The chicks in chick flicks

When I was younger and did not know what being a “feminist” meant, I enjoyed movies without something clouding the back of my mind. Don’t get me wrong: I still laugh, cry, and enjoy films which I had previously been naive about, but these films now have another meaning to me, for now I see how the female characters are always given stereotypes of what a woman’s role in a movie should be. Thank you, society!

Now sit back, relax, maybe grab some popcorn and read about four of my favorite movies that hit all the stereotypes of apparent woman-ness. And yet I still love them.

16 Candles. The original film will always be exponentially better than the Disney remake, but it follows the classic plot of a girl (Sam) who “falls in love” (in rom-coms and chick flicks, “fall in love” normally refers to the girl hardly speaking to the boy, but it is constituted as “love”) with an older boy (Jake) that she believes does not even know she exists, and Sam longs for his attention. Meanwhile, Jake also wants her attention (I mean, of course, because there would be no plot otherwise.) The movie ends with the huge surprise of Sam and Jake ending up together. The only plot twist is that the Sam’s birthday was forgotten by her family members since her sister was getting married that week, and this ruins her life, obviously.

Clueless. Clueless is supposed to fall into the plot line of the novel Emma by Jane Austen. I think Jane Austen would have a heart attack if she saw this movie today. The main character, Cher, is the quintessential “stupid blonde” whose talents include being a cupid for her friends and teachers and having a great sense of fashion. She is also (obviously) pretty, popular, and hard to get, since she only dates “older guys,” as if she would date boys her own age! Yet Cher is assaulted by multiple guys, and she falls in love and starts to date her former step-brother (slightly strange). Cher believes that all she needs is a man, and she eventually learns that her step-brother is the perfect choice for her.

Grease. Oh Grease, one of those movies that became the essence of sleepovers when you were a “tween.” This movie features John Travolta in his golden days, with his perfectly slicked-back-over greased hair and his bad boy demeanor. Sandy, a girl that Danny (Travolta) used to date over the summer, for some reason has moved to the same town as Danny and begins to attend his high-school. Sandy immediately sees how different Danny is with his friends and around the other girls than he was with her over the summer. At first Sandy does not make an attempt to conform to the “Pink Ladies” standards and the “Greasers’” expectations, but in the end, Sandy changes her attitude towards just about everything and her visage, just to impress Danny. She also loses her Australian accent, a Herculean task.

Mean Girls. I think this film labels the United States of America as a place where all high schools parallel the high school in Mean Girls. The title gives a nice two-word summary of the movie. Cady Heron, a very smart, new student who has just moved from Africa to the United States, befriends two characters who convince her to become a “Plastic” (a term used for the socially elite girls of the school) in order to get revenge on the three Barbie-like girls. Meanwhile, Cady falls for Aaron Sanders, the head plastic Regina George’s ex-boyfriend. Regina becomes jealous and starts dating Aaron again, just for spite. Cady begins to turn into a Plastic herself, deviating from her original goal of revenge against The Plastics. But of course, in the end she winds up with Aaron.

These four films rely on stereotypes of the “dumb blonde,” the “slut,” the “stupid” girl, and the “boy-crazy” girl, yet for some reason I still enjoy them because to put it simply, they provide entertainment. I think people enjoy these movies because they are so simplistic. We look at Cher, Cady, Sandy, and Sam, and we become jealous of how simple their lives are and how their “problems” are focused on boys, parties, clothes, and their looks, while we are focused on trying to get into college.

While there are many movies that cast women into powerful roles, most of these movies are based on real events, like Zero Dark Thirty (which I highly recommend). There are not nearly enough movies that feature teenage girls in powerful roles that do not constrict girls to roles that follow the stereotypes that society wants to watch. While I can enjoy these movies and similar ones, I must pay attention to how the women are portrayed because is the movie industry just making fun of female (and also male) stereotypes? Or is this satire, raising the stereotypes to mock them? Food for thought.

Image: Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles.  

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