society need to break free from these traditional stereotypes of men and women that have been embedded in the media, but specifically in movies. I think it is time to see less chick flicks being put out there and more women playing roles that are typically played by men, such as in action movies. I definitely believe that movie producers and creators should be all out of chick flick and romantic comedy movie ideas by now. So please, give us something new! 

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