Someone asked me if I watched only action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy genres. No. I watch every genre if I think they are promising from the trailers or word-of-mouth referral. All except chick flicks. As you can tell by my choices of films I've watched/reviewed since starting this blog, it's...not very often.

So why don't I watch chick flicks? The short answer is that I am a guy. The long answer? Well, we have to first look at what we define what is a chick flick.

So what is a chick flick?

The few times I have told people that I sort of liked a 'chick flick', it turns out they were actually Romance Comedies, or Romedies as goes the urban slang, and as corrected by some female friends of mine.

Wikipedia defines chick flicks as films "mainly dealing with love and romance designed to appeal to the female audience...typically young women". The common themes or issues these films tend to deal with include loneliness, peer acceptance, unrequited love, betrayal, vanity and the ambitious ones might also deal with coming-of-age issues, again from the female's perspective. Sounds legit.

However, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether chick flicks are a genre in itself, or simply a collection of films that fare better with girls than guys regardless of which genre they are really a part of. For example, Titanic is technically Historical Fiction with strong romance/drama elements, but girls liked it far more than guys, who liked it as well but to the point of re-watching it on DVD a dozen times and managing to empty a tissue box every time, so some people often declare it a classic chick flick.

In fact, I would argue that chick flicks could emerge from almost any genre, even action films. White Chicks is by far the best example of this, as it is a buddy cop film that is more often referred to as a chick flick. If you've never seen this film, and told you that the plot of this film was about two cops who go undercover disguising themselves to infiltrate a business magnate's organization, you probably wouldn't have imagined African American guys disguised as a white chicks singing Vanessa Carlton's "A thousand miles" in a convertible with their girlfriends, of which one was oddly enough played by Debra Morgan.

As such, I think chick flicks are not a genre in itself, but rather an emergent trait which is recognized only by a film's overall appeal to the viewer. In other words, a film that may be considered a chick flick to one girl may not be for another, just as one person may consider a film good when another considers it god awful.

I think I'm sidetracking and getting too bogged down with semantics; I'm here to explain why I don't watch chick flicks in general, not trying to submit a dictionary entry.

Let me list some films I have viewed in my adolescence that I consider a chick flick, whether coerced by my sister or by female friends who says it's their turn to pick the movie for an evening hangout (feel free to correct me if you think any of these films aren't chick flicks):

The 'project' guy is more attractive than the 'normal' guy?

Until very recently, movies and television shows tended to enforce the idea that guys need to be 'projects' to be attractive to girls. Chick flicks are often the biggest offender in this respect. What I mean is that the guy female protagonists tend to fall in love with are either the school bully with a heart of gold, or a quiet new student who has a tragic backstory or is misunderstood due to his demeanor, or is like 15 years older and thus is a form of forbidden love. Because of the female protagonist's fixation on the 'project' guy they generally ignore or are unable to reciprocate the feelings of another person in their life who is a better friend/boyfriend/future husband and loves them more unconditionally.

So what is wrong with falling in love and being with a guy who is smart, average looking, a decent person with no significant personality flaws or secret history? Nothing! However in many of chick flicks the girl generally chooses the guy who is the cause of most of the film's drama, thus promoting the idea that if guys want to be the one the girl chooses in the end, they can't be normal. Perhaps the idea is that the girl isn't normal either but then again she is often sold as the role model for impressionable young girls to behave and think like.

I speculate that the emergence of a 21st century phenomenon known as the "Nice Guy syndrome", that many guys face in their young adulthood, is a direct result of their female peers being subconsciously told to have a desire a boyfriend to be a muscle-toned six feet tall project rather than simply a companion who is reliable, loyal and consistent from Day one.

Anyway, this effect of desiring a challenge in their relationship partner tends to diminish after the age of 25 when most people mature and gain more perspective into real love in the real world (or just stop watching Chick Flicks after realizing how removed from reality it really is). But I feel that before that point, chick flicks has destroyed some girls' capability to date normal guys for their teen years and young adult years, friendzoning the guy that probably would've made them happier, and instead end their own youth in regret or pain that may haunt their future relationship(s).

Sadly the other extreme of some girls' ideal boyfriend is something akin to a Disney prince, probably influenced by those catchy songs and mesmerising scenes in Disney films. But even in those cases the male protagonist tends to be a project to the girl (e.g. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame).

So that's reason number one why I don't watch chick flicks. I do not really want to support movies that don't appeal to my gender, and in fact plays a role in undermining the good guys' chances at finding love during adolescent and young adulthood years. It creates a vicious cycle of thinking for many that they should just 'take what comes' and compromise on their relationship choices because they fear they aren't attractive to women.

