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The Modern Person’s Guide to Rom-Coms: Can You Be a Intersectional Feminist Who Likes Romantic Comedies?

You may have heard the theory: If you think of a red car, you will start seeing red cars everywhere. Well, that is actually a psychological theory. It is called the Baader Meinhof Theory, and it has to do with frequency bias. This means that the minute you learn or think of something, your brain will start zeroing in on that specific thing. So, if you think of red cars, all the red cars that your brain that were blocked out originally, will now become the first thing that your brain picks up on. 

Now, what does this have to do with feminism and romantic comedies? My response to you is everything. How can you exist in the world when you finally become aware of all the problems and faults? This is a big question, so in today’s article, we are just keeping it to enjoying romantic comedies as an intersectional feminist. Can you, as a person who believes in gender equality, watch the societally proclaimed “chick flicks” that most times do not accurately represent the world? I doubt I will come to an answer in this blog, but there is some point in trying.

Let’s start with the statistics and facts so we know what we are up against. Romantic comedies tend to be extremely heterosexual. They often depict a man and a woman who adhere to the traditional roles of the gender binary. What this means is that gender non-conforming and queer people do not get to see themselves on the screen, or in love, or being a whole complete character. For example, GLAAD (the largest media advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ individuals) released a report that stated of the 118 movies that were released by what is deemed one of the major movie studios (think Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Columbia Pictures), only 18.6% of those movies had characters that identified as Queer. Now this includes all movies from all genres. Therefore, we can only assume how slim this percentage is in the romantic comedies section. As well, Queer folks in movies and media are still what society deems as conventionally attractive. They have clear skin, slim bodies, look high fashion, and most importantly many of these characters are White, which in effect, erases Queer People of Color. 

Our next, but equally as important problem, is that romantic comedies often have White men and women as the stars of the show. People of Color love too and they deserve to grow up seeing themselves on the screen that shows that love story. Movies like Love and Basketball, Tortilla Soup, Always Be My Maybe, Bend It Like Beckham, The Last Holiday, Queen and Slim, Malcolm and Marie, and so many more are movies that changed the genre of romantic comedies and yet we still only have a romantic comedy featuring People of Color every few years. It is very rare that People of Color are accurately portrayed in these movies because the people behind the cameras tend to be White people. 

Overall, story lines tell us that the only people who are worthy of having a romantic love like what we see in these movies are people who are White, Upper Class, Attractive, Skinny, and Straight, which pretty much erases a majority of the population. 

So, why do we keep doing it to ourselves? Why do we tear up when Julia Roberts stands in front of Hugh Grant and says “I am just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.” Why do we cheer when the cold, calculating businesswoman falls in love with the dog walker (nothing wrong with being a dog walker, they just always seem to be the main male character’s occupation). Finally, why do we root for a love that doesn’t actually represent us? Because the idea of love and being in love is something that is so universal that we seem willing to take it any way we can. So how can we, as modern, intersectional feminists, continue to watch romantic comedies while also being aware of all that they are? 

I love romantic comedies. It shocks a lot of people when I say this because I may not seem like the “chick flick type” but I do. In a world that is very unpredictable, the predictable world of romantic comedies soothes me. Or at least it used to. The more and more that I continue to learn about the world, the less I am able to enjoy things, albeit many things: music, movies, art, or anything. But as a product of the world, how do we take the good with the bad? The first step would be to continue to educate ourselves, so that we better understand the stereotypes in movies and how they harm us and the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to make sure we are continually addressing our own internal bias towards certain groups and recognize that the stereotypes in the film do not encompass all that a group of people are. As well, in a world that is constantly evolving we, ourselves must evolve as well. That means that we start to boycott movies that we just cannot stand for. For example, those movies that were directed by Woody Allen, produced by Harvey Weinstein, or acted in by Kevin Spacey. 

Like many things, it is our duty and job to help shift the culture so that it is more inclusive and more representative of the world that we are living in. So yes, as a modern, intersectional feminist you can enjoy romantic comedies, but you also have to be critical of them. Make sure that you are actively working to counteract the misogyny of many of these movies.

