Why is it that romantic-comedies with female leads are branded ‘chick-flicks’? As if they’re exclusive to girls, as if films featuring lots of emotions and relationships could only be a thing girls are interested in as if boys couldn’t be interested in a film with a female protagonist, as if!
When so many romantic comedies are referred to as chick-flicks, it separates these films as being less important, trivial – the way many women’s issues get treated. Mallrats, if you haven’t seen it is a film with two male leads that chase desperately after ex-girlfriends at a mall is seen as just a comedy – no negative connotations or gender definitions there. Clueless, which came out in the same year, isn’t seen as a great satirical comedy, but instead a chick-flick. Clueless is about women, so supposedly only of interest for women, whereas Mallrats is definitely of interest to both genders although it’s just as, or maybe even a lot more, romantic than Clueless? Huh?
There are a lot of bad chick-flicks out there, no surprise, a lot of bad films get made in every genre. But a bad film with a male lead is a drop in the ocean, whereas one with a female lead,(especially WoC and LGBT*) who are so insanely under-represented in films, that when they are protagonists, they matter, and these female leads have to set such a higher standard because the bad ones will stand out, which sucks.
Females are grossly underrepresented on screen in 2012 films. Out of 4,475 speaking characters on screen, only 28.4% are female. This translates into a ratio of 2.51 males to every 1 female on screen. Only 6% of the top-grossing films in 2012 featured a balanced cast…
When compared to females between 21-39 years of age, in 2012, females 13-20 years of age are more likely to be shown in sexualized attire and partially naked, whereas females 40 to 64 years of age are less likely. The proportion of teenaged females in alluring apparel has increased 22% between 2009 and 2012. A larger overtime increase is observed in the percentage of teenage females depicted with some nudity (+32.5%) between 2007 and 2012. (FULL REPORT HERE)
SHOCKING? Or not, when you actually think about it (the Bechdel Test is really useful for thinking about it). So when films with female leads get branded as “chick-flicks”, it means that any of the many wonderful super positive/feminist films with female leads e.g. Legally Blonde, Whip It – could be so easily dismissed! By the public and the producers! They have to work extra hard to prove that they aren’t less important or trivial. Such a narrow range of tropes and stereotypes of women appear in mainstream film and television that theses stereotypes can give out seriously warped perceptions of women. If films are really a reflection of society, then this speaks volumes.
I’m not sure if we should stop saying “chick-flick”, but I am sure that ~Hollywood~ should stop marketing films about women solely to women, without diversity within mainstream films means so many will be just totally clueless.