Chick Flicks or Dick Flicks: The Segregation of the Sexes in Comedy

We all know the term “Chick Flicks” and most likely think nothing of it.  It’s a sweet phrase, coined affectionately out of a desire to label anything that doesn’t appeal to a male audience; because men and women’s desires never overlap, right?  Well, it’s a good thing we’re discussing comedy because this very idea—that only certain things appeal to men or women—is incredibly laughable. The very fact that we, as a society and a culture, have to distinguish between two types of films based solely on gender that exists within the same genre begs the question, is this 1954 or 2014?quote-and-then-also-i-think-it-s-harder-for-women-because-comedy-is-so-opposite-of-being-ladylike-wanda-sykes-181671

Up until 2011 the majority of movie ticket buyers were female. It is only recently that the amount of men and women purchasing movie tickets has become relatively equal. Yet, mainstream Hollywood refuses to recognize the power and influence that women can have in cinema by reinforcing the notion that certain female-centric films are niche breakouts or worse, crossovers.

 

Let’s talk about Bridesmaids for a moment, a predominantly female film with an incredible cast of hilarious, raunchy women. Bridesmaids has grossed over $160 million in the US since its release.  Because of its (well-deserved) success, it implanted a thought in the minds of film goers everywhere, a sort of “Oh, women can be funny!” light-bulb moment; as though it was just recently discovered that in addition to birthing children, women also birth laughs. The movie created a discussion about women’s relevance in comedy, which is great but it’s also incredibly tiresome because, why is this still a conversation? Why are we still surprised when something is funny and it happens to be female centric?

 

A New York Times’ movie critic, Manohla Dargis, was quoted as saying “Bridesmaids, an unexpectedly funny new comedy about women in love, if not of the Sapphic variety, goes where no typical chick flick does.”  Well, Manohla, is it unexpected of me to want to write that quote down and set it on fire?  If you took the time to break that quote down, you’d find that it’s rooted in subtle sexism, maybe even unknowingly.  Why is it so “unexpected” for a movie that is centered on females and female friendship to be funny? The film was overflowing with seasoned comedic veterans and it was never advertised as anything other than a comedy, so for all intents and purposes one would expect it to be funny, right? Yet, it is reduced to a “chick-flick” that just so happens to be funny.

 

The main issue with classifying a film as a “chick flick” isn’t necessarily that it implies a movie would be better received by a female demographic because it discusses female issues, it’s that it reinforces a dichotomy within a genre of film.  By doing so, this schism emphasizes the already ill-conceived notion and antiquated viewpoint that women just aren’t funny and movies about women won’t do as well as movies about their male counterparts. What this says to women, is that their stories and their lives aren’t as interesting as men’s and therefore don’t deserve accurate representation in mass media and American culture, e.g. mainstream Hollywood.

 

Another problem with the term “chick flick” is that it implies that a male audience won’t enjoy a movie about women. However, when men are conditioned from a young age to adulthood to believe that liking movies about women or emotions are bad things, they then begin to feel ashamed for doing so.  Ask a male friend what his feelings are in regards to the movie The Notebook—which, granted, isn’t a comedy—and if he likes that movie. Note how he admits it begrudgingly or becomes embarrassed because it’s not “manly” of him to like something so emotional.  Though I can’t speak on behalf of all men everywhere, more often than not this is the case. In what world is it okay to tell someone—even indirectly through reinforced stereotypes—that they aren’t permitted to indulge in their emotions because of their gender?  We live in a world
where it’s okay for women to appreciate female and male-centric films, whereas the reverse isn’t as acceptable. Women will frequent male-dominated movies because, honestly, there really aren’t many options in that field. In addition to that, they’ll go to female-dominated films, but men are conditioned to be hesitant in that regard.

 

What are they so afraid of? That they might actually enjoy it?

 

by CELENIA LUGO / contributing writer

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