Chick flick

For the Charmed television episode, see "Chick Flick"
The 2008 drama/romance film Twilight was a blockbuster success. (Pictured are the film's stars Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson).

Chick flick is a slang term for the film genre dealing mainly with love and romance which is targeted to a female audience.[1][2] It can be specifically defined as a genre in which a woman is the protagonist. Although many types of films may be directed toward the female gender, "chick flick" is typically used only in reference to films that contain emotion or themes that are relationship-based (although not necessarily romantic as films may focus on parent-child or friend relationships). Chick flicks often are released en masse around Valentine's Day.[3][4] The equivalent for male audiences is the Guy-cry film. Feminists such as Gloria Steinem have objected to terms such as "chick flick" and the related term "chick lit" [5] and a film critic has called the term "chick flick" derogatory.[6]


Generally, a chick flick is a film designed to have an innate appeal to women, typically young women.[4] Defining a chick flick is, as the New York Times has stated, more of a parlor game than a science.[7] These films are generally held in popular culture as having formulaic, paint-by-numbers plot lines and characters. This makes usage of the term "problematic" for implying "frivolity, artlessness, and utter commercialism", according to ReelzChannel.[3] However, several chick flicks have received high critical acclaim for their stories and performances. For example, the 1983 film Terms of Endearment received Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role.[8]

Some frequent elements of chick flicks include having a female protagonist,[3] thematic use of the color pink (along with metaphorical allusions of the color),[4] and romance and/or dating-based storylines.[9] Longtime producer Jerry Bruckheimer has remarked about the plots as "How do you cope with money and love?"[7]

Women are typically portrayed in chick flicks as sassy, noble victims, or klutzy twentysomethings. Romantic comedies are considered a subgenre of the chick flick. However, romantic comedies are typically respected more than chick flicks because they are designed to appeal to men and women.

Female commentator Kim Morgan has written,

[C]inema just wouldn't be the same without movies for and about women. And we don't just mean movies about pretty women, but all women and their issues – something many guys don't usually have the patience for in real life. That's what sisters are for, right? Right... sisters or movies.[10]


The term "chick flick" was not widely used until the 1980s and 1990s. It has its roots in the "women's pictures" of the early twentieth century, which portrays the women as a victim and house-wife, and later the film noir , which portrays the threat of a sexualized women, of the 1940s and early 1950s .[11][12][13] In the 1950s, many women who were in the workforce during World War II faced the transition back into the home. Brandon French notes that the women's films of the 1950s, "shed light on a different cluster of issues and situations women faced in their transition from the forties to the sixties: romance, courtship, work, marriage, sex, motherhood, divorce, loneliness, adultery, alcoholism, widowhood, heroism, madness, and ambition."[14]

The 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's, commonly known as one of the 'classic' films from the golden age of cinema, is sometimes considered an early chick flick due to common elements such as dealing with loneliness, obsessive materialism, and happy endings.[3][15] Author Molly Haskell has suggested that chick flicks are very different from the women's films of the 1940s and 1950s in that they now "sing a different tune." She feels that they are "more defiant and upbeat, post-modern and post-feminist."

In the U.S. in the 1980s, a succession of teenage drama pictures also labeled as chick flicks were released, many by director John Hughes. These often had a different and more realistic tone than previous chick flicks, with dramatic elements such as abortion and personal alienation being included.[3]

Several chick flicks have been patterned after the story of Cinderella and other fairy tales (e.g. A Cinderella Story, Ever After, and Pretty Woman), or even Shakespeare in the case of She's the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You. In addition, a large number are adapted from popular novels (e.g. The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada) and literary classics (e.g. Little Women). While most films that are considered chick flicks are lighthearted, some suspense films also fall under this category. See What Lies Beneath.

