April 9, 2008

Pondering the Chick Flick

Most women who work in the film business in any capacity absolutely hate the term "chick flick." They all wish the term had never been invented (who should we blame for this?) since it seems that even films made before the term was coined in the late 1980s with this definition -- "a motion picture intended to appeal especially to women" (Webster's On-line Dictionary) -- have been shoved into this category. And let's make no mistake about this: the chick flick is a pejorative and demeaning. And to take it a step further: by assigning films that star women or are about women as "chick flicks" we take away any power the women might have since quite frankly we can't say anything of import in a "lite" "chick flick" film.

It used to be the women could star or co-star in romantic comedies, but the reality in Hollywood today is that most movies that star women and are about women are no longer coined romantic comedies, they seem to be stuck with the chick flick moniker. We all know that there are other movies and stories that star women and deal with issues of substance, but most of those films now have to go the indie route and will usually not get seen by a large audience.

The studios are not in the business anymore of making movies that star women because quite frankly they don't play well overseas and the international market has become a huuuge priority for the studios. Just look at the handful of recent releases starring women from this year: You have Nim's Island (which I have not seen yet and is more targeted at kids even though it stars Jodie Foster); The Other Boleyn Girl; and the one true success this winter 27 Dresses.

The others like Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Penelope, Mad Money, Bonneville, some better than others, all struggled, with Miss Pettigrew (the best movie of the lot doing the best with $10 m so far.)

As you can tell I am ambivalent at best with regard to the chick flick and so when I saw the NY Times story this morning with the Title "Wary Hollywood Plans More Chick Flicks (and Hopes to Lure the Guys) it made me want to tear my hair out. The premise is that Hollywood is all nervous about two movies now shooting Confessions of a Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher and directed by P.J. Hogan (a guy) based on the Sophie Kinsella novel, and Julia & Julia starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams directed by Nora Ephron and based on the best selling memoir of the same name.

The male producers of the film are really trying to make it clear that these films are for a wide audience not just women. Uber producer Jerry Bruckheimer said about his film Shopaholic: “We all have spending habits, a lot of us do,” and Laurence Mark said about Julie & Julia: "We hope this will be a movie for everyone who likes eating."

What pissed me off about this is that they never have these conversations or issues with movies that star men. Why is everyone so nervous about movies that star women? It's probably because that Hollywood is predicated on the fact that women will go see movies that star men and that men won't go see movies that star women.

But women go to the movies, we bought over 50% of the tickets in 2006 (according to the MPAA) and in fact older women are growing as an audience. It's just that we don't run out on opening weekend because maybe we have other priorities and also maybe because the theatres are too crowded. I think that Hollywood should a) make better movies that star women cause no one wants to see a stinker; and b) stop worrying about getting men to come see movies about women and try and figure out how to get WOMEN to see these movies cause we all know they are doing a bad job at that.

Hollywood Plans More Chick Flicks (And Hopes to Lure the Guys)