As Noah expresses in the Notebook, “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.” This is how I feel about romantic comedies as a feminist. 

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth (She/they), Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

“GLAAD’S 2020 STUDIO RESPONSIBILITY INDEX: HIGHEST RECORDED PERCENTAGE OF LGBTQ-INCLUSIVE FILMS BUT RACIAL DIVERSITY DROPS AND ZERO TRANSGENDER CHARACTERS APPEAR”. GLAAD, 2020, https://www.glaad.org/releases/glaad%E2%80%99s-2020-studio-responsibility-index-highest-recorded-percentage-lgbtq-inclusive-films.

 

Guzzo, Bianca. “The Modern Girl And Romantic Comedies”. 29Secrets, 2019, https://29secrets.com/pop-culture/the-modern-girl-and-romantic-comedies/.

 

Klooster, Grace. “How Modern Day Romantic Comedies Are Portraying Women”. Ncclinked, 2017, https://ncclinked.com/2017/09/15/modern-day-romantic-comedies/.

 

Rose, Sundi. “A Feminist’S Guide To Modern Rom-Coms”. Culturess, 2019, https://culturess.com/2019/05/28/feminist-guide-to-modern-rom-coms/.

Is This a Cat Fight?: Why is Hollywood always pitting powerful women against each other?

Nicki vs. Miley. Katy vs. Taylor. Joan vs. Bette. Elizabeth vs. Debbie. These are only some of the more famous female feuds of Hollywood. It seems that one of the narratives that is constantly plaguing the women of Hollywood, and the rest of the female population, is the one where women are constantly pitted against one another. Their whole narrative is surrounded by the fact that there cannot be more than one powerful woman in Hollywood. Now, why do we keep pitting women against each other? Rather than celebrating the successes, tabloids and news sites keep talking about how these women “despise each other.” The answer is too long for this post, but the short quick answer would be misogyny, the patriarchy, and beauty standards.

Oftentimes, when asked about these “famous feuds,” Hollywood women tell us that they are simply stories written by tabloids who are trying to sell a product. When asked about her feud with Brittany Spears, Christian Aguilera said, “It must have seemed as if we were competing with each other, but, in reality, Britney is someone that I used to hold hands with.” It seems that oftentimes these feuds do not actually exist, but are rather there to remind women of their place in the Hollywood world. 

So, why do it? Why does this narrative continue to break through the feminism of today? Well one of the reasons may be the narrative that women are simple vessels of desire. Meaning, their importance goes only as far as their looks. Therefore, it may seem impertinent to be the most beautiful person in the room. The result of this is that other women are viewed as competition. Someone you must beat out for that product endorsement, commercial, movie, show, and award. 

At the same time, another reason could be that at one point, like with many marginalized groups, there was only allowed to be a certain number. You wanted to be the one woman in the office, in the movies, in the “boys club,” and you had to make sure that no other female identifying person could beat you out of the running for that. As argued by the Harvard Business Review, “women see that there is one spot at the table, and are willing to do anything to keep that role. This burden is doubled, tripled, quadrupled for women of color, who experience being marginalized because of their skin color and their gender identity, therefore often being looked over.”

So, what do we do now? Well the first step is to stop pitting famous women against each other. Brittany and Christina are two different people, so why do we keep comparing them? The second step is to recognize, as Forbes writer Shelley Zalis puts it, women have more power when they are in a pack. That when we are mentoring women, supporting women, and showing that women are strong, we increase the amount of women in the workforce and place them in jobs of power. 

It is important that young people growing up today have the chance to see that women have more narratives, stories, and interests surrounding them than whoever they are “fighting” with; that there is more to young women than just the looks and beauty that they offer. 

I guess, in the end, it isn’t a cat fight, just a dog-eat-dog world. 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org. 

 

Kiner, M., 2021. It’s Time to Break the Cycle of Female Rivalry. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <https://hbr.org/2020/04/its-time-to-break-the-cycle-of-female-rivalry>.

 

Mehta, D., 2021. Does Patriarchy Divide Women: The Importance Of Solidarity. [online] Feminism