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Women, Sport, and Film - Fall 2005
Student Papers
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Women's Sports Films and Chick Flicks: Is there really a difference?

Jennifer Gerfen

In class we screened a combination of "women's sports movies" and "chick flicks", with the objective of comparing how the two interrelate. Using the simplest definition of a "chick flick" as a movie that appeals more to women than it does to men there is not a set difference between chick flicks and women's sports movies. Two of the main characteristics of a chick flick include the focus on relationships, romantic or otherwise, and a story that is told that relates to issues that women can relate to.

When appealing to women the main focus is often relationships. Commonly a romantic relationship is set as one of the main focal points of the movie, where the climax comes with the lead female and male getting together; however, this is far from the only type of relationship that chick flicks can center around. Other important relationships that chick flicks deal with are deep friendships, in groups or even between two people, and familial relationships either between siblings or a parent and child. Most movies will deal with multiple relationships, but there is often one that drives the main plot.

Most of the movies watched in class were centered on romantic relationships. The "chick flicks" all centered on romantic relationships; however the women's sports films deviated more from this type. Love and Basketball was the only one of the sports films that was completely centered on a romantic relationship. A League of their Own had romantic subplots, but was generally focused on the familial relationship between Kit and Dotti. The other film from class, Bend It Like Beckham did not have a romantic relationship as the main focus, but the movie was driven by the Jess's need to balance all of her relationships, so there was no main focus.

Even though it was often the women's sports movies in class that deviated from the idea of a main romantic plot it is not a trait that defines women's sports movies as separate from chick flicks. The category of films that were watched that were labeled as "chick flicks" actually belonged to the romantic comedy genre. Although many people in class defined Pretty Woman as the "ultimate chick flick", as a personal preference the movie that I would probably give that title to would be The First Wive's Club, which is not a romantic comedy but still clearly a chick flick. This movie had romantic subplots, but focused mainly on the strong friendship between the three main characters.

All of the relationships are a part of these movies because they represent issues that women can relate to. Sport films that involve women play to things that affect women in terms of sports that would not be the same issues that would affect men. Oftentimes, women in sports or who have ever played a sport understand the emotion and hardship portrayed in these movies. Even if women don't understand these exact situations they are often ways to express hardships that are faced by women.

All of the women's sports movies in class dealt with the disparity between the ability for male and female athletes to pursue a career in sports or at least the in their support. The women all needed to work extra hard to ensure support, either in terms of opportunities where many of the women needed to leave their home in search of an opportunity to play, leagues being shut down or even just poor attendance. Women, even those not directly involved with professional athleticism can understand these consequences.

Many women face similar problems in other traditionally male dominated fields. It is a story that can be told best through sports as it provides the action and understanding necessary to properly convey the story. Trying to tell the story of a women pioneering a field such as science does not have the same qualities that would allow it to be made into a genre of stories as the pursuit of women in sports since it would require knowledge that is not as widely known and have the draw back that research can be dead boring and tedious. Sports allow for this concept to be portrayed in a way that everyone woman could understand it.

The movies characterized as "chick flicks" also portrayed issues that were near to what a woman could relate to. The issue of having a voice was often a large component, similarly to the sports films. These movies did not necessarily portray the differences between gender roles, but other aspects of life. In Pretty Woman Julia Robert's character was overlooked due to her class standing and grew into someone who people respected in some sort of fashion. In Something's Gotta Give it wasn't so much that Dianne Keaton's character was overlooked, but that Jack Nicholson's character learned to listen to the women characters, with an inverse situation. Women tend to enjoy respect in society and will enjoy movies that portray them as such in a world where there is still a struggle for gender equality.

All movies allow for the suspension of disbelief that speaks to their demographic. As women are a key demographic they have their own genre of movies, the chick flick. It is this through this genre that allows subsets to be formed that let women enter a world that speaks more to what is important to them, this includes romantic comedies which allow the viewer empathize with the desire for human affection and interaction, or a movie that focuses more on portraying issues that influence and affect women on a day to day basis such as sports films. All of these movies have a strong female protagonist that allows for women to relate to more than men, securing these movies as chick flicks.

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