Gloria Steinem defends “chick flicks”


I hate it when I rave about a movie and then someone calls it a “chick flick.” I have fond memories of defending Beaches when it first hit theaters — although, in retrospect, I may have been a little too adamant about that one. It hasn’t exactly held up over the years.

But other estrofests, like Terms of Endearment, still get my vote as quality films, period, not just quality “chick flicks.” Why does the presence of female characters mean a movie is for women, anyway, rather than just about them? Does that mean Ocean’s Thirteen is for men and I shouldn’t bother to see it? (Well, I wasn’t about to line up for that one anyway, but that’s not the point.)

Gloria Steinem recently asked some similar questions — in a much more eloquent and hilarious way — in an article titled “In Defense of the ‘Chick Flick’.” She helpfully proposes the term “prick flick” as a guide for moviegoers who might accidentally wander into Evening and come out scarred and emasculated.

Rather than try to improve on her rhetoric (I’m neither that cheeky nor that stupid), I’ll just quote in pertinent part:

“If the ‘chick flick’ label helps you to avoid the movies you don’t like, why is there no label to guide you to the ones you do like?

Just as there are ‘novelists’ and then ‘women novelists,’ there are ‘movies’ and then ‘chick flicks.’ Whoever is in power takes over the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful get an adjective. Thus, we read about ‘African American doctors’ but not ‘European American doctors,’ ‘Hispanic leaders’ but not ‘Anglo leaders,’ ‘gay soldiers’ but not ‘heterosexual soldiers,’ and so on.

That’s also why you’re left with only half a guide. As usual, bias punishes everyone. Therefore I propose, as the opposite of ‘chick flick’ and an adjective of your very own, ‘prick flick.’ Not only will it serve film critics well, but its variants will add to the literary lexicon. For example, ‘prick lit’ could characterize a lot of fiction, from Philip Roth to Bret Easton Ellis and beyond. ‘True prick’ could guide readers to their preferred non-fiction, from the classics of Freud to the populist works of socio-biologists and even Rush Limbaugh.”

Read the full article to get the full impact of Steinem’s inimitable way of combining humor with incisive social commentary. I marvel at it every time.

Meanwhile, what are your favorite so-called chick flicks? Here are some that come to mind without much reflection on my part — add your faves in the comments. (Again, I would just call these “movies,” but they seem to show up on others’ lists of chick flicks.)

1. Terms of Endearment

2. Funny Girl

3. The Hours

4. Out of Africa

5. Sense and Sensibility

6. Steel Magnolias

7. The Women

8. Thelma and Louise

9. Fried Green Tomatoes

10. When Harry Met Sally

11. Little Women (the 1933 Katharine Hepburn version, please)

12. Boys on the Side

13. The Joy Luck Club

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