This post was originally posted to Facebook on July 14, 2013
Ah, the immortal chick flick. The bane of many a man’s existence, and usually the default choice for many dates at the movies or girls’ nights. What is it about these movies that makes them sell so well, cause them to be replayed so much, and causes men to cringe?
I have a confession to make – I do enjoy a good chick flick every now and again. I recently rewatched Sleepless In Seattle which I hadn’t seen in years and it was actually a pretty good movie to see again. A little while ago I rewatched The Holiday (with a bunch of guys, I might add), another classic movie. There’s something brain-numbingly deep about the issues that these movies address. I was at another movie night last night where the movie choice by a group of the girls there was of course, The Proposal.
Wherever you go, you can’t get away from them. Chick flicks continue to do consistently well at the box office, and usually fall into a regular rewatch cycle for many people. I think I have worked out what it takes to make a good chick flick, and maybe why their appeal is so strong. As a man, and having talked to a lot of them, I can also see why a lot of guys have had trouble sitting through these movies time after time.
Let’s start with the female lead. Usually around the age of 30, she is at the prime age to be relatable to a younger audience, while at the same time, old enough that the marrieds and those who are a bit older can still relate to her. She’s usually well established in her career, confident in what she does in her 9 to 5, yet still fresh enough that she’s a bit uncertain. She isn’t always a bombshell beauty of an actress (you know, with impossible dimensions and flare), but if she is a beauty, her makeup and looks aren’t fully played up to perfection – her make-up is pretty conservative, she’ll have a lot of moments where her hair will be out of place, or she’ll do something embarrassing in public that reminds us all that she’s still human. Think Ginnifer Goodwin in Something Borrowed (I actually love that movie), Drew Barrymore in Music and Lyrics, or Julia Roberts in any of her many movies for the ladies.
She’s relatable, she has quirks that many women can sympathise with. The scene where she sleeps through her alarm cause she was busy in thought the night before. The scene where the quirky best friend brings up a great childhood memory or one fun night they had out together. The scene where she has a moment of epic clumsy and stacks herself down the stairs or on the kitchen floor. Then there’s the more serious ones. The scene where she’s still not entirely sure of what she wants in her life, she just knows she hasn’t found it yet. The scene where she has pushed everyone away because she has been hurt before. The scene where she realizes that she may have completely blown the biggest, most important thing in her life. This woman is a picture of real struggles, and usually why these movies are so rewatchable later on.
The next part is where you lose all the men in the room. Enter the male lead.
Yes, the male lead. Unlike the female who has some sort of relatable quirk, this guy is usually too legit to quit in terms of his appearance. He is usually played by the hottest actor of the season. In the older days, this was Hanks, Grant, McConaughey (had to look up that spelling). Nowadays its Tattum, Duhammel, Efron, Marsden, Reynolds, Gosling. These guys are ripped. These guys are sharp. These guys have it going on.
One thing all these guys usually have though is either:
a) a major character flaw that causes him to act a certain way to drive the female lead mad, or
b) a propensity to make very hurtful decisions that lead to destruction or great conflict in the relationship before they all get back together.
Neither of these really matter at the end of the day, because these guys are hot. So, hey, you wrote a harmful article about me always being a bridesmaid, never a bride, but that’s ok, I will still get together with you because you said sorry. Hey, you lied about a fake marriage to your entire family so you could get a promotion, but now you’ve had a change of heart, so you’re good. You embarrassed me in front of all my friends at the party, but hey, you looked good doing it, and I just want to get together.
This is the “realism stretch” that many guys turn off on during the movie, but there are usually some redeeming qualities to the guy that make the female audience go “awwww” collectively, and get the ladies to shut up every man in the room during that final confession scene where he realized the error of his ways (even on the 100th time watching it). He usually has had a rough time through life himself, having been hurt in the past or having lost a former relationship to illness or adultery. He still remains committed even though he and his father don’t get along. If he didn’t start the movie with a sense of direction, hey, he’s gotten a better sense of it before the end of the movie, and he’s making an effort.
Although I think it usually is the way that a female audience will swoon to the male lead, whether his looks (usually the main one), or a certain action in the movie he performs, which will be referred to as either cute, charming, or romantic.
I’ve already mentioned it a bit, but there is then the complication. This is where the relationship goes south. He gets together with someone else, she hasn’t spoken up about she really felt, or she says something to ruin the relationship because she just can’t handle all the feelings she’s feeling at this point in the movie. It looks like it’s over. It looks like they’ll never get back together.
