girls' night in
In Conclusion

Well, that’s the end of our movie watching. Over the course of this experience, we’ve discovered several things:

Stereotypes

Nearly every “chick-flick” we’ve watched has had a female protagonist that is an archetypal figure, as described in Mindy Kaling’s article. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s we saw the “manic pixie dream girl,” in 27 Dresses we saw “the sassy best friend,” and in An Unmarried Woman, we saw “the woman who works in an art gallery.” Why are female characters being subjected to these pithy stereotypes? Should these characters be turned into caricatures for the sole purpose of making money? We don’t think so. We need real women in these movies, not perpetuated stereotypes that degrade our gender as a whole. 

Women’s participation in film making

As seen in previous posts of ours, women’s participation in film making has been increasing over the years. More and more women are becoming involved in directing, writing, and producing films, especially in the “chick flick” genre. However, men still dominate the film industry. It wasn’t until a few years ago that a woman director won the Academy Award for Best Director (Katherine Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.) The rate at which women are becoming involved in film making is so slow, that hardly any progress is being made. Women need to become more and more involved in the writing, directing, and producing of movies. The more women who work on films, the more likely it is that a greater number of strong, female protagonists will emerge. Until the gender ratio in the film industry is 50/50, or close to it, we don’t believe this will happen.

Regression?

As we applied the Bechdel test to each movie we watched, we noticed something. Most of the older movies passed the test easily, while the more recent films had a harder time. All About Eve passed the test with flying colors, with every single conversation between female characters pertaining to something other than a man. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the exception to the older movie rule, as it did not pass the Bechdel test at all. An Unmarried Woman passed the test easily, with an entire conversation in the film actually revolving around women and their representation in movies. The three newer films all passed the test, but just barely. They all had plots heavily centered around men or relationships with men, and the dialogue that allowed them to pass the test was not essential or necessarily relevant to the plot. So, what’s up with this pattern? Have films regressed over time in terms of feminism and women’s roles in movies? It would seem so.

What we’d like to see is an entirely new genre of movies, where the female protagonists have their own storylines that are about their lives, and not who they’re dating. In order for this to happen, we believe that women need to have a greater presence in the film industry. If strong, smart, independent women start making these movies, surely that will be reflected in the characters. So, ladies, let’s get to it! I bet we can even come up with a new name—“chick flicks” is getting old.

The lovely and talented Bette Davis stars as the equally impressive actress Margo Channing in All About Eve. After her best friend, Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), introduces her to her number one fan, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), Margo takes pity on Eve and decides to take her in as an assistant. Marilyn Monroe also appears briefly in the film; at this time she was just stepping onto the film scene.  Little does Margo know Eve is a lying, manipulative snake with an agenda to steal both Margo’s career and boyfriend. Eve preys on Margo’s insecurity about her age (40), and throws Margo into a frenzy. Margo is a bit of a drama queen, but her intentions are good. Her friends and boyfriend love her the way she is, 40 years and all. She comes to terms with her age and with Eve stealing her career, which Eve does succeed in doing. However, Eve does not succeed in taking Margo’s friends or boyfriend. The subtly creepy way Eve begins to show her true colors is characteristic of films from this era. The viewer is strung along, knowing no more than the characters in the plot, like a game of Clue. We even found ourselves questioning if Eve really was trying to take Margo’s life, or if she was just innocent, charming and lucky. By the end we see she is neither innocent nor lucky, and charming only when she wants to be. If we haven’t ruined the allure for you, we recommend this film; it’s… eerie.

There is one scene that’s questionable as far as feminism goes. Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), a theater critic and the only confidant of Eve once she’s estranged Margo and company, says “you belong to me” and slaps her in the face when she contests. The reason it’s questionable, and not out-right disgusting, is because he doesn’t mean she belongs to him because she’s a woman and he has power over her. He means he knows all of her awful intentions, and secrets and he is willing to use them against her. She has spun a web of lies which leaves her indebted to the only person more conniving than she. So, in this case, gender seems to bear no influence on the slap. Not that we condone it; violence is not the answer!

All About Eve is the only “chick-flick” we’ve watched that isn’t centered on romance. Of all the movies we watched with female protagonists the one made in 1950 was the only one without a main male storyline. Sure, Margo has a boyfriend (fiancé by the end), but his role is certainly a supporting one. Their romance doesn’t hold half the weight of the actual plot of the story; whereas the other movies we’ve watched seem to be half romance and half everything else going on.

