There’s no denying it: ladies love the chick flicks. For men, they’re instruments of torture they must endure with their woman so they can be rewarded at the end of the night. Women, however, eat them up — especially the under-30 crowd. They’ll drag their boyfriends to them, bond with a group of girlfriends while watching them, or sit at home alone crying to them. Never mind that they’re vapid, formulaic crap that Hollywood can churn out faster than Sandra Fluke can go through condoms. They’re still successful.
Too bad they also send some of the worst messages to women in the history of mankind. Horrible stereotypes, insulting characters, idiotic relationship advice… it’s all there. Some chick flicks are better at hiding it than others, but generally, you can count on the same thing each time. The worst part is, women are actually starting to believe the lunacy they see in these movies!
So which are the worst offenders, and what damaging messages do they send?
10. The Notebook
Damaging Message: Cheating Is Great!
The Notebook is considered by many women to be one of the most beloved movies ever, a perfect example of what romance and long-lasting love are supposed to be. Too bad about half of the movie revolves around the main character cheating on her fiance.
For those who haven’t seen it, Allie and Noah are high-school sweethearts. Allie’s rich and Noah’s poor, so they break up after one summer. Noah joins the Army and fights in World War II; Allie goes to college and gets engaged to a handsome soldier turned lawyer. After getting engaged, she runs back to Noah, rolls around in the hay with him a few times, and ends up insulted at her mother’s insinuation that she’s a tramp. None of this matters, of course. Noah and Allie love each other so much that cheating on the man she promised to marry was perfectly acceptable. Heck, even her fiance didn’t get mad at her. It’s romantic, see?
The lesson here is that, hey, it’s totally cool to cheat on someone if that’s what your heart is telling you to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. If you’re following your heart, then cheat away!
Damaging Message: Pretend to Be Dumb and Everyone Will Adore You
The heroine of Clueless, a teenage girl named Cher, is ditzy, superficial, and shallow. She spends most of the movie butchering the English language, screwing up virtually everything she touches, and ruining relationships left and right. But because she’s pretty, sweet, and rich, everyone around her just adores her. Of course, by the end of the movie, we see that she’s not really stupid. She suddenly becomes wise, driven, and even gets involved in charity! But she never loses that adorable dumbed-down persona that made everyone love her to begin with.
The idea that women need to dumb themselves down to be liked is vomit-inducing, but it caught on post-Clueless. Many of Cher’s catchphrases (“Whatever!”, “As if!”, and excessive uses of the word “like”) remain popular today. Girls see in this movie that they should appear intelligent by using big words, albeit words they don’t actually know the meaning of, but make sure to not actually be intelligent. Because that’s not quite as cutesy and adorable, or something. Even if you decide to become all smart and stuff, make sure you don’t take it too far. Don’t want to lose that dumb, adorable charm!
Damaging Message: Have Sex With a Player, and He’ll Totally Fall In Love With You!
Also Seen In: Fools Rush In
Dirty Dancing probably ranks right up there with The Notebook in classic chick-flick status, although for completely different reasons. Dirty Dancing makes you feel happy at the end, while The Notebook makes you cry. And Dirty Dancing tells girls to ignore the advice that their mothers gave them, and to just go ahead and give it up to that guy who has a bad reputation, because deep down, he’s really looking to fall in love!
In the movie, Baby hears that Johnny has a reputation for sleeping with the married women at the club where she and her family vacation. No matter. Within days of meeting him, she convinces herself she’s in love and hops into bed with him. Now, in real life, she’d probably never see the guy again. But in the movie, he’s in love with her too (of course!), and has been dying for that one magical lay that would make him see the error of his whore-mongering ways.
Let’s face it: girls make this dumb mistake all the time. Sure, they may know that the guy they’ve got a crush on is a player. But he sure is a smooth talker, and they’re just following their heart, right? And you can’t ever go wrong if you’re following your heart. (Gag.) So while Johnny may have been so entranced by Baby that he gave up his player status, it’s not realistic.
In real life, Baby probably would have ended up a one-night stand, crying her heart out to her sister while Johnny moved on to his next easy catch.
Damaging Message: Men Are Bumbling Idiots
Also Seen In: Fool’s Gold
Hitch revolves around the currently popular premise that men are stupid, especially when it comes to women. And in this particular movie, they are so clueless and dumb that they actually need to hire a dating expert to help coach them through interaction with women. Men, without the training of Will Smith, are bumbling, messy, lazy, and incapable of forming a coherent sentence in the presence of a woman. You get bonus points if the guy is fat and unattractive, too.
And we just eat it up, don’t we? It’s a running cultural joke. It’s everywhere: sitcoms, commercials, even e-cards and internet memes feature this oh-so-funny idea that men are useless and stupid. And while most chick flicks have insulting stereotypes about women, Hitch clearly shows that the men don’t exactly escape unscathed, either.
Damaging Message: You Should Give Up Everything For Your Guy
Dorothy has a thing for her boss in Jerry Maguire. So she quits her stable job to work at the company he founds after being fired, and makes the spur-of-the-moment decision to marry him. When it seems obvious that he’s not invested in the marriage at all, Dorothy decides to call it quits, move away, and take another job where she could actually, you know, get paid and provide for her child. But because this is a romantic comedy and not real life, Jerry comes crawling back, gives the perfect “take me back” romantic speech, and she decides to give it all up, yet again, for her man.
