It’s no secret that chick flicks have a bad name. They conjure images of teary women and irritated boyfriends who are only watching Sleepless in Seattle because their girlfriends pressured them into enduring two hours of romance and comedy.
Smart Women in Cinema
Women’s cinema has been long dismissed as trivial or irrelevant; similarly, writers like Nora Epron (think Julia & Julia, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally) have been regarded by film critics as “lesser talents.” But chick flicks, or films that center around the emotional lives of women, need not be rejected flat-out. Some critics say that such films can provide valuable clues into the values and concerns of women in their cultural moment.
As Suzanne Ferris and Mallory Young write in their book Chick Flicks: Contemporary Women at the Movies: “[C]hick flicks have been accused of reinscribing traditional attitudes and reactionary roles for women. On the other hand, they have been embraced as pleasurable and potentially liberating entertainments, assisting women in negotiating the challenges of contemporary life.”
Films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and others (even those below) should be subject to critique by cultural theorists, feminists and viewers alike – but before we roll our eyes at the tear-jerker or the romantic comedy , perhaps we should ask why ‘chick flick’ remains a rather ugly epithet in the cinematic lexicon. Why would a film like Transformers, say, be subject to any less criticism than a film like Dr. T and the Women?
Thelma & Louise, Boys on the Side and Working Girl, Oh My!
- Thelma & Louise (1991): Roger Ebert describes Thelma & Louise as a traditional road picture – with a twist. “The heroes are women this time.” Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) set off on the road together and become targets of a man-hunt after Louise shoots a man who attempts to rape Thelma. The film offers an intriguing look into the lives and minds of these two women who are searching for freedom.
- Boys on the Side (1995): Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker and Drew Barrymore star in this (let’s face it) tear-jerker about women who find home in each other. The film feels authentic, loving, utterly humane – I missed the characters by the end of the film, and I suspect that you will too.
- Working Girl (1988): Melanie Griffith kicks corporate butt in this late 80s film about a smart secretary, Tess McGill, who finds her way in the business world.
- June Bug (2005): Amy Adams won the Sundance Film Festival: Special Jury Prize for Acting in her breakout role in this minimalist but powerful study of middle-class family life in North Carolina. Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) is the classic “outsider” who meets this eccentric and complex North Carolina family for the first time.
- Juno (2007): Michael Cera is adorable – but that’s not why you should watch this film. Juno is smart, precocious and surprisingly sophisticated for a teenager. When she becomes pregnant, Juno decides to seek out an adoptive parent to take care of her offspring.