Though written and directed by a man, Joseph Mankiewicz, and only loosely based on the short story by female author Mary Orr; it passes the Bechdel Test by having more than two named female characters who talk to each other often (and not once about a man!) Is it possible the movie industry has actually regressed in feminist issues over the last 60 years?

At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised.

This movie had the most empowered protagonist out of any of the movies we’ve watched. It’s about a woman, Erica (played by the late, great Jill Clayburgh,) who is comfortably married, and has been for 17 years, before her husband leaves her because he’s “fallen in love” with a younger woman. Erica finds solace in her close friends, seeks therapy, and has a casual affair followed by a more serious one. It’s nice to see Erica come into her own; she decides to go back to school, fantasizes about getting a more fulfilling job, and keeps her serious relationship, all while figuring out who she is on her own. We don’t know much about what married or divorced women in their 40s are thinking, so we couldn’t speculate on the accuracy of the characters’ thoughts. It was, after all, written and directed by a man, yet the movie was centralized on women. 

There are only two main male characters in the whole film and they don’t show up that much. We hear the women’s take on their relationships, families, and lives. We can easily relate to one emotional conversation about self-esteem, something that teenagers often struggle with. In addition, the teenage years are most likely where gender barriers become more prominent for both girls and boys. Erica is only discovering who she is in her 40s, she has been with her husband for 17 years. She is about 42 in the movie, which means she was around 25 when she met him. She may have gone to college, but if she did, she didn’t get a very useful degree because she works part time in an art gallery (yes, one of the infamous ‘jobs for a woman,’) and wanted to go back to school towards the end of the movie. An Unmarried Woman is speaking to the middle-aged, married or unmarried women of the 1970s who didn’t feel their lives were complete. It echoes the emerging ideas of that time, when women were starting to believe they didn’t need to stay in their unhappy marriages, and that their value was not based solely on their husbands. Not surprisingly, then, does An Unmarried Woman pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors.        

One thing we found odd was that all but one of the adults in the movie were divorced. We feel the point of feminism is ‘you can have it all,’ so to speak. You can have a happy marriage (or a happy single-life,) children (or not,) and a fulfilling job (or education, or volunteer life,) no matter who you are. Your chances at a successful life (one with everything you want) are equally high if you’re male or female.

Why are women made to think we have to trade a family for a job or vice versa? Why should men put the pressure on themselves to be the sole ‘breadwinners?’ No one should stop pursuing their passions because they’re afraid of seeming too masculine (of a woman) or too feminine (of a man.) ‘Chick Flicks’ are perpetuating these ideas, but are they really the root of what’s happening? Is this mindset, these stereotypes, the only things holding people back? If so, why is that so hard to change?  

Above are three graphs (click on the images to enlarge them.) 

The first graph depicts the proportion of female to male college graduates with Journalism and Mass Communications degrees. As you can see, a good chunk of these graduates are women. If we look at the next graph, however, we see a graph of gender distribution in key behind the scenes roles in movies (directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers,) where the jobs are held overwhelmingly by men. The 250 movies considered in this data encompass all genres, not just chick flicks. Although we showed in an earlier post that women are in fact becoming more involved in the film industry, based on the numbers above, we still have a long way to go.

In the third graph, we see a distribution of gender representation in news rooms. Again, predominantly male.

If the majority of these jobs are occupied by men, where are all of the women with these degrees working?! 

What we see here is an overarching problem in the workforce. Although more women hold degrees that qualify them for these jobs, the media is still a man’s world. Something needs to be done to get these educated, qualified women working in the media. If more women were controlling and reporting the media,  perhaps the ways women are represented in the media would change. 

These graphs are courtesy of Women’s Media Center.

"The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about."-Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd’s reply to the attack on her appearance speaks to everything that’s wrong in the battle of feminists vs. media. It is not long after a young girl, or even grown woman, reads a slam of a celebrity’s physique that she turns the magnifying glass to herself. Would the people who wrote that ‘her husband ”is looking for his second wife”’ like to say to their own wives and/or daughters that their physical appeal is all they have to offer? Of course, I’m jumping to the conclusion the person that said that was male. Perhaps the author is a woman who believes her own worth is based only on appearance, or for some reason believes Judd’s is.   

If you’re looking for a movie with substance, we wouldn’t recommend Never Been Kissed. If Drew Barrymore annoys you, we wouldn’t recommend Never Been Kissed. If you’re looking for a movie that doesn’t have a creepy pseudo-student-teacher romance—do we really have to continue?