Feelings overtake

The second reason is to do with how small the worldview chick flicks tend to have. I will use Twilight to explain this. In this story we have Bella who is your typical boring teenage girl with no noticeable personality or interests, who becomes deeply embroiled in a secret world of vampires and werewolves when she unwittingly falls for the 120+ years old vampire Edward.

This film could have such a potentially interesting universe, but focus is always about Bella's thoughts and feelings towards Edward, and rarely about her thoughts of vampires and werewolves and lore. The universe is just incidental. All that matters to Bella is the people around her, specifically Ed. Even in the final film, which I considered the most watchable film of the series (despite being also the dumbest), we only get a total screen time of less than 30 minutes which involve the Volturi and the other vampires. The rest of the time we have the cameras fixed on Bella and essentially her inner voice wanting to just have a family with Ed and not worry about everything else. Escapism to the max.

Compare this saga to Pirates of the Caribbean, where Elizabeth Swan gets engulfed in the clashes between the pirates, the British Navy and the mythical underworld because of her relationship with Will Turner and Jack Sparrow. It is clear that Will and Jack are large factors in her relationship, but she is also influenced by the world of piracy around her. She is able to function and interact naturally and realistically even when the plot doesn't centralize on her. This is something Bella obviously couldn't do, since in the second Twilight film (New Moon) when Ed temporarily dumps her she literally shuts herself in the room and we get an extremely boring second act of watching her commit suicide and forcing Jacob to reveal his true nature to provide a distraction.

The climax of each Twilight movie tends to take place in locations that have nothing significant to the audience, such as an abandoned warehouse, some icy plains, grassland etc, places that were neither built up nor significant to the characters; just coincidental.

In stark contrast, the climax of each Pirates of the Caribbean movie takes place in the location that their respective films have built up to. Such as the Isle de Muerta (the location of the cursed treasure) for film 1, aboard the Black Pearl for film 2, aboard all three key ships in film 3 and at the Fountain of Youth for film 4. Nothing was by accident, and thus a large amount of anticipation and suspense can be built up not just because of the characters, but be cause we want to see this place they've been talking about or alluding to the whole movie!

So you can see, I like films which places characters in an interesting world, with characters interacting with each other and interacting with the world around them, thus allowing us to experience and immerse ourselves in it through their lenses. If I wanted to see characters interacting with characters, only dealing with small issues and having little to no world awareness, I would watch TV soap like Neighbours which has wonderful sets such as your mum's kitchen, in the grocery store, at the doctors etc. Chick Flicks don't sate me because they don't give me a world I can explore. They give me characters which are just trying to deal with personal issues and have no genuine concern about the world around them; it is all coincidental wherever things happen or people are.

Story quality

The third and last reason I don't watch traditional chick flicks is that they are generally poor quality movies to watch anyway. This is how I would test whether a movie is all-round good. If you were asked to run a movie for your work colleagues, would you show it? If you were hanging out in a group with both genders (not just a girls night/slumber party), would anyone seriously object to watching it?

I would dare to say that most people wouldn't be able to answer 'yes' to these questions when it's a chick flick. After all, they are guilty pleasures that you only indulge in with your BFFs and not when organizing a social outing with acquaintances. While there will undoubtedly be some groups who would be the exception to the rules, as they love chick flicks to death, but it is strictly an in-their-own-world movie, kind of like comic book/superhero movies used to be before Marvel came along, and showed us how to effectively reach a larger audience.

So I don't think I actually like any pure chick flick movies, at least the ones back in the 90s and early 2000s. The chick flick movies that I enjoy tend to have more to offer than just stereotypes dealing with other stereotypes. Suddenly 30 is one that pops to mind now and then because, while it is very girly it does throw her into the world of fashion magazine, and of adulthood which she cannot ignore; she has to learn and adapt to this new environment before she is able to interact with the other characters in the story. 500 days of summer and While You Were sleeping are also ones I enjoyed, though again they fall more towards the Romantic Comedy side of things, and they are more recent.

I implied at the start with my short answer that guys in general don't like chick flicks. And I think the three reasons I've given are all gender-related. Guys don't like being stereotyped in those films and being designated as the one who won't get the girl, they prefer movies with bigger scopes and larger worlds they can explore and fantasize in (that's one reason we tend to play video games, especially Role-playing games), and we are less forgiving to films that aren't executed well or don't make sense within the context of its own world. But the irony of the situation is that most 'guy' flicks often feature hot, shallow, one-dimensional babes which is also unrealistic expectations, so I guess all's fair in love and gender wars (in film).

Having said all this, the chick flick genre is evolving as I type this. One branch from chick flicks (as mentioned earlier) is Young Adult Fiction, which has become box office gold for even the weakest franchises. And while I cannot say that these emerging franchises and newer characters are a lot better, they are moving in the right direction. I can tolerate them enough to actually be invested in a few instances. But at the end of the day, I am not a chick, and that is the main reason why I don't watch chick flicks.