After the blockbuster success of the 2008 drama/romance film Twilight, Paul Dergarabedian of Media By Numbers remarked that, "[t]he word 'chick flick' is going to have to be replaced by big box-office girl-power flick" and that, "[t]he box-office clout of the female audience is just astounding, and it's been an underserved audience for way too long". He also said, "they have no trouble finding money for the things they're passionate about." According to, more than 75% of Twilight's opening-weekend audience was female.[9]

Response to the term

The term “chick flick” has generated several negative responses from the modern feminist community. Most criticisms of the genre concentrate on the negative consequences that arise from gendering certain interests, in this case film. Author of The Chick Flick Paradox: Derogatory? Feminist? or Both?, Natalia Thompson, states that chick flicks are “an attempt to lump together an entire gender’s interests into one genre.”[12] While the tailoring of interests may seem helpful and natural, many critics argue that unnecessary gendering can have negative consequences on many different social groups.[16] In fact, there is evidence from Russian social scientist Natal'ia Rimashevskaia that gender stereotypes further perpetuated by the media can lead to discrimination against women and limit their “human and intellectual potential.”[16] More criticisms of the term arise from actual content of the films in the chick flick genre and how the content affects society’s perception of women. Some say that chick flicks are micro-aggressions.[17] Micro-aggressions are actions or exchanges that degrade a person based on his or her membership in a "race, gender, age, and ability."[17]

Critique of the genre

Despite the genre's obvious success, some film critics take issue with the content most chick flicks have in common. Although the subcategories represent different plot lines, all five have several characteristics in common. Many chick flicks can have an "ironic, self-deprecating tone" claims film theorist, Hilary Radner.[18] This tone is one of the defining characteristics of the genre, and many feel that it lacks substance compared to other genres.[18] Radner also goes on to say the genre is, "incredibly heteronormative and white-washed."[18] These common characteristics of the genre can lead to criticism from minority groups and social justice activists.[18] More issues with the genre emerge from the opinion that chick flicks play to every woman's "patriarchal unconscious."[19]

In her article Structural Integrity, Historical Reversion, and the Post-9/11 Chick Flick, Diane Negra focuses on several romantic comedies, deemed to be chick flicks, set in New York City after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. [20] She claims that the films, "centralize female subjectivity but more compellingly undertake political work to stabilize national identity post-9/11."[20] The political and social upheaval following the attacks led to a need for films that show the importance of protecting gender and family norms, or "ideological boundaries," as opposed to the emphasis on "survivalism" and "homeland security," used to protect national boundaries, seen in the action films at the time.[20] Juxtaposed with the "politically innocent" genre of the pre-9/11 period, the films are rife with political undertones that are meant "to stabilize national identity post-9/11." [20]

While the plot of a chick flick is typically expected to be centered around a romantic conquest, Alison Winch ("We Can Have It All") writes about films she calls "girlfriend flicks."[21] These movies emphasize the relationships between friends instead of focusing on a love connection, and examples include Bride Wars and Baby Mama.

According to Winch,

Girlfriend flicks often have savvy, “nervous,” female voice-overs mirroring typical romantic comedies, but addressing female spectators in their assumption of the mutual minefield of negotiating relationships, body, work, family, depression—issues prevalent in conduct, diet, and self-help books marketed specifically to women.

[21] Winch also states that the girlfriend flicks are meant to criticize "second wave feminism’s superficial understanding of female solidarity" by showing "conflict, pain, and betrayal acted out between women."[21] By emphasizing the "complexities of women's relationships," the girlfriend flick breaks the mold for the usual chick flick and allows the genre to gain a bit of depth.[21]


