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Chick Flick Sick

July 21, 2011

 NOTE: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen most of the films I am about to discuss, so I apologize if my recollections are off.

 

Have you ever seen Win a Date with Tad Hamilton? It’s a romantic comedy starring Kate Bosworth as Rosalee, the world’s most perfect and worthy young woman whom everyone likes, and you can’t even hate her for it because she’s such a wonderful person. She lives in a small town and works in a grocery store with her weedy little supervisor played by that 70’s guy, Topher Grace. Through means I can’t be bothered to remember, she wins a contest to meet uber-delectable Hollywood heartthrob, Josh Duhamel… I mean, uh, Tad Hamilton. Through the magic of movie implausibility, Tad brings all of his manly uber-delectableness to Rosalee’s home town and decides he likes it there. Contrary to movie convention, the hot guy isn’t a total douchebag or straight-up rapist- he’s actually a nice guy who’s sick of the superficiality of LA and finds Rosalee’s world refreshingly unpretentious. He treats her magnificently well, using his wealth to dote on her without trying to buy her affection. He puts more effort into immersing himself in her world than trying to impress her with the excesses of his.

But you see, the needy, insecure grocery store manager has a secret crush on her, and as such, has pretended to be her friend for years. He feels threatened by Tad and Rosalee’s new-found happiness and does everything in his power to sabotage their relationship. That is how we, the audience, know that he is not really her friend- a friend, after all, would be happy for her. Only someone who sees her as an attainable object and not as a person with her own life to live would actively attempt to ruin her happiness without remorse. In the process, however, he accidentally lets slip the Konami-code for getting into the girl’s pants to Tad (some nonsense about “seven smiles”), because, as we all know, the key to unlocking a girl’s affection always lies in some secret “open sesame” password and never in, say, getting to know her and treating her with respect, because, after all, women are things, not people like you and me.

Things take a turn for the truly disturbing when it’s revealed that Rosalee’s own father is in on the plot. He informs Topher, in so many words, that when his daughter says “no,” she probably really means “yes”, and even if she doesn’t, he owns his daughter and can dispose of her sexuality as he sees fit. So Topher should totally go ahead and try to fulfill his own desires with no acknowledgment of hers. When Topher plays his final trump card- telling her he wants her to be happy, even if it’s not with him- Rosalee realizes her moral obligation to fall in love with him, as if he, not she, is the film’s protagonist, for whom everything must work out in the end (actually, he is in fact the film’s protagonist, in the same way that Iago is the protagonist of Othello.). She abandons her own happy ending to become a factor in someone else’s, someone completely unworthy of her, out of what can only be guilt and pity- guilt, despite having done nothing wrong, and pity for the man who spent the entire movie trying to make her miserable.

And thus ends this truly tragic tale, a tale far too familiar for too many girls who have been convinced that men deserve to attain whatever they want as long as they try hard enough, even if their prize comes at the expense of their own futures. All too often, I see incredible women, smart and kind and beautiful, end up with selfish trolls who treat them only as trophies, unworthy of personal fulfillment.

 

But it's totally okay if they're rich.

But enough pre-amble. Have you guessed today’s topic yet?

Of course I’m talking about…

CHICK FLICKS. 

No.

 

Chick flicks are movies targeted directly and exclusively toward women, as opposed to other movies, which are targeted toward people (which apparently only includes men). But have you noticed that most of these films seem to actively hate women?

I’d love to bring studies and evidence and shit into it, but I’m sure there are far more reliable sources for such things, and this isn’t that kind of blog. So, personal anecdote time!

I had this abusive boyfriend whose treatment of me left me with repressed memories and who even ended up trying to kill me once or twice. And for reasons he could never explain, he hated hated HATED Julia Roberts (and for that matter, I think he hated Brad Pitt too). But then this psycho with whom I lived under the constant threat of assault and disembowelment went and saw the movie The Mexican without me, reporting back after the fact that he effing LOOOOOVED it. He wouldn’t shut up about it, and eventually managed to make me sit down and watch it with him.

I’m always amused when film producers try to appeal to both men and women in the same movie (in this case by making a gangster-movie/rom-com), and proving in the process that they understand the mental processes of neither (when the only person I’ve ever met who saw this movie and identified with it turned out to be a complete sociopath, it says something about the film’s producers). Pitt is a gun for hire or something working for the mob, and his live-in girlfriend (Roberts) has the selfish PMS-driven gall to not want to be associated with mobsters (seriously- in a scene in which she breaks up with Pitt after he broke his promise to cut ties with the Mafia, she’s portrayed as a spoiled, hysterical bitch.). So Tyler Durden goes on a quest to steal some legendary gun in Mexico while Pretty Woman gets charmingly kidnapped by Tony Soprano. Laughs aplenty are had at her girly fear of being raped (it’s funny because- spoiler alert- he’s gay!). Anyway, stuff happens, yada yada, Gene Hackman, and finally we get to the moral of the story, in which Erin Brockovich learns that if you love someone to the degree that the script says she loves Mr. Jolie, then you should be willing to put up with anything, even kidnapping, torture, and the threat of rape, just to be by his side no matter what happens. “Enough is never enough”, the film tells us, and breaking up with a man who is bad for you is never, ever justified, no matter how badly he treats you. Did I mention that the only reason I saw this movie is because my abusive boyfriend forced me to? Thus proving my point: making someone watch The Mexican counts as domestic abuse. Oh, and chick flicks suck.