But the reason the tickets sell so well is because the audience knows and expects that they will. It’s the drama of the in-between that really gets the audience invested in the plot.
Finally, there is usually the final pursuit, and in some movies there is what I refer to this as “the apology”. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Come on buddy, go get her! So she’s thrown up insecurity or thrown a brick wall in your face. So what if you broke her heart and destroyed her future aspirations. She just wants you buddy, so go get her. Win her over. Capture her heart. Bring the flowers, sing the song, give the incoherent speech that starts off nervous but ends in lines of romance and beauty that are comparable to the works of Shakespeare. You complete me, the only reason you push people away is you’re afraid to get hurt again, I’m still here waiting for you, just give me a chance, when did you last go with what your heart is telling you. Hostility ensues, she says no, the audience cries out in agony, and then he just kisses her, and he’s got her. The audience celebrates, the movie ends in bliss, and everyone goes home happy.
In all this, there are two big things that I think chick flicks really speak to mainly women, but also men, about. Sometimes, these are done really well, othertimes, these movies can play a lot of havoc with people’s lives and decisions if there isn’t an awareness about what is actually taking place.
The first is that these movies are designed to bring up the discussion of insecurity. While there are the insecurities around career and life direction, the main ones that are brought up are around value and relationships with the opposite sex. These movies speak directly to the desire of the heart to be wanted and pursued, to feel valued and accepted, to be sought after despite the walls I put up or the things that I’ve done in the past. And I once I find the man who can communicate to me in that area, my life will be alright.
I think these are very valid desires. I always firmly believe that all these things should come first and foremost in God, as there is no man who will perfectly or completely pursue you, or who will necessarily heal the deepest places of your heart. But I think it does highlight to all of us that this relationship, this “search for the one”, the dance of romance – it’s hugely important to us. There is a longing for companionship with another on this earth. Maybe instead of turning to the chick flick the next time you want to feel better in this area, turn to God first. If it’s important to you, it’s important to Him. He knows what you want in your heart, and He is on your side to help you through.
I think the person you marry is a very important part of your future, and should be treated as such. We either obsess so much about the search that we miss the completion that only God can bring in our lives, or we ignore it so much that we miss a launching pad that God has for us into a new part of our destiny.
Hey, and these movies encourage all guys to step up their game and really just be aware that women can be more sensitive on these issues than us. I’ve been in the room so many times where the guys in the room (me included) will groan because they don’t understand why these movies have such profound value to their female viewers, but listen closer to the parts of their hearts that these films minister to. These are issues that are constantly before us as men and women, and we should respond and address them with wisdom.
The second thing is the issue of expectations. At the end of the day, most real men aren’t Ryan Gosling, or Zac Efron. They don’t have a team of people designing their dialogue, wardrobe or decisions. They are people just like you, on a journey just like you, looking to live out their God-given destiny just like you. Unfortunately I have heard many times a dumb expectation to do with a guy’s height, facial features or race get in the way of a decision, and usually they can be sourced from Hollywood’s portrayal of what a man should be. I’m not saying that every girl should just say yes or be interested in any guy who registers interest, but sometimes I think some people don’t move forward for dumb reasons. I have a number of female friends in great relationships now who mention that there were some of these that they had to get over, and boy are they glad now that they did. Again, there are valid reasons not to pursue relationships (you’re not interested, you don’t think you’re heading the same direction, you aren’t compatible etc.) but let’s just make sure the superficial ones aren’t in our way.
Really, a man is so much more than just these external things – a man is one who is active in his calling, taking responsibility for what he has been given to carry, investing and looking after the people in his life, and lending the strength he has for the sake of benefiting others. Many times, the guys in these movies aren’t any of those things – they can be irresponsible, rude or impulsive. A Hebrew proverb says that “what is desirable in a man is his kindness”. In Hebrew, the word for “kindness” is used in the same way to describe God’s lovingkindness or grace. If you ask any married woman, this is usually the top of her list for why she values her husband. Let’s be sure to get our value system from the right places (goes the same for us as men too, movies and magazines should not be our primary source of what to look for).
In these movies, it isn’t just expectations of this man in her life – it’s of herself. What do you expect of yourself? Do you expect yourself to be it all, know it all and do it all like a character in the movie? Or will you accept who you are and live out of that with great courage and boldness?
Just some thoughts from a guy on the humble chick flick. What do you think?