Never Been Kissed is all about 25 year-old Josie Gellar (Barrymore) and how even though she went to her dream university (Northwestern) and works at her dream job (youngest copy editor ever for the Chicago Sun Times,) she is still pretty much the same person as she was in high school—dorky, fashionably challenged, and without any friends. She desperately wants to move from copy editor to reporter, though all of her coworkers doubt she is able to handle the job. Then, by a stroke of fate, the ridiculously exaggerated and over-characterized head of the newspaper, who’s a total tyrant, assigns Josie a story where she must enroll as a high school student and go undercover to discover some scandalous truth about the youth of Chicago. Now, let’s point out the flaws in this storyline one by one. First: they send a completely inexperienced journalist in to an undercover job without even having a concrete story set. Really? Second: Is that even legal? Would the school administration have to know about this in advance? Can a 25 year-old so easily enroll as a 17 year old student? Isn’t that fraud of some sort? Third: Barrymore is barely able to pass for a 17 year old. Despite her character’s frumpy appearance, she still appears to be very much a woman, not a teenage girl.

Regardless of all of these facts, Josie enrolls and is immediately thrown back into the familiar role of high school geek. She is mocked by the popular kids and befriended by a math nerd named Aldys (who, by the way, is beautiful. The only dorky attributes she possesses are her glasses and ever present math team sweatshirt.) Despite her best attempts to fit in and be “cool,” Josie still remains the loser of the school. That is, until her older brother Rob also re-enrolls at the school in order to jumpstart his baseball career and to help spread the word that Josie is in fact, cool. Now, if we thought that Barrymore couldn’t pass for 17, there’s no way in hell that David Arquette, who looks about 32 in this movie, can pass for a high schooler. Still, back to high school he goes, and is immediately accepted into the circle of popular guys. He spreads the word about Josie being cool, and she gradually is accepted into the popular group of girls (which includes a young Jessica Alba).

The big kicker in this movie takes form in the English teacher, played by the foxy Michael Vartan. There’s obvious attraction and sexual tension between him and Josie from their first encounter, which is actually a little creepy, considering she’s supposed to be his 17 year-old student. They develop a rather close, friendly relationship (creepy), even dancing together at prom (yeah, we weren’t kidding when we said creepy). Prom serves as the climactic event of the film, where Josie reveals herself to be an undercover journalist and breaks down in tears as she tells the student body how ashamed she is of them for tormenting poor Aldys and all of the other nerds. Foxy English Teacher feels betrayed, and says something like “you aren’t the same person I thought you were anymore!” Okay, buddy. Considering you originally thought she was your 17 year old student and not a 25 year old journalist who you could legally date, I’d say you shouldn’t be too upset. Josie then commences to write a beautiful feature for the newspaper about her forays back into high school, including a public apology and proposition for Foxy English Teacher. The movie ends with Josie receiving her first real kiss from Foxy English Teacher on the high school pitcher’s mound in front of the entire school.

This movie passes the Bechdel test, as it has multiple named female characters, who talk to each other, about subjects other than a man. Josie and Aldys share several conversations about Aldys’ “hopes and dreams” and the social structure of the school.

What we see in this movie is a woman compromising herself and completely changing who she is in order to reach a higher position of power in her workplace. While it’s all cute and fun and makes for a relatively entertaining movie, is this really the message that young girls and young women need from a movie starring Drew Barrymore, one of the most powerful women in Hollywood? Drew Barrymore said from a young age that she wanted to do it all: act, write, direct, produce. She has managed to do all of these things and be relatively successful in all of them. So why is Ms. Barrymore perpetuating this stereotype that women need to change who they are and do whatever it takes in order to get ahead? Her character starts out relatively strong and independent, and finishes the movie as a woman dependent on a man for happiness.

While the movie is pretty entertaining, there’s barely any substance, and Barrymore’s Josie isn’t a character to look up to. However, one especially redeeming quality in this movie is a young James Franco (pre Freaks and Geeks!)

What’s it going to take to get a movie featuring a strong female lead? We want to see a woman who remains strong and keeps her dignity in tact throughout the entirety of the film. Next up, we’ll see if the 70s was a nicer decade than the 90s for the female protagonist.  

life-tbd brought up a good point: who’s making these movies that supposedly reveal the female psyche?
As you can see, in the above table, the 3 most recent movies have a female to male ratio of 7:6 (not too shabby), the 3 oldest movies have a ratio of 1:8 (terrible… and the female in that count had no part in filming, she wrote the short story off of which the film was based.)
So to answer the original question: it used to be men, but (if this is any sign) it seems to be evening out.
This just leaves us with more questions:
Why are women writing parts that portray a negative image of women?
Which came first, the movie or the stereotype?

life-tbd brought up a good point: who’s making these movies that supposedly reveal the female psyche?