Okay, no, not all of them. But, I would argue that the “chick flicks” that aren’t sexist pieces of trash aren’t chick flicks at all- they’re just character-driven films in which the protagonist happens to have a vagina, like 51% of the population does. In many of these films you could easily substitute male characters for the females, and if you add a touch of unnecessary misogyny, male audiences would eat it up. The Devil Wears Prada is basically just Swimming With Sharks (minus the whole revenge-murder plot), while Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion is essentially a female Revenge of the Nerds (minus the whole “invading the privacy of others is okay if you’re the main character” notion). But the discerning viewer can usually tell the difference between a film that happens to have a female at its center, and a true “chick flick”, aka, the dreaded Romantic Comedy. Which, by the way, I am convinced are totally made for men.

If you’re my age, you grew up with charming John Hughes flicks like Sixteen Candles, in which the handsome douchebag gives Underdog Michael Hall permission to rape his girlfriend. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Since the hot girlfriend’s sexuality belongs to her boyfriend, he has the right to disseminate it as he sees fit. This makes him an asshole not because he’s pro-rape, but because it shows that he has obviously lost interest in his gf in favour of pursuing Molly Ringwald, the object of Anthony’s affection, thus making him Anthony’s romantic rival. Anthony Michael Hall rejects the offer, not because rape is wrong, but because that would be cheating on Molly. I want there to be no misunderstanding here: the very real prospect of rape is introduced into a movie aimed at young people and no one even brings it up as a bad thing. In the eighties, we called this “romance”. And Sixteen Candles is a romantic movie, almost as romantic as Dirty Dancing, a film in which a woman who has an extra-marital affair deserves to be shunned by society as a whore, but the man she slept with (who makes a routine out of sleeping with married women) deserves to live happily ever after with an intelligent, driven young woman whose job it is to save him and give him purpose (what he does for her, besides being generally hot, I have no idea). And that’s another common theme, the idea that a man “needs” the woman he supposedly loves because he’s made his happiness her responsibility, and it’s her job to make him a better person. Because, god forbid she ever prioritize her own life, right?

This is why I liked the ending of Bridget Jones’s Diary so much. SPOILER ALERT! When the charmingly befuddled Hugh Grant falls to his knees and begs her to be with him, as only she can save him and turn him into the man he wants to be, she leans in and says “that’s not a good enough reason for me”. You need to understand how vindicated I felt about this ending, as someone who stayed in a horrific relationship for three years because my man would die without me. Sure, he wrote a poem and song or two about me, but they weren’t really about me- they were about shit he made up in order to feel like an artist. I’ve had lots of songs and poems and crap written by people who were inspired by stuff they invented about an imaginary girl, but that girl wasn’t really me. They never took the time to get to know me, to know what I was about, my hopes and fears, my faults and insecurities. No, they just put me up on pedestals of fiction and told me all about their love for me and all the wonderful things they thought about. A man can fill books and books worth of poems and songs about how he feels about you, and that’s all well and good. But the man who really loves you will give you a blank notebook and a pen.

And that’s why, when Colin Firth gave Renee Zellweger that diary, I rejoiced a little inside.

 

Plus, y'know... Colin Firth.

See, my problem with so-called “Chick Flicks” is that they aren’t even made for chicks. Just like Sex and the City convinced us all that we love cosmopolitans and shoes (and The Fast and the Furious made men want to race souped-up cars), any woman I have ever known who relates to a chick flick seems to do so only after having seen said chick flick. Okay, I realize it’s a bit of a correlation/causation, chicken-and-egg affair, but it honestly seems like, instead of films accurately reflecting the lives and thoughts of women, we talk about relationship paradigms using the “all women want to get married“, “men are afraid of commitment” and “he’s just not that into you” cliches that we get from rom-com movie dialogue. We even congratulate ourselves in always going for the “nice guy” who “deserves” us, as if we’re just vehicles for his happiness instead of trying to find our own, just like in the movies. It’s always the male’s story of attaining his prize, or the woman’s story of letting herself be attained (ever notice how often the woman seems to hate the man at first, but he “wears her down” with his “charm”?) Honestly, I could go on and on about film and media’s constant barrage of brainwashing messages directed at women, but I’ll leave it at this: do you really think that these movies are called “date movies” because anybody actually wants to see them? Or do you think it might have more to do with getting the message into a woman’s head what she’s “supposed” to do? That’s right sweetie, I’m such a nice guy, you’re obligated to end up with me, because I’m the protagonist, and you’re just a love interest. So what if you’re not perfect according to my tastes? A quick makeover will fix that!

