Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does

Billy Mernit at Living the Romantic Comedy notes the inevitable passing of the phrase "chick flick" into the official lexicon via Merriam Webster. Billy argues for fighting semantic fire with fire by applying the "dick flick" moniker to those films designed to appeal to those of us with the Y chromosome. I tend to come out on the side of Carina Chocano, who wrote the LA Times article that gives rise to the discussion, although for slightly different reasons.

I agree with Billy that there are some movies that are objectively "chick" and that men, as a gender, have no business subjecting themselves to. Foremost anything with the word "Sisterhood" in the title. See also, as we say in the law. My family continues to threaten to tie me down to force me to watch Steel Magnolias though, to date, I have successfully resisted. The only way that one will pass my eyes is A Clockwork Orange style.

But beyond that relatively narrow class of films, Ms. Chocano's points regarding the marginalization of many worthy movies that come either primarily or even only tangentially from a female perspective are well taken. I would go even further, however, and say that they ultimately come from a human perspective and applying the "chick flick" label to them serves only to perpetuate a false divide between the genders. If men are able to avoid works that remind them that they do, in fact, have emotions and are as desirous of fulfilling relationships as women, on the grounds that they are for "chicks" only, their guyhood remains unchallenged and intact.

I don't think it has always been thus. Sure, even old Bill Shakespeare had his fair share of blood and gore in the canon, but he is also arguably the source of our modern notion of romantic love and the author of The Sonnets. Which is not to say that today's man should aspire to the swooning, poofy-shirt poet archetype of Lord Byron or Percy Bysshe Shelley. But I think some restoration of balance to the male psyche is in order.

Rather than dismiss the "chick flick" out of hand, simply recognize that the rom-com is merely a subset of the greater class of romances that have always been the staple of men's cultural diet until only a few years ago. Romantic comedies, epic romances, or just old-fashioned love stories. There is nothing inherently masculine or feminine about romances and it seems rather insulting to men to imply that they are the exclusive province of women. Returning to P&P for a moment, Jane Austen, to my knowledge, didn't write her works solely for a female audience. One need not be a woman to enjoy her satire or be moved by the downs and ups of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Great romance is great romance.

I'll conclude my thoughts presently with a post on three of my favorite celluloid romances, comedy and otherwise.


  • Hey Chris -- I missed this when I was away -- You make a good point about Austen, etc. (Real Men Read Austen?) Nice post!

    By Blogger mernitman, at 1:20 PM  

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