As you can see, in the above table, the 3 most recent movies have a female to male ratio of 7:6 (not too shabby), the 3 oldest movies have a ratio of 1:8 (terrible… and the female in that count had no part in filming, she wrote the short story off of which the film was based.)

So to answer the original question: it used to be men, but (if this is any sign) it seems to be evening out.

This just leaves us with more questions:

Why are women writing parts that portray a negative image of women?

Which came first, the movie or the stereotype?

Audrey Hepburn graces the screen in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with her beauty and gentle voice.  Her character is a young woman who lives on her own in New York City. The rich men she dates are her only source of income, and she plans to marry for financial assurance. This may be a sentiment of the times; the movie was released in 1961, and was based off the 1958 novel by Truman Capote (who later wrote In Cold Blood).  It is clear that Capote is not a romance novelist, yet he did not shy away from writing a classic romantic novel. Could the movie adaptation be marketed toward both sexes in equal part and succeed?

The movie cost an estimate of $2,500,000 to make and had brought in over $14,000,000 world wide by 2004 (from imbd.com). You do the math.

The trailer promotes its star, Hepburn, as the main draw to the movie. It boasts “[Breakfast at Tiffany’s] is everything you’ve always wanted to do…and Audrey Hepburn’s the one you’ve always wanted to do it with!”

We can’t decide if that statement is directed toward women or men.

Hepburn really is the star of this movie. She far outshines the mundane plot of the film, and her counterpart, George Peppard (although we find his performance calculated and convincing). Hepburn’s character could be considered a manic pixie dream girl** (though the term had not yet been coined); she’s aloof, she’s beautiful, she says things that don’t make sense, and everybody seems to like her. She carries the role of the ‘manic pixie’ with such class that it’s hardly recognizable.

It’s refreshing that Hepburn and Peppard are put on the same level. They’re both poor and accepting money for their company. Peppard’s character Paul cannot ‘save’ Hepburn’s Holly Golightly from her financial short-comings, nor does he try molding her into a house wife. However, the star female role of a movie made 50 years ago holds the same stereotypes that we have today, or perhaps took hand in creating them. Has nothing changed in 50 years? In Breakfast at Tiffany’s they find library books by searching rows and rows of alphabetized index cards, smoking is still glamorous, the phones have rotary dials, and the female character represents an archetype for women in the media for which a term was not coined until 2005! 2005, the year we were putting pictures up on myspace and talking on our now way outdated cellphones while we bought music on iTunes.

The only thing that’s changed between the female characters in romantic comedies today and Hepburn’s character in BAT is the slow degradation of their portrayal. 

Perhaps that’s too harsh. Women’s presence in the movies seems to have improved. Breakfast at Tiffany’s does not pass the Bechdel test. It does have two named female characters, but they never have a conversation.

The more recent movies we watched have passed the test. But, not Breakfast at Tiffany’s, really? That’s all we have to show for 50 years of film making and two waves of feminism?      

**We wish we could take credit for the above video, but we are not Feminist Frequency (in case you were wondering).

I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world.
Mindy Kaling (Read the complete article here; it’s hilarious)
Do you find the term Chick-Flick offensive?

 While reading about chick-flicks it has come to our attention that many women out there find this term offensive. Clearly, we didn’t think about that before we made the url for our blog. For some women, the word ‘chick’ is demeaning on its own. For others, it’s just how terrible “chick-flicks” seem to be these days.

Both men and women have been known to use the term “chick-flick” to describe a movie as being bad or having no substance. We found two articles that have different views on the Chick-Flick:

In this article from 2007, Gloria Steinem conveys a neutral (if not positive) view on the chick-flick: “It has more dialogue than special effects, more relationships than violence, and relies for its suspense on how people live instead of how they die.”

In contrast, Susan Heyn writes she has “always found these films to be particularly insulting for a number of reasons, including the fact that the movies of this “genre” aren’t well made.” You can read her article here.

The articles do have one thing in common. They both propose a label for movies that are the opposite of Chick-flicks. Do “prick-flicks” or “dick-flicks” sound good to any of you?

We’d love to hear your feedback on the term. Does it offend you?