See also


  1. Simpson, John, ed. (2009). Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, on CD-ROM Version 4.0. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956383-8.
  2. Stevenson, Angus; Lindberg, Christine A., eds. (2010). New Oxford American Dictionary, Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-19-539288-3.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Eber, Hailey. "Our Valentine to You and Yours: 10 Chick-Flicks that Don't Totally Suck". ReelzChannel. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Abramowitz, Rachel (February 14, 2009). "'Chick flicks' are really starting to click". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Cieply, Michael (April 9, 2008). "Wary Hollywood Plans More Chick-Flicks (Hoping to Lure the Guys)". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "Terms of Endearment". New York University: Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. Retrieved September 30, 2010. Terms of Endearment shares with films Beaches, Steel Magnolias, and One True Thing the popular status of melodramatic 'chick-flick'.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "'Twilight' is the new breed of chick-flick". November 25, 2008. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  10. 1 2 3 Morgan, Kim. "Top 10 Chick-Flicks". Retrieved December 3, 2010.
  11. Ferriss, Suzanne and Mallory Young (2008). Chick Flicks: Contemporary Women at the Movies. New York: Routledge. p. 14.
  12. 1 2 Thompson, Natalia M. (2007-01-01). "The Chick Flick Paradox: Derogatory? Feminist? Or Both?". Off Our Backs. 37 (1): 43–45. JSTOR 20838769.
  13. Kaplan, E. Ann (1983). Women & Film: Both Sides of the Camera. New York: Methuen, Inc. p. 6. ISBN 0416317502.
  14. French, Brandon (1978). On The Verge of Revolt: Women in American Films of the Fifties. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. pp. xxii–xxiii. ISBN 0804422206.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Halpern, Michelle (October 27, 2009). "The Best Chick-Flicks: Then and Now". Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  16. 1 2 Rimashevskaia, Natal'ia (2008). "Gender Stereotypes And The Logic Of Social Relations". Russian Social Science Review.
  17. 1 2 Cousins, Linwood. SAGE Reference - Encyclopedia of Human Services and Diversity. doi:10.4135/9781483346663.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Radner, Hilary (2011). Neo-Feminist Cinema: Girly Films, Chick Flicks, and Consumer Culture. New York, New York: Routledge. pp. 117–119. ISBN 978-0-415-87773-2.
  19. Erens, Patricia (1990). Issues in Feminist Film Criticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 59–61. ISBN 0-253-31964-1.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Negra, Diane (2008). "Structural Integrity, Historical Reversion, and the Post-9/11 Chick Flick". Feminist Media Studies. doi:10.1080/14680770701824902. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  21. 1 2 3 4 Winch, Alison (2012). "We Can Have It All". Feminist Media Studies. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  22. "a rare commodity, a military chick-flick".
  23. Jacobson, Colin (April 13, 2007). "An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)". Retrieved August 22, 2011. Officer manages to be one of those rare films that deftly treads the line between guy movie and “chick-flick”.
  25. "just for Graham Hartle, his favourite chick-flick".
  26. St. John, Nina. "10 Best Chick-Flick Quotes". Screen Junkies. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  27. Ellison, Richie. "A chick-flick turned b-movie road adventure". LoveFilm. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  28. James Berardinelli (1995). "Waiting to Exhale". Retrieved October 2, 2010. No doubt about it -- this is a "women's movie" (or, as it's alternatively referred to, a "chick-flick")
  29. Spindle, Les (August 5, 2009). "The First Wives Club -- Theater Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 2, 2010. The menopausal chick-flick "The First Wives Club" (1996), based on the novel by Olivia Goldsmith, primarily demonstrated that mediocrity needn't preclude boxoffice success
  30. 1 2 3 4 James Berardinelli; Roger Ebert (2005). Reel views 2: the ultimate guide to the best 1,000 modern movies on DVD and video. pp. 243, 304, 347–348, 370. ISBN 978-1-932112-40-5.
  31. 1 2 3 4 5 "Memorable and Great "Chick" Flicks". Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  32. Boursaw, Jane Louise. "Top 10 Chick Flicks Bridget Jones Diary (2001)". Kaboose. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  33. "1. Under the Tuscan Sun - 10 Best Chick Flicks of All Time". 2015. Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  34. Beyrer, Bill. "The Notebook - Review". Retrieved October 2, 2010. The Notebook is a chick-flick. Not just any kind of chick-flick, but the kind of chick-flick your parents would like.
  35. Reed, Bryan (February 22, 2007). ""Music and Lyrics" more than a chick flick". The Daily Tar Heel.
  36. Debbie Schlussel (February 14, 2007). "Mid-Week Box Office: A Cute Chick-Flick I Liked".
  37. Mele, Rick. "The Proposal". Retrieved October 2, 2010. this is a chick-flick so Andrew’s choice and what yours might have been aren’t necessarily going to match up
  38. "The Movie Report Archive: June 2009". June 19, 2009. Retrieved October 3, 2010. (quote) there is something to be said for such a relentlessly by-the-numbers chick-flick programmer that is nonetheless a breezily enjoyable sit
  39. "Top 10 Worst Chick Flicks". Time. May 26, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2011. Sex and the City 2 hits theaters on May 27, 2010, and already the news isn't good. TIME takes a look at some other not-so-great films that have been cruelly pitched at female audiences
  40. "How 50 Shades of Grey mirrors scenes from other popular chick-flicks". 2015. Retrieved 2016-04-27.

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