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Women, Sport, and Film - Fall 2005
Student Papers
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The Bleaker the Outlook, the Brighter the Outcome: a look at the Happily-Ever-After Connection between Women's Sports Films and Chick Flicks

Andrea Cutruzzula

What are the 'essential' characteristics of a CF? of a SF? How are these
played out in the films we watched?

The three chick flicks we viewed in this class, Bridget Jones' Diary, Pretty Woman, and Something's Gotta' Give, all contain the essential characteristics of a good chick flick. At the same time the sports films we watched, A League of Their Own, Love and Basketball, and Bend it Like Beckham, adhered to a different set of rules that earned them the "sports film" classification. A close look at these films draws attention to the presence of these characteristics and the effect they have on the movie's classification.

The essential elements of a good chick flick first and foremost include romance, followed by drama, conflict between a man and a woman, tears, men fighting over a women, women fighting over a man, a damsel in distress, and of course a "happily ever after" culmination to all this madness. Every chick flick involves a Prince Charming-like character, even if he is himself far from charming – at least at first. Chick flicks have conditioned us to recognize that a prince can come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Whether he be rich or poor, tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, blue-eyed, light-hearted, young, or old does not matter when it comes to "Mr. Right." A good chick flick will leave the viewer convinced that life is a fairy tale, all she need do is discover (or be discovered by) her Prince Charming. The movies we viewed in class all contained some combination of these constituents.

Pretty Woman, is considered by many to be the quintessential chick flick. It is the classic "from rags to riches story" a sort of late 80's Cinderella in which a woman is overnight elevated from poverty to royalty. Vivien is clearly a damsel in distress though at first look Edward seems an unlikely Charming – he can't even drive a stick shift! The necessary drama required for a successful chick flick evolves as Vivien – a prostitute – attempts to transition into Edward's Rodeo Drive social circle. Conflict ensues when Edward's lawyer treats her poorly. Tears are shed and Vivien and Edward part ways. This is especially characteristic of a chick flick; the bleaker the outlook the brighter the outcome to be sure. At the movie's end Edward – in a Rapunzel –like fashion climbs Vivien's fire escape and "rescues" her from a life on the streets. She, in turn, "rescues him right back."

Bridget Jones' Diary also serves as a prime example of a chick flick. Like Vivien Bridget needs rescuing – an invaluable element of a chick flick – but not quite in the same way. Bridget needs to be rescued from the mundanity of everyday life. This film also exhibits all the necessary aspects of a chick flick. Throughout the film Bridget develops relationships with several men each of which takes a dramatic plunge that results in Bridget's tears. In perhaps its most thrilling scene, this film even involves men physically battling over a woman. As is the case with Pretty Woman it's the end of Bridget Jones' Diary that truly earns it the chick flick classification. In the end the woman must always win, and in Bridget Jones' Diary she does indeed. In a scene that sent women across the country flocking to the theater, amidst a snowstorm, at midnight, on the streets of London, an underwear-clad Bridget finally embraces her Mark. The combination of romance and a fairytale ending in Bridget Jones' Diary have perhaps earned it a place on the "Greatest Chick Flicks of All Time" list.

The essentials of a sports film involve, a central athlete with incredible skill and dedication, the struggle to balance sport with the rest of life, elements of teamwork, competition, victory, defeat, pain, and elation. These characteristics are exhibited in each of the sports films viewed in this class.

In Bend it Like Beckham Jess demonstrates the superior athletic abilities combined with the dedication and motivation characteristic of the protagonists in sports films. She battles to balance her family's culture – in which women do not play soccer – with her affinity for sport and eventually comes out on top. While victory on the playing field is not necessarily a component of all sports films, victory off the field nearly always is. In the end Jess wins her man, an athletic scholarship, and the support of her parents. The movie succeeds in conveying the message that with hard-work, commitment, and determination anyone can realize her dreams.

The film Love and Basketball also exhibits the essential features of a sports film. Like Jess, Monica is born with natural athletic talent. It's her devotion to the sport and commitment as an athlete, however, that earn her an athletic scholarship and help her to realize her dream: a career as a professional basketball player. Monica also faces the battle of balancing athletics and the rest of her life, a battle that almost costs her the most important relationships in her life. In the end though, like Jess, Monica comes out on top.

Though chick flicks and sports films are different in many respects one common thread seems to run through both: the happy ending. As to whether women's sports films are actually chick flicks in disguise, well that's a topic for another paper. Suffice it to say, that prostitute, or British -reporter, Indian soccer star, or African American basketballer each woman's story ended in the arms of her man.

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