I watched 27 Dresses recently. If I had had tomatoes, well, I would’ve made a yummy salad with basil and olive oil. And then I would’ve thrown them at the screen. Any other hecklers of premium cable out there? Because OHMYGOD.
Listen, I love a good chick flick. My Netflix list is unapologetically filled with them. When You’ve Got Mail or The Wedding Planner is starting on TBS, it’s like a subliminal tractor beam: “Yeah, you’re doing THIS now. On the couch with you, woman. Text your girlfriends, I lured them in, too.” How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days could be subtitled How To Lose Your Afternoon For 2 Hours. It’s like there’s a Sweet Home Muscle Relaxer that incapacitates us, so we’re glassy-eyed and glued to the screen, helpless to do anything but listen to Reese Witherspoon’s taffy-spun Southern accent that she flips on and off like a buttermilk light switch.
Let’s explore the recipe.
Start with a boy and girl. Girl is likable and a little too neurotic, and has some crappy job that she hates but stays at for the sake of comfort. Boy is likable and a little too quirky for Girl. Boy and Girl don’t like each other, yet improbable events force them into each other’s orbit. They reluctantly start to warm up to each other. Girl gets drunk and sings karaoke, which is how Boy sees that she’s not so uptight (I don’t know about you, but most of my relationships begin with a little cocktail-fueled Copacabana). Boy and Girl kiss, usually because Girl accidentally falls into Boy’s arms, which is realistic because things like that happen all the time. Boy’s love emancipates Girl and she quits her job, in a glorious, triumphant moment. Her former colleagues may actually applaud her on the way out the door; no need for two weeks notice or an awkward resignation conversation with a boss. Then: wedding! And at the wedding, Girl’s best friend, a wacky but lovable tramp, and his, a goofy but lovable doofus, exchange a long look or inside joke, reassuring the audience that they’re about to take the plunge as well, and yes, even tramps and doofuses need love too. Cue up a John Mayer song to play us out, credits.
It’s impossible not to kinda-sorta-begrudgingly love chick flicks, because there are so many of them scattered throughout our memories. Whenever I see Steel Magnolias or When Harry Met Sally, I remember all the parts my mom laughed at, while I listened from the other room, intrigued as any kid by a movie that was too grown up to watch. When I was in college, I saw Titanic three times in the theater and Ever After twice. A couple friends and I once spent an entire Saturday wrapped in the evil, sobbing clutches of The Bridges of Madison County (that’s a movie you need to sleep off to recover from, I swear). I can argue that some aren’t complete dreck (The Holiday has Kate Winslet! And England!). It’s an undeniable fact that I’m more like Bridget Jones than myself sometimes. And yet…
The intellectual in me (believe me, I’ve tried to kill her with Us Weekly and googling the correct spelling of Kristin Cavallari, but she exists) has her arms crossed across her chest, glaring at me through bifocals every time I watch one of them. And what can I say for myself, really? Chick flicks do little but contribute to wildly unrealistic expectations of the opposite sex. They make going back to your ex or trying to reform a total mess of a guy seem like a great idea. They reinforce that when you’re single and struggling with a job you’re a “before,” toiling away as a nobody until you finally put on a wedding dress and become an “after” (so far as I can tell, it’s the airbrushed wedding, not a happy marriage, that’s key in chick flicks). I swear one of my college roommates married her first husband because she was in a sentimental mood after watching Drew Barrymore on the pitcher’s mound in Never Been Kissed, a sweet little scene that played out to the strains of the Beach Boys.
Don’t worry, baby. They had it annulled a few months later.