The concept of films designed to appeal specifically to women has existed since the early days of cinema and has been known by other colloquial terms, including "women's pictures". Those were generally critically panned upon their release. However, women's films such as the 1950s melodramas directed by Douglas Sirk – Imitation of Life and Made of Honor, for example – are often thought by modern critics as significantly different in tone and content to modern chick-flicks. Specifically, critics cite what they see as the ironic and complex criticisms of American culture in those past films.
The 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's, commonly known as one of the 'classic' films from the golden age of cinema, is sometimes considered as an early chick-flick due to common elements such as dealing with loneliness, obsessive materialism, and happy endings. Molly Haskell has suggested that chick-flicks are very different from the women's films of the 1940s and '50s in that they now "sing a different tune." She feels that they are "more defiant and upbeat, post-modern and post-feminist."
In the U.S. in the 1980s, a succession of teenage drama pictures also labeled as chick-flicks were released, many by director John Hughes. These often had a different and more realistic tone than previous chick-flicks, with dramatic elements such as abortion and personal alienation being included.
Several chick-flicks have been patterned after the story of Cinderella or other fairy tales (e.g. A Cinderella Story, Ever After, and Pretty Woman), or even Shakespeare in the case of She's the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You; a large number are adapted from popular novels (e.g. The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada) and literary classics (e.g. Little Women). Other prominent examples include Terms of Endearment and Steel Magnolias.
While most films that are considered chick-flicks are lighthearted, some suspense films also fall under this category. See What Lies Beneath.
After the blockbuster success of the 2008 drama/romance film Twilight, Paul Dergarabedian of the media company Media By Numbers remarked that "he word 'chick-flick' is going to have to be replaced by big box-office girl-power flick" and that "he box-office clout of the female audience is just astounding, and it's been an underserved audience for way too long". He also said, "They have no trouble finding money for the things they're passionate about." For that film, Fandango.com found that over 75% of its opening-weekend audience was female.
Read more about this topic: Chick Flick
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