The Really BIG Questions - Part One

Firmly entrenched in my newly established state of sobriety (well, let's say "tranquility" to be entirely truthful), I find my mind drifting toward less contentious subjects. Make no mistake, though, I still enjoy, when suitably tweaked and my blood is up, assailing the pompous and thoroughly criminal state of modern politics. But, in recent days, between my serenity and the motley cast currently occupying the stage, I have a Dickens of a time staying awake. The "usual suspects" of my innate scorn (i.e. politicians of all brands and parties) are so smarmy and unimaginative that I can barely tell who proposes to "declare war" on which of society's ageless problems - poverty, racism, classism, illegal immigration, failing schools, or whatever. The contemporary gaggle of politicians, for the most part, are honking the same tunes and the sounds run together such that I don't know which gander (or goose, in this ragged flock) said what and about whom. But, knowing the breed as I do, I accept that they are all up to no good and that it is directed squarely at "we the people." You don't require a G.E.D. - only a history lesson - to know that much.

I find myself less and less attentive to the predictable (and entirely scripted) rancor and folly of these humorless politicos. Instead, my meditations grow more curious about the elementary perplexities of life. For example: what is the meaning of life, why are there no "B" cell batteries and what precisely is "the greatest thing since sliced bread". These are the really important questions. So, after much soul searching, I have decided, for the time being, to leave politicians nee career criminals to fight it out amongst themselves without my assistance. Lord Knows, they have enough commentators to analyze every word and gesture they may or may not make and what it may or may not signify.

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I say: falderal! Politicians be damned! (Assuming, of course, they haven't been already and that is certainly not for me to presume.) I leave them to their Machiavellian machinations. Instead, I have cast my steely-eyed gaze (appropriately assisted by tri-focals) in the search of fodder more suitable to my temperament. As it turns out, the subject chosen calls for detailed and complex ruminations. However, I must be careful. In my last piece, I ruminated on myself which was not that easy to clean up but I did it. Throwing caution (and good sense) to the wind, I move on to even deeper enigmas, yet to be solved by man nor beast, especially one so clueless as your erstwhile commentator.

While I will be the first to admit to the curiousness of the present investigation, particularly from someone commonly referred to as "Clueless in Alabama," I can only reply that I pursue the question only after my personal research failed to produce a satisfying conclusion. The question at hand is simple enough. To whit: What are the shared qualities of a "chick movie?" Furthermore: "Are there certain characteristics or common threads that distinguish movies that appeal, almost completely, to the softer sex?"

I know there must be, before I ask, because there are some movies that are only viewed by men when required (demanded?) by their significant other. [I leap to add that there are, clearly, certain non-pecuniary benefits that the man hopes might come his way after making this type of sacrifice; but these are not the subject of this discussion.] I refer to those peculiar movies that men never talk about among themselves or, often enough, even admit to actually seeing. Women, however, after seeing the same movie make it the topic of discussion for weeks afterwards. I inquire, therefore, about movies that:

women prefer to see with other women than with males

women take other women to see as a sort of "group experience"

women often view multiple times and proudly report the number of times they have seen them

I have spent the past week or so investigating the question from a guys point of view. It seems there are common themes that make a movie a "chick flick." My personal experience with chick movies (which, as best I can recall was under said "If we see any movie this week, it must be __________! And that's final." conditions) consists of several movies that I have come to think of as "chick flicks." The specimens, certainly not inclusive, I chose to specifically name include:

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Ghost (1990)

Pretty Woman (1990)

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

My Best Friends Wedding (1997)

Stepmom (1998)

The Notebook (2004)

First, we have to propose some basic rules about what constitutes a legitimate "chick flick," hereafter to be denoted simply as "CF." The assumptions (and one must always consider the source) I offer are as follows:

Rule 1: There is no such thing as a sci-fi or horror CF. While fantasy can certainly be used in the storyline (see Ella Enchanted, Princess Bride), movies that are dominated by technology and, certainly, gore cannot be, by my definition, a CF. There are no CFs where the women finds love on an excursion to Mars or in the midst of chainsaw murders.