This isn't really a question...but I think this is brilliant and you guys rock.
Anonymous

Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it. :) 

Ah, 27 Dresses. So, let’s just start this one off with a summary. A marriage obsessed, “serial bridesmaid” named Jane (Katherine Heigl) is in love with her boss. Now, her boss isn’t just some average Joe. No, no, quite the contrary: not only is he super attractive, but he is incredibly successful in running his own business, is a philanthropist, super environmentally conscious, and ”has climbed every major peak in the world!”  (Give us a break, PLEASE) Oh, and let’s not forget that Jane is not only his assistant (AKA: phone call making, dry-cleaning getter), but has been pining after him for what seems like several years, AND has no clear interests of her own…except for that whole bridesmaid thing. Enter Kevin Doyle (the super dreamy James Marsden), a reluctant journalist for the Commitments Column of the New York Journal (presumably supposed to be the New York Times), who writes under the name Malcolm. He notices Jane running between two weddings on the same night (both of which she is a bridesmaid in) and begins an originally critical and negative article about her forays into bridesmaid-dom, but soon realizes that she is so much more than that. Turns out that she’s an actual person with several interests rather than just a woman who was in 27 weddings…or, at least, she would be if her character were not really, just a woman who was in 27 weddings. Alas, the heroine’s life (as we see it) consists of this: a sassy best friend who loves men (but not commitment, if you know what I mean), working a thankless job for a man she’s in love with, looking after her younger, less responsible sister Tess, and cutting out Malcolm’s (Kevin’s) columns from the newspaper because “they’re the most beautiful things [she’s] ever read.” Long story short: Tess and George (the boss/perfect man) start dating and are quickly engaged; Jane is too much of a pushover to say anything. She begins a relationship with Kevin, only to have it end quite quickly once his article about her is published (oh, that’s right…he didn’t bother to tell her about it. Oops.) She is upset (rightly so), her relationship with her sister (who has been lying about several major parts of her life to George, by the way) is strained, and Kevin attempts to win her forgiveness. Jane goes off on a bender, ruins Tess and George’s engagement, and confesses to Kevin that she’s in love with him and that she forgives him. Movie ends, of course, with a wedding. This time, it is Jane’s and Kevin’s.

Surprisingly, this movie does pass the Bechdel test, with several conversations between Jane and Tess about their dead mother (oh, right, that’s another cliché you’re likely to find in 95% of these movies) and Tess’ wedding, and several conversations between Jane and her best friend about Tess. Still, the main theme of this movie is marriage, and it practically shames Katherine Heigl’s character for being a serial bridesmaid but never a bride. And hey, what’s wrong with not being married? What kind of message is this movie trying to send, anyway?

Is it fair to compare 27 Dresses to Clueless? Probably not, but that’s what we’re going to do.

The movie Clueless is about how the characters are superficial rich kids, but by the end of the movie we see them as complex, loveable teens who are just trying to find their place in the world. 

27 Dresses is about a man discovering he’s in love with… a psycho…should we stop there? In the end that’s all there is to this movie.

From time to time, there’s nothing wrong with a movie that’s solely a love story. We eat them up. Our hearts break in the scene where Kevin sees Jane flirting with her boss. We can’t help but smile when Kevin confesses he “cried at the Keller wedding” and they kiss for the first time. We’ve fallen victim to the least artful and most heartless form of media, the one that exploits our weaknesses for pay. Oh, holy producers of romantic comedies, show us the way! We kneel at your feet!

We’re part of the problem. Every time we buy a movie ticket, or a DVD, we’re saying that it’s okay to tell young girls that it’s better to be like these women in movies: one-sided, dependent, thin. This romantic comedy character is so high grossing for the film business, that it’s almost all we see of leading women in movies today. And guess what? That’s not okay!!!  Is it possible to have a lighthearted rom-com WITH a developed, strong, female character? I think it is. 

It has to have been done before. Movies marketed toward women haven’t always been like this…have they?  Now we’re on a quest! Find a movie that makes our heart drop and shows respect for women at the same time.

Maybe a leap back in time is necessary…anyone thinking Hepburn? 

