Chick Flicks From the Past Degrade Women

By Sera Busse

Ever since the creation of films, audiences everywhere have been delighted by romance stories. They exhibit fantasy, love, and fairy tale endings that the viewers themselves could only dream of. Through the years, romance films have evolved and morphed accordingly with constantly changing technology and new expectations of audiences. The modern day romance movie contrasts greatly with that of one set in the early ‘50s, because just like everything else, the idea of what is romantic and what is not has faced adjustments. Everything from the ways in which couples meet to the way they dress — even the roles that males and females play in films have been altered some way or another through film history.

As America’s treatment and views of women have been hugely adjusted, so have the roles that men and women play in romance movies. Films made before the ‘80s often had generic depictions of female and male roles: a vulnerable girl waits, playing the damsel in distress, while a man comes to rescue her in some way. This theme of waiting for a man to take care of and save his love interest was particularly predominant in these early romances. In the ‘50s, How to Marry a Millionaire, starring Marylin Monroe, told the story of a woman who had to marry a rich man in order to be wealthy. It made women out to be co–dependent gold diggers, and further instilled the idea that women could not fend for themselves. However, as women began to gain more power and equality in society, these ideas and the ways in which women were portrayed faced opposition and feminist outcries, so the themes shifted slightly. Many films now star powerful women in high positions, who in fact are often more powerful than their partners. In The Proposal, Sandra Bullock falls for her assistant, Ryan Reynolds; in No Strings Attached, Ashton Kutcher plays a struggling television writer while Natalie Portman plays a doctor.

Not only do modern day romance movies now feature women with more powerful roles, but they also tell stories with more diverse types of couples. For many years, movies would have only a white man fall for a white woman because at the time in America, interracial or homosexual couples tended to be shunned, not paraded around on the big screen for the world to see.

However, as the fight for equal treatment and respect carried on, more people protested against these ways and Hollywood began to create modern films with love of all sorts. Benny and Joon told the story of a strange eccentric man and a mentally ill young woman who fall in love. In I Love You Phillip Morris, characters played by Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor fall in love in a prison. Countless movies over the past fifteen years have represented love between a diverse range of people well.

The technological world has made immense progress that many could have barely dreamed of. Many films made made after 2000 have incorporated this into their plot lines, especially in the ways that characters communicate. In recent films, characters do not typically meet organically; lonely singles are often seen attempting to find love on an online dating service or communicating over Facebook. Contrastingly, in movies such as Sixteen Candles or Dirty Dancing, their only form of communication is a telephone, or writing notes and letters. Additionally, they have few ways of meeting except in person. In this way, modern day romances have in a sense become more materialistic, since simply viewing a profile doesn’t give a full view into what a person is like; it merely gives a shallow look at their physical features.

The realm of romantic films has gotten extensively deeper throughout the years. There are classic love stories where a man meets a woman and they fall in love, and there are new–age love stories of two men who meet in prison and fall deeply in love. There are countless more opportunities for original plot lines, and ideas of Hollywood romance will continue to change with new technology and shifting attitudes.