Now, while sticking by your husband is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, the movie trope of women dropping everything to be with their “perfect” guy is ridiculous. And unlike the movies, when women give up their family, friends, jobs, money, etc., to land a guy, it usually doesn’t end well. If he’s requiring that kind of sacrifice, while giving absolutely nothing in return, that should show up as a a big red flag. And if it does work out, how is the girl likely to feel the rest of her life? You can bet that every time they hit a rough spot in their relationship, she’ll be throwing it in his face that she gave up everything for him.
5. Mean Girls
Damaging Message: Girls Are Evil, Catty Bitches
Mean Girls taught us that girls are horrible creatures. One wrong move and not only have you made an enemy for life but she’ll make sure to punish you endlessly in all kinds of creative and psychotic ways. In Mean Girls the two main characters, Cady and Regina, find all manner of underhanded methods to torment each other. They steal boyfriends, cheat, spread rumors, and on and on. The end of the movie is supposed to show how they’ve resolved their problems and realized that they don’t have to be mean girls, but the movie still ends with a joke about hitting younger girls with a bus.
Catty women exist in real life, sure, but unlike what Hollywood and chick flicks would have you believe, they’re not that common. Most women don’t actually pride themselves on being conniving, lying, back-stabbing harpies. Most women value their friendships. You could excuse Mean Girls by saying that the characters are immature high schoolers, but plenty of chick flicks feature adult women who act the same way. That’s how Hollywood sees women: they will turn on their friends in a second if they’re crossed in some imaginary way, no matter how dumb the reason. Because women are just that mean.
Damaging Message: Neurotic Overanalyzing Is Totally Normal!
The entire premise of Bridget Jones’s Diary is how Bridget chronicles her need to find Mr. Right, and her struggles between two men, Mark and Daniel. Her life has almost no other meaning beyond losing weight and finding the right guy, and so all she does is obsess about how to figure out who Mr. Right is and then land him.
Women tend to overanalyze anyway, but chick flicks take it to a whole other level. In Hollywood, women have no other interests, passions, stresses, worries, nothing. Not only are men the only thing they think about, they obsess over it every second of the day. Time spent with friends is only to hash out every last detail of whatever hookup, relationship, or argument they happen to be going through. And everything is critiqued — what he says, how he says it, what his actions mean, when he’ll propose… just thinking about it all is stressful, not to mention insulting.
It may blow a lot of minds, but believe it or not, women should have more going on in their lives than just obsessing about men 24/7.
Damaging Message: True Love Happens Right Away
The fact that Titanic is considered one of the most romantic movies of all time is nauseating. Jack is a poor guy who meets Rose, a rich girl, aboard the Titanic. Naturally, in the three or so days they know each other, they fall madly in love. Rose has sex with him, and makes plans to leave behind everything — her mother, her fiance, her money — to run away and be penniless with him. Then, when the ship hits the iceberg, she abandons her fiance and her mother and sticks with Jack to the end. This is a sure sign of their undying love. (Astute viewers, however, will note that Jack never even tells Rose he loves her.)
Leaving all of that idiocy aside, it’s a common notion in chick flicks that when you meet the right person, you just know. You’ll fall in love either right away, or very quickly. Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship, though, knows that those feelings of passion quickly fade. And now, there are all too many people who think that this means they’re falling out of love with their significant others. They don’t feel the “passion” they felt when they first got together, so clearly, they aren’t in love anymore.
Message to women everywhere: chick flicks are not real life. You don’t form a deep, meaningful bond in a matter of days.
2. Pretty Woman
Damaging Message: All Women Need Is Clothes and Cash
Pretty Woman is considered to be another chick flick classic, a modern-day Cinderella. But instead of a beautiful princess who is kind and elegant, we instead get a street-walker who has no class, no tact, and yet somehow is just what a single, wealthy businessman wants. Vivian is in every sense of the word a fallen woman, but all it takes to turn her life around are some pretty clothes. After a shopping spree on Rodeo Drive, her entire attitude changes. And after her week with Prince Charming, she’s ready to turn her life around… with her fabulous designer clothes and her new rich boyfriend.
What does that say about women? Chick flicks have this tendency to make their heroines broken in some way, until their perfect man comes along to complete them. In Pretty Woman, the message isn’t even that women need the perfect man — all they need are designer clothes and a wad of cash.
The Most Damaging Message of All: If A Guy Treats You Badly, It’s Because He Loves You
Twilight is pretty much the worst thing to ever happen to literature or film, but let’s focus on just one point. In Twilight, Bella is strangely drawn to Edward. It’s true love, of course, but how does Edward actually treat her? Well, he’s just rude at first, and acts as if he hates absolutely everything about her. Later, once he decides he doesn’t loathe her very being, he admits that he’s murdered people before. He says he’s never wanted anyone’s blood as much as he wants hers, and that he originally wanted to kill her.
This, in Twilight-land, is love. In the real world, it’s called domestic abuse waiting to happen. In a less extreme case, women already suffer from the delusion that if they just hold on, the guy who treats them like dirt will eventually come to his senses and confess his true love. And it’s because of claptrap like Twilight. Real men do not treat women they are in love with like they hate them. If a guy acts like he cannot stand the sight of you, guess what? He probably can’t. This idea that if you put up with his horrible treatment long enough you’ll be rewarded with a happily ever after is one of the worst lies women have ever been told. But it just keeps getting perpetuated in chick flicks, time and time again… and women just keep on believing it.
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