Between Carina Chocano‘s recent LA Times piece fighting for chick flicks and Rebecca Traister‘s article in Salon a little further back on the worthiness of chick lit, we now feel weak and chastised for ever apologizing for writing every other post about Jane Austen. We can’t help but feel that Traister’s article is a backhanded complement in the "across the face, resulting in a black eye" sense of the work "backhanded" (a sort of, yes, chick lit often may not be well-written, but hey, it’s about women!), but then we’d pick watching "A League of Their Own" or something on cable over reading "The Nanny Diaries" any day (someday we won’t have to choose).
Chocano’s point is actually well-made â€” "chick flick" has become a kind of "know it when you see it" term that doesn’t actually mean anything.
And it’s a blanket category at that, the smothering kind. It has made it so that a movie like "Wedding Crashers" is simply considered a comedy, whereas movies like "Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion" (a satire with female characters) or "The Sweetest Thing" (a raunchy comedy) are considered chick flicks â€” even when they share more in common with contemporary mainstream comedies than with the "women’s pictures" of the 1930s and ’40s from which, Athena-like, they are supposed to have sprung.
Chocano also delves into the fact that, in male-heavy Hollywood, for a female director making films about women, to be labeled as someone who makes "chick flicks" is to be ghettoized into a category that is written off as uninteresting and irrelevant to half the population.
In a recent interview in Slate magazine, writer Pamela Paul posed this question to director Niki Caro, whose movie "North Country" tells the story of the first class-action sexual harassment suit: "Both ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘North Country’ are stories about female empowerment. Do you worry about being marginalized as a woman director of films for women?"
"Yeah, I do," Caro replies, "because that’s not what I do. I don’t see myself as a crusading feminist filmmaker. Not at all…. Personally, I have nothing to prove. But I’m tremendously curious about human nature. Female life is so incredibly under-explored in cinema, so these stories feel very exotic."
And on. Caro’s an interesting case, because, well, she is a crusading feminist filmmaker, or at least that’s how we see her, in the best way. Her films are so much about righteous anger or quiet strength and martyrdom, and are so shameless in tugging heartstrings, they’re almost utilitarian. Anyway, enough â€” to top off her excellent piece, Chocano adds a sidebar of 54 "movies that speak to real women."