Single People’s Weeks: The Hurt Locker Undergoes the Chick Flick Test

In yesterday’s post for Single People’s Weeks, I asked (sarcastically) how Kathryn Bigelow manages to make such “masculine” films in the industry’s eyes. This critic went so far as to suggest that

Cameron has made a ideologically tinted, eco-minded anti-war epic that champions Mother Nature’s feminine spirit.  Bigelow has made a gritty, no-nonsense, ultra-masculine Iraq thriller that’s remarkably free of any anti-war sentiment.  The traditional polarity of male-female sensibilities is reversed. So that’s shaping up to be quite a battle.

It seems a lot easier to define a “feminine film”, a chick flick, a film that focuses on emotions and relationships, usually heteronormative ones (though a gay male best friend may appear) with women as the target audience. They tend to be sort of liberal, and lovey-dovey and…environmental? (Mother Nature didn’t look too feminine when she sent space rhinos to stomp all over those soldiers in Avatar, but whatever.)

Want to find a chick flick? It’s as easy as going to Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers, or checking to see if the cast list is mostly women. If a woman gets top billing and her head’s on the same level or higher as the man’s, it might be a chick flick.


not this.

If it has a woman by herself on the poster and she’s not in silhouette, it’s probably a chick flick.

Not this.


In fact, most films directed by women tend to get shoved into this category whether they like it or not. Keeping that in mind, let’s run the poster test on The Hurt Locker.


Nope. This one's even got dudes all over it!

Okay, so it’s a movie about dudes. And bombs. And ‘splosions. But a woman directed it, right, so it’s got to have some emotional sharing right?

[I’ve tried to avoid spoilers for The Hurt Locker as much as possible. I highly urge you to see it before continuing if only because it. is. freaking. awesome.]

Okay, so we learned something about our guy, but he’s being cagey. Like Sam Shepard in the old movies. Believe it or not, the beginning of the emotional highpoint of the movie is probably this:

Followed by a scene of Renner with his son where he begrudgingly admits something that makes us see his redeployment in a whole new light. The whole film the men don’t get to talk about their feelings much because they’re too busy trying not to get killed.

Point is, it’s not this:

If a “feminine film” has emotion, what does a “masculine film” have? Violence? “Grit”? What does that make a Lifetime movie? There’s not much left for “masculine film” to go on with no emotional involvement. And how do you explain Judd Apatow’s “bromances” (which sometimes tend towards the chauvinistic)?

Maybe some films aren’t gendered. Maybe they’re targeted at everyone, regardless of who the director is.

2 thoughts on “Single People’s Weeks: The Hurt Locker Undergoes the Chick Flick Test

  1. I think the difference is mostly estimable by two things –

    1. Style of dialogue, no matter what gender the characters are who are speaking it. Do they talk like dudes, or chicks?

    2. Point of view, evidenced by central theme hierarchy of a film. A manly film can be about relationships, as Hurt Locker is, but the relationships will be framed within the things (like their dangerous work) that men define themselves by. In a chick flick, the situations (such as work) will be subservient to the relationships, which will be the central theme.

  2. Pingback: Single People’s Weeks: This is Not a Love Story: Zooey Deschanel and the Refusal of Romance « Lillian Lemoning

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