Rule 2: A CF cannot earn the label if the female goes to the movie for the sole purpose of ogling her favorite heartthrob, regardless of the content of the movie. Undoubtedly, hoards of female fans of Brad Pitt sat through the interminable "Troy" (as did those of Colin Farrell for "Alexander") because he was all muscled-up and showed lots of skin. "Troy" (and certainly not "Alexander") is not, for our purposes, a "classical" CF.

Rule 3: While ladies dearly love a good romantic comedy, a true CF cannot be a full-on comedy. Take for example "Legally Blond." It fits many of the criteria of a CF (no guy would see it with a group of guys - unless they have a full-blown Reese Witherspoon thing going, and no guy would certainly ever discuss the movie with other guys or admit to having seen it). I do not, for my purposes, include these laugh fests in my sample.

So, after laying the ground rules, what are the characteristics of a CF?

1. The female lead must be a strong woman who faces adversity and overcomes it, usually by pure force of will (see Pretty Woman, Fried Green Tomatoes).

2. There must be significant tragedy (or tragedies) that the woman must overcome to reach her ultimately-stronger self. [This is another reason why movies like Legally Blond are, arbitrarily I admit, excluded. What tragedy does Elle Woods overcome? A broken nail?] In it's purest form, someone has to die (see Ghost), often the lead female, herself (see Steel Magnolias). Pretty Woman is the exception that does not prove this rule.

3. There must an overwhelmingly-strong, idealized love interest, not necessarily of a male. I say not necessarily a man because the love interest in "Fried Green Tomatoes" is actually and primarily, of female love - alright "friendship" - shared between Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker). Their story gives Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates) the strength to make some needed changes in her life as it is told to her by the aged Ruth, now in a nursing home.

4. There may be no "guy violence." That is, there is no graphic, prolonged war violence. Glimpses of war (The Notebook) are permissible. Fisticuffs between alpha males is allowed but they are not drawn-out, slow-motion, blood-flying-through-the-air visuals. Rocky loved the he'll out of Adrian and she inspired him to achieve greatness but...I saw Rocky, I was a fan of Rocky but Rocky, sir, is no chick flick.

5. There must be at least one (and, preferably, more) heart-wrenching moment when tears flow. The shedding of tears may be of sadness, relief or elation, but there must be crying. There may be no crying in baseball but, when it comes to CFs, it is the sine qua non. When I asked one youthful test subject why crying was important for a true CF, she replied: "Because when you are sad, it's good to have a reason for feeling sad other than your own problems." Profound, don't you think? From this, I ciphered that women must be perpetually sadder than men and the classical CF serves as a release of pent up angst.

Before feminist readers begin their attack on this piece as a chauvinist exercise, let me clearly state it is not meant to be interpreted as such. It is a simple request for personal edification and for the female perspective on a topic about which I know (obviously) very little. It goes without saying that there are "guy flicks" (e.g. Rambo, Terminator, Gladiator, Godfather, Goodfellas, ad nauseum) that one could - and perhaps just might - similarly stereotype. I pray your indulgence, though, as this is only a shot in the dark (fired by some who always feels like he is in the dark when it comes to the female psyche) in the dogged pursuit to understand the fairer sex. Maybe - just maybe - if I can understand what makes a classic female-oriented movie, I can gain a smidgen of insight into the female thought processes. Since no one outside that closely knit sorority has found a crack in several thousands of years, I understand the odds for my success.

By the way, feel free to add to my list of characteristics and correct whichever seem wrong. In apology, I only offer that I find movies, in general, and the whole genre of "chick Flicks" (and "guy movies"), in particular, a fascinating subject. But, then, I am in a singularly curious phase of my life.

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Posted in Recreation Post Date 06/13/2017






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