As women, we’ve all seen, heard or have in some way experienced the Friday movie night picks. We women always pick the sappy movies, the one with the young man and woman on the cover with that look in their eyes and the exotic backdrop. It always has a corny title, some reference to Shakespeare, maybe some alliteration – Letters to Juliet, P.S. I Love You, Sleepless in Seattle. Men, it seems, are programmed to stray away from these films, instead picking movies based on explosions, scantily clad actresses and gun fights that result in bloody, unrealistic results. Often it is argued that women choose films with plot, with heart and emotional ties; men avoid these plot devices like the plague.
There is often an argument in the middle of the rental store: “You picked the last movie” or “Remember that time....” These arguments are never truly settled but merely pushed aside for a comedic film about nothing in particular: the perfect middle-ground between thoughtless killing and thoughtful soliloquies spurred on by feelings of love and the like.
What is it that attracts women to the chick-flick? What is it about them that pushes men away?
It’s easy to understand why women watch movies that idealize relationships and make every horrible event add up to a relatively happy ending in which the physically appealing man reveals that he’s loved the main character for as long as he could remember. The men in chick-flicks say everything women want to hear and are usually adorable and mostly confused, but it’s okay to be confused because they’re attractive. Women – as any woman would admit – watch chick-flicks because they let them imagine the life and the romantic adventure they’ve always wanted to live.
What would it take for a man to love a chick-flick? Google “man” and “chick-flick” and you’ll come up with many “How To’s” about how a man can survive a movie oriented for someone “with boobs”. Ehow.com is one such site. Some of the advice is relatively silly: “Watch the movie, but don’t just watch the movie, play a game and try to go through the alphabet and find objects for each letter of the alphabet” or “pick up dating tips.” Each “how to” entry is rated by level of difficulty: Enjoying a chick-flick from the man’s point of view is rated as “moderate” in difficulty. I would imagine putting together a work bench without instructions would be rated “easy” in comparison.
Nick Waters, a 28-year-old Oklahoma man who endured 30 chick-flicks in a matter of 30 days was considered to have survived a “masochistic” experiment. When asked why he thought men hated chick-flicks, Waters answered, “I don’t think it’s that men lack emotion or lack the desire to experience their emotions. We as a society prop men up as these abrasive, insensitive, robo-humans, these barbaric beings. If we feel our emotions, that means we’re weak and vulnerable, which is where the conflict is because as I learned through the challenge, that’s what love is – it makes you vulnerable.”
Is that the real reason why men hate chick-flicks? Is that why men are more attracted to films that make them rejoice in awe when some anonymous extra gets his arm blown off by a rocket launcher? Do men really hate chick-flicks because it makes them feel something deeper? Of course, most men would deny this, blaming poor scripts, unbelievable lines the men in the movie spout about love, and cheesy indie music that denotes sappy moments.
I do believe that in some ways, men secretly enjoy a few chick-flicks. Maybe incognito, some men actually can understand why women love sappy movies. Maybe when men fight against the girly movies, they actually wouldn’t mind watching a story about a prostitute who falls in love with a rich man after a business arrangement that is unlike anything she’s ever experienced. In fact, for every anti-chick-flick site available under the search guidelines of “men” and “chick-flicks” there are just as many sites that brag of lists of chick-flicks that men secretly love. Some of those movie titles are surprises indeed; most of them are movies that don’t involve guns and blood and violence.
Nick Waters claims that when he initially started telling people about his 30 chick-flicks in 30 days venture, the men in his life were the most supportive, “between men and women, the guys in my life were the most supportive. The biggest backlash initially had been the women.”
Maybe then, it's women’s fault that men dislike chick flicks so much, because we think that it’s abnormal for men to like anything with emotion. So how much of this “men hate chick-flicks” business is myth and not fact? Some call Nick Waters’ experiment, “torture,” while others describe it as a “quest for the route of the female psyche.” Waters has said that he’s actually learned from his experience, “I have relearned so many things during this as it pertains to trust, communication, love and what it means to work for a marriage versus just being in a marriage,” he said. “Life is an adventure and if you can pursue that adventure with someone you love, it makes it even more memorable.”
So like the story that gets passed around at firesides and changes each time to become something more elaborate and complicated, is that what has become of the story of the male aversion to chick-flicks?