February 19, 2010

An unhealthy diet of "chick flicks"

Harding’s piece at Salon’s Broadsheet was inspired by one man’s attempt to “understand” women. How did he conduct this bit of anthropological research? By ingesting 30 “chick flicks” in 30 days. I can only guess that this endeavor nauseated him as much as McDonald’s greasy fried bits nauseated Morgan Spurlock in a similar challenge in Supersize Me (afterall, these films are as unhealthy for you mentally and emotionally as the Golden Arches’ fat-packed, artery clogging menu offerings are for your heart, intestines and colon).

As Harding points out, few films are directed by women and Waters, the man seeking to understand the female creature, only watched 8 female-directed films out of 30. She also calls out the heterosexist and “white” roles and story lines. The point being, uh,  not all women are white, not all women are straight. And, of course, the primary goal in the bulk of these films is marriage (preferably in Vera Wang). Last, not all women want to get married and many who do, want a divorce.

I’ve copped to my sick addiction to romantic comedies and “chick flicks” on numerous occasions.  With that said, I’ve actively employed my media literacy skills in deconstructing and examining these messages. Yes, I watch too many of these homogeneous films that recycle the same characters and plots time and time again. But, I am able to recognize the fallacies, stereotypes and sexist remarks while most theater (or Netflix) patrons do not. They ingest these images, roles and messages over and over from childhood to adulthood and these messages become normative, expected and unremarkable. Men come to believe that women are unintelligent, self-absorbed creatures seeking a ring and a baby. Women learn that this is what they should aspire to as a goal and the way to achieve that is through expensive and time consuming beauty practices. They are led to believe that this is what will land them the relationship they’ve dreamed of since girlhood when they’d scrawl their crushes name all over their notebooks.

Sadly, this is a one-dimensional image of girls and women that doesn’t promote anything outside the standard and seriously flawed story (or fairytale). Women know that these characters and plots don’t accurately reflect their own bodies, their own relationships, or most of the people they know. But, deep down they still desire the unreal which will leave you disappointed every time. And that disappointment manifests it in one’s attitude toward self and others. Now, that is unhealthy indeed.

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