You know the kind of movies I mean. They inevitably star Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl. Most involve a wedding, a boyfriend or, usually, both. And they’re often just bad movies. They are what we call “chick flicks.”
That odious term now seems to describe all films about women, including those that were made before anyone was marketing movies to “chicks.” Even Academy Award winners such as “Terms of Endearment” and “Thelma and Louise” are labeled chick flicks on movie lists all over the Internet. If a film has a female-centric story, it will inevitably be called a chick flick.
Films about men are not called “dude flicks.” They are just movies.
Hollywood will always make terrible films. But, because there are so few movies that star women, especially in the summer blockbuster season, a terrible movie about men does not mean the same thing in Hollywood as a terrible movie about women. In this box-office-centric world, where fewer movies about women get made in the first place, such films are held to a higher standard. Chick flicks taint all movies about women, even ones that are not regressive and demeaning.
I want Hollywood to stop making these formulaic films and branding all movies starring women, good and bad, as chick flicks.
I wish I could say that the worst chick flick offenders don’t make money. Some do. That’s because they are usually films with relatively small budgets that can do well enough on opening weekend until bad word-of-mouth seeps out. But they sell enough tickets for the number-crunchers to keep repeating the formula.
Chick flicks have created a kind of girl ghetto where all films about women have to fight for respect among reviewers and at the box office. When “Bridesmaids” opened last year, news stories focused on its raunchy content, in part to persuade men to see it. But you never see the reverse. It is assumed that women will go see movies about men.
So we are stuck with chick flicks because Hollywood still thinks that the girl-gets-guy formula is the only thing that interests women. And when we revolt and don’t see the films, we get branded with the standard Hollywood line — women just don’t go to the movies.
Maybe we wouldn’t have to stage a revolt if Hollywood stopped making chick flicks.
Melissa Silverstein is the founder and editor of Women and Hollywood and the co-founder and artistic director of the Athena Film Festival.
Read more from Outlook, including our 2011 spring cleaning.
Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.