Clueless is the epitome of a chick-flick. The cover of the film depicts three teen girls surrounded by pink, chatting on their cell phones. The main character is 15 year-old Cher, Queen Bee turned matchmaker, played by beautiful 20 year-old Alicia Silverstone. Okay, let’s be real—like we knew anyone who looked like that when we were 15 (as if!). But the story (an adaptation on the Jane Austen novel, Emma) is just a vehicle for a masterful representation of our generation’s pop culture. No detail is left to chance; from the time Murray shaves his head in the bathroom at that Valley party “’cuz [he’s] keepin’ it real!”, to the weed-smoking, skateboarding kids sporadically seen in the background, to the feather topped pen in our blog picture (who didn’t have one of those?). This movie is one of the most artful, meticulously constructed, brilliant films of all time and we love it, love it, LOVE IT! Others do too, as it is one of those films with a cult-like following. The movie was also initially well received by critics, though some said that without Silverstone, it would “not work” as well as it did.

So, why market this movie towards women (or perhaps teenage girls)?

In this case it’s definitely the “completely and utterly clueless” female protagonist. If you looked up “girly-girl” in the dictionary, you may very well find a picture of Cher. It’s apparent why having this character as the protagonist may not appeal to a male audience. In addition to most of the main characters being women, the movie places an emphasis on appearance and fashion, as well as romance and dating—topics that are much more interesting to the average adolescent female than the average adolescent male. Despite the fact that it’s marketed towards women, from what we’ve seen, Clueless is loved by both genders. It’s a cult classic that is extremely quotable (if you’ve seen it, you may have noticed a few references throughout this review.)

We see in Clueless a couple of stereotypes that we often see in the chick-flick genre. Let’s look at the female characters: 

Cher- superficial, clueless, beautiful

Dionne- a sassier version of Cher, plus a boyfriend

Tai- not so superficial, even more clueless, dumpy turned beautiful (there’s the cliché makeover scene)

Ms. Geist- intelligent, good-natured, homely

PE Teacher- a man-hating lesbian (really, who didn’t see that one coming?) 

In fact, all of the adult women in this movie are frumpy and frizzy haired, and all of the beautiful characters are vapid and/or vain. Note those stereotypes, because they will occur in most, if not all the movies we’ll talk about on this blog.  Perhaps it’s just teenage girls that are considered superficial and dumb. But are these stereotypical characters offensive? As Dionne’s boyfriend Murray puts it: “Street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic undertones.” Like Dionne, we don’t care for that “mocking,” nor do we know many teenage girls who fit the vapid, vain stereotype. Maybe all of our friends are moving into their “post-adolescent idealistic phase.” Still, are these characters’ vapidity over-exaggerated for the purpose of the film, or do the film makers truly believe this is what teenagers are like? Considering the film was written and directed by Amy Heckerling, who has won multiple awards for expanding the role of women in the entertainment industry, we can only assume that the characterizations of the female characters are gross exaggerations in order to carry the plot. 

As we watch these films, we will be applying the Bechdel Test (check out our previous post for a link to a good video explaining it) to evaluate how women are represented in each film. In Clueless, there are at least two named, female characters. They do talk to each other. And they do talk about something other than a man—sometimes. While many of the conversations between female characters involve men, not all of them do. So, Clueless just barely passes the Bechdel test. Although the majority of the main characters are women, many of their main story arcs revolve around or involve a man. Cher and Josh, Tai and Elton, Tai and Travis, Ms. Geist and Mr. Hall, Dionne and Murray—these romances and relationships are all essential to the plot of the film. Conversations happen between the women about fashion or lifestyle choices, but these are few and far between, and basically act as “filler” dialogue. So, even though this movie is marketed towards women, the women in this film are largely dependent on men for their stories. Regardless of this, the movie is still highly enjoyable.  If you haven’t seen Clueless, we suggest you do. It’s a modern classic! Not just by our standards, either. It was nominated for the American Film Institute’s “100 years…100 laughs” and was ranked 42nd in a list of 100 New Classics between 1983 and 2008.  

An Introduction

Who decides which movies are deemed “chick-flicks?” What qualities must these movies possess in order for them to be slapped with this label? Is it a female protagonist whose main storyline revolves around a man or maybe a feud with another female? And why is it that so many women love these movies so much?

We’re on a quest to find out. We are two female high school students, and much like actress and writer Mindy Kaling, we love chick flicks. As Kaling puts it: “This is my favorite kind of movie. I feel almost embarrassed revealing this, because the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years that saying you like romantic comedies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity. But that has not stopped me from enjoying them.” According to Kaling, these movies have changed within the past twenty years. Why? Is this a result of the film industry, or society?

We hope to address all of our questions as we watch six films made between 1950 and 2008 and explore in depth why these films are “chick-flicks.” We will also apply the Bechdel Test to each movie we watch, in order to assess how women are represented in these films.

So, ladies…burn your bras and pop your popcorn. We’re going to the movies.