The Riddle of the Dreaded Chick Flick

by Curtis Copley

A “chick flick” is a movie that appeals to women, but men avoid. I’m a guy trying to learn how to write romantic elements that women would love and other guys won’t cringe at while reading.  It’s bugged me that there was some part of the craft that fell under the heading, “it’s a girl thing; you wouldn’t understand.” Not content to leave it at that, I asked for help from the Published Author Network (PAN) members of SARA.

Here’s the riddle: What is it about “chick flicks” that make men dread to even be seen watching them? (The definition of “chick flick” comes from this clip in Sleepless in Seattle). What’s the problem?

The tissue box.

SONY DSC“It is not okay for a grown-ass man to weep in public, in front of a bunch of happy families enjoying pie. If you can’t hold it, you take your ass to the men’s room and cry in private on the toilet. Like a man!” — Emerson, Pushing Daisies, S2E1, “Bzzzzzzzzz!”. TV Tropes has a couple of reference pages on this, “Men Don’t Cry” and an allowed exceptions page, “Manly Tears”.

Given the deep aversion to crying that men in this culture have, why would women choose to see a movie that makes them cry?

  • Patricia W. Fischer: I pull from real situations I experienced as a trauma nurse. Those things reach out and bite you when you least expect it. It’s hard to let cases / patients go sometimes. They stay with you forever. It makes us human and that’s what wonderful about it. Now, how to capture it when putting it to page is the hard part because you want to do it justice. Crying during a movie, any movie, is a sign of something done right.
  • Joni Hahn: “I always wonder why people go to horror movies – because they liked to be scared to death. Why?? I don’t understand. But, it’s that rush of emotion, whatever it is, that draws us as humans.”
  • D.K. Burrow: “If it’s written really well (and doesn’t go the sappy route), it’s a safe place to go on an emotional journey.”
  • Teri Wilson: “Good movies, like good writing, make you feel things. I don’t mind being devastated emotionally by a book or movie. It means it touched me, and I like that. If a book or movie reduces me to a weepy mess (either happy or sad tears), that means I liked it because the story made me feel all the feels. It’s safe crying because it isn’t real. That’s where the liking it comes into play.”
  • Jolene Navarro: “If I’m brought to tears – I have connected to fictional characters to the point they have become real to me. It’s because they are safe emotions – We can connect and leave our world and feel all those things but not really be at risk. We love experiencing the emotions but safely. We are emotional junkies. We want our hearts to be touched. I don’t feel my story that I’m working on is done until I have cried over at least two scenes. And laugh. I have to laugh.”

In the end, everything our PANs said goes for men as well as women. We men just don’t want to show it.  Time for me to get off the computer and watch Guardians of the Galaxy with my loved ones. Happy tears, folks.