Remember, girls, always change yourself for the man you love.

So why am I bringing all of this up now?

Duh. Because I saw Bridesmaids.

On opening day.

Of course. 

Lookin’ good, ladies! Rock that “painfully uncomfortable” look!
 
Personally, I really enjoy films like the 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad. I find Judd Apatow’s approach to comedy, while not terribly original, both hilarious and endearing. My only issue with these flicks is that they are so vehemently marketed strictly toward males only that I felt a little excluded while watching them. “This is not for you, Breasted One,” the scripts seem to be saying. “You are the Other, the target of our humour. Begone, and laugh not at our jokes, for you are nothing but a machine for the vending of sex and babies!” It kinda ruins the movie watching experience. I can’t tell you how I have longed for a film with that kind of humour that I could actually relate to.

And yet I still haven't seen Baby Mama.

 

When I was a maid-of-honour, there was a lot of bullshit. I love my sister, and I wanted nothing more than for her special day to be as perfect as possible, but I mean seriously, enough is enough. More than a year of my life was devoted to making her happy. Everything I had going on in my own life had to be put aside, and I had a lot going on at the time. It was expected that being Maid of Honour was now my top priority, and that nothing would stand in the way of my duties, whatever those were (honestly, it’s like everyone assumes that women are simply born knowing how to be a bridesmaid. I had no idea what any of the dozens of rituals entailed, and nobody really tells you. You’re just a horrible person if you don’t already know). I was suffering health problems, financial problems, and personal problems, none of which anyone cared about because I wasn’t important enough to be getting married. I was living off of ramen noodles and couldn’t afford to pay my hydro bill, yet was expected to shell out $400 for a dress I was going to wear once without blinking an eye. The day came when I finally had to choose between paying for the bachelorette party and paying rent. So, naturally, I said good-bye to the apartment I loved and moved out. When the medical condition I was suffering from left welts all over my legs, the bride-to-be got royally pissed at me because it would mar how I looked in my knee-length dress. My personal relationships suffered- I wasn’t allowed to bring a date even though she had promised me I could, even though I had already asked my SO to accompany me, even though he was already picking out suits- I had to tell him he couldn’t come after all because it would mess up the head table’s symmetry. I had to (temporarily) drop out of school to make time for wedding planning. And no one ever even acknowledged any of this, or even asked me how I was doing. Because it was expected- as a female, it was my duty to kneel and worship at the altar of matrimony, an institution in which I do not even believe.
 
How the fuck did it take this long for someone to make a comedy out of this?
 
I know that my experience is not unique. Millions of women can relate, and those women went to see Bridesmaids and laughed their yoga-toned asses off. In truth, the trials and tribulations of being a bridesmaid aren’t really the focus of the film- not the nitty gritty details anyway. The central conflict is between the bride’s longtime best friend (played to comic perfection by Kristen Wiig), and the new so-perfect-you-want-to-punch-her-in-the-face bff clearly gunning for the top spot in the wedding party (played by Rose Byrne). The tension leads to an emotional rift between Wiig and the bride (Maya Rudolph), beginning a deterioration of a lifelong friendship. This proves to be the final blow to a woman whose life has been going downhill ever since her business collapsed and her boyfriend left her, leading to an all-too-real exploration of how far a person can be pushed and still maintain her polite smile. It’s not a Rom Com- yes, like all movies, from Pink Flamingoes to Die Hard, there is a romantic sub-plot in which Wiig, who is in an un-satisfying fuck-buddy relationship with Don Draper, unwittingly cultivates the affections of the world’s most adorable traffic cop (played by the IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd, who cleans up real nice) after he pulls her over for broken taillights and sends her to his friend Bill Cozbi (no, not him), who will give her a good deal on fixing them…
 

...presumably by use of a "Jump-To-Conclusions" mat...

but that isn’t the focus of the film. The real crux of the story (if you can pick it out from the multitude of hilarious scenes like a terrified Wiig getting drunk on a plane, or the gross-out food poisoning episode) is the relationship between the two friends, the one constant in her life that Wiig needs to get back on her feet.

This is a film for everyone, male and female alike, even though the bullshit that comes with being a bridesmaid is a particularly female experience. Because of this, the director (Paul Feig), writers (Wiig and Annie Mumolo), and stars of this film manage to bring us a film experience that women can truly relate to and identify with without being a brainwashing “chick flick”. It’s a movie made for women, as if they are people like everyone else. And I say, it’s about damn time.

 

Let the trend begin!

 

 Bridesmaids is playing now in Canada and Australia. Go see it!

And stay tuned for Princess T’s response to Death-Rae’s tirade.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lucius Woodfolk permalink
    August 1, 2011 10:29 am

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