The release this weekend of Bridesmaids, from the Judd Apatow comedy factory, started a lot of discussions about whether or not men will go see movies starring and created by women. That a lot of dudes stood up and went “yeah, I'm a dude and I'll go see that movie” may be more a function of it being a Judd Apatow factory movie than an outbreak of gender progressivism, but fuck it. Rome wasn't built in a day, dudes went to see a movie written by women, Bridesmaids made money. All the hand-wringing turned out to be for nothing. But let us, for fuck's sake, retire the phrase “chick flick.”
It's a problematic term because it's so nebulous and, for lack of a better word, broad. Everyone's got a different definition, be it the “yah bro” backwards-baseball-cap-with-red-plastic-drink-cup version (roughly “anything with chicks as anything other than a trophy or sex fantasy”) or the one this girl I went on one date with proffered defensively/defiantly: “I don't really care about movies, I like chick flicks” (I was polite, but there was no second date). Depending who you ask, it's restricted to movies with Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl in them, or it's any movie with a woman in the lead. It's nearly always a diminutive, and almost certainly owes the longevity of its use to the fact that it rhymes. “Chick flick.” It's snappy. Sharp consonants, two syllables. And utterly devoid of meaning.
There are a few reasons I hate the phrase “chick flick” so much. I almost never personally use the word “flick” to talk about movies, just like I almost never use the word “film” (the latter is something I'm trying to reintegrate, because there are whole conversations you can't have without using, for example, the phrase “an Ingmar Bergman film,” because there's no other way to describe what that dude made, he made films, just like Robert Bresson, Satyajit Ray, and a handful of other people . . . anyway, enough of that shit, back to the world “flick.”) That's not the problem with the phrase, though. I can get over my personal shit. It's the shortcut to thinking, jettisoning nuance and specificity for the sake of simplicity. It'd be one thing if this was an actual term any two people were able to actually define the same way. But in this case it's like, “Huh huh huh, fuck that shit, that's a chick flick,” and not only do you sound like a fucking retard, you haven't conveyed anything.
Most of the time, I'll grant, people are talking about a couple specific kinds of pictures:
1—a romantic comedy where the boy-crazy, materialistic, pratfall-prone pathological liar heroine gets some dude to de-nut himself and fall in love with her.
2—tragic melodramas where everyone dies at the end
3—revenge things where the chick wins and the dudes lose
4—anything with lesbians in it that isn't porn
5—anything with subtitles in it that doesn't feature Asian people beating the fucking shit out of each other.
The problem with these archetypes is that with the exception of 1) and maybe 4) these end up describing lots of things that aren't “chick flicks” and I'd submit that chicks shouldn't have to take the blame for 1). That description is of a bad movie, irrespective of gender. Those kinds of pictures, which nearly every actress between the ages of 18 and 40 gets talked into doing by her lizard fuckface agent, get made because they reinforce all kinds of shit that's convenient for multinational corporations to reinforce: materialism, heteronormativity, hewing to tradition, etc. Audiences go to see them because they don't challenge anything about the way they see the world, and studios keep making them because audiences keep going to see them.
That one specific, cynically motivated, utterly fucking horrible kind of movie is what passes for a romantic comedy nowadays, which is a goddamn shame because there have been some truly wonderful romantic comedies made over the years. It's why it's very difficult to get a lot of guys to admit that they like “romantic comedies” and at best they'll cop to liking one or two as aberrations. You could make the argument that this is typical regressive dude bullshit, insecurity about masculinity and blah blah blah, but the actual reason for this is that in every single crappy romantic comedy ever made, the guys are all either total pussies, the sassy gay best friend, or one-dimensionally evil. Or all three.
Now, men being marginalized isn't exactly the same as women being marginalized/objectified in “male” movies, because of power dynamics and privilege and all that, and if we're to correct this problem in movies marketed to women, there needs to be a similar correction in movies marketed to men. Ideally, we'd have movies where the men and women alike are three-dimensional, exist for their own purpose rather than as a function of another's necessity, and are recognizable as human beings. It's okay, I'll give you a second to stop laughing.
But really, why the fuck do all movies have to be “for” only one type of person? Women go see movies with dude protagonists all the time. And dudes will go see movies with women protagonists: Aliens didn't exactly flop, nor did Kill Bill, nor did Salt, which I just saw a couple days ago (I greatly enjoyed it, it's glorious horseshit). True, those are all action pictures. But by the broadest definition of “chick flick,” all three qualify. They feature women in the lead, and Kill Bill and Salt both feature those women killing the fuck out of guys who screwed them over (Aliens, of course, features Sigourney Weaver killing the fuck out of aliens). “But they're not chick flicks! They're good!” Well, if being good stops something from being a chick flick, maybe there's no such thing as a chick flick. Maybe movies are either good or bad, and that's the only important thing.
Men and women are different. But each man is different from each other man, and each woman different from each other woman. I know dudes who like movies where shit blows up, I know other dudes who prefer Guy Maddin “everybody's in Canada and only has one leg” pictures. I know chicks who rave about how fuken awesome and metal Game of Thrones is and catch me up on who's who and how the names are spelled and shit, I know others who can't watch it because of the way the female characters are portrayed. Flip the genders and each four of those examples is true of at least one other friend of mine on the other side. The point is, generalizations are for fucking retards. Including that one.
So what of Bridesmaids? As your slide rule no doubt told you, I don't give a fuck whether it's a “chick flick” or not. From all accounts Kristen Wiig and her co-writer were just trying to write a funny script. That's all I care about this movie, or any other for that matter. Is it good? All that other divisive bullshit, who it's “for” and so forth, doesn't interest me at all. If you build it (with “build” meaning “make” and “it” meaning “a good movie”), I'll come (with “come” meaning “enjoy it,” and by “enjoy it” I mean achieve orgasm). Fuck “chick flicks.” Fuck “bro movies.” Let's just go to the fucking movies and enjoy ourselves. Is that too much to ask?