Growing out of the chick flick box*
Before I read Andrew O'Hehir's review for Nicole Holofcener's new film, “Please Give” on Salon, I groaned as a palm flew to my face. The title of his review/interview: “The Art of Making Vagina Movies.” A vagina movie? Is this another witty attempt to classify movies written by women, directed by women and/or featuring mostly women? Let's see, what could be next. . . . Boob Pictures or Mammary Movies? For something more edgy: Twat/Cunt/Clit Flicks. How about Damsel or Lady Movies for the more conservative. Or for your sophisticated art house film featuring women: Un film de Vulva. So who's idiotic idea was “Vagina Movies?” O'Hehir's or some other asshat over at Salon? Turns out, neither. “Vagina movies” comes from writer/director of “Please Give” Nicole Holofcener herself to describe her work. With a heavy dose of irony, I suspect, as her work as been labeled “chick flick” about a bajilion times. (O'Herir notes “she has the reputation of an upscale chick-flick director”). So let's talk about the problems of a film "genre" not based on the film's content but in someway based on gender. In O'Hehir's interview, Holofcener says: “. . . people want to call me a female director. I'm just a director. I can't deny that my audiences are definitely more female, but I think that's partly because people call them women's movies. There was one magazine that called this movie a "bitchy chat-fest chick flick." And it was a positive review! Like, what guy, and what intelligent woman, would ever go see that? It's frustrating.” And here's the problem. We see it when a man gets called “girly” or “pussy” or “feminine.” These words are insulting because they are thrown with the tacit understanding that women are lesser. It is not a good thing to be called a girl and when something else, a novel or film or whatever, is labeled as “vagina” or “chick” or “bitchy chat-fest chick flick," it automatically writes that film off as something inherently inferior to another project, say something written/staring/about men. Even if, as in the "bitchy chat-fest" remark, it is not intended to be negative, “chick flick” still carries that negative connotation. Mind, this is not meant as a defense of those formerly-known-as-rom-com movies. Generally, those movies are vacuous bits of fluff that reinforce that faulty notion that women only care about boys, shoes, and shopping. That is, in part, what pisses me off. That so many of those kinds of movies are made (Sex and the City XXXVI) and when a really good, complex film comes along about women behaving as human beings and not airheads with designer labels glued to their bodies, the writer/director (or star, as the case may be) has to defend it to certain people. She has to say over and over, "I am a director" not a "woman director" or "chick-flick director." She is an artist, not a peddler of fabulousness. Also, just the existence of the "chick flick" category pisses me off because it's saying "THIS IS WHAT ALL WOMEN WANT." As if having a vagina makes us all have the exact same tastes. (Do I need to say that that is stupid? Not to mention that's the logic of a four-year old). Further, by stereotyping women's tastes like that, there's an underlining assumption that films not about boys, shoes, and shopping ("The Hurt Locker" or "Nightmare on Elm Street") are films that women simply are not interested in. Which, again, illustrates the tidy and faulty logic of afour-year old. So I'm especially irritated that turds like Daniel Schweiger at Buzzine do refer to her to Holofcener as a writer of "chick flicks." And Ella Taylor at NPR that make the subject of her review Nicole Holofcener as antidote to the “toxic women's movie." As if “Please Give” should only be a movie women watch. Here's what Women and Hollywood have to say about that: “. . . one would be remiss and quite frankly an idiot to paint her work with the chick flick brush just because her film’s are told from a female point of view.” AND, “[Nicole Holofcener's] films are about real people, people you might see on the street, or people you might know and quite frankly there are a lot of unlikable and miserable people out there.” Frankly, if a man (or woman) has to be dragged to see “Please Give” just because it features almost all women (maybe he would prefer to whack off to muscular men running from explosions or robots blowing other robots) than he should be left alone in the dark with a sock and his Stephen Seagal collection. But, happily, Schweiger and Taylor seem to be in the minority. Several other reviews (from the New York Times to HuffPo to Paste Magazine) had the intelligence to not make an issue out of the “femaleness” of the film. Because it shouldn't be an issue, no more so than other movies made by and featuring men. So can we all grow out of this glittery pink box of "chick flicks" and STOP assuming that 1) all movies staring women are basically the same and 2) all women have the same tastes and want to watch the same movies. Let's just look at the work being done by a creative, thoughtful director without applying insipid labels. *cross posted at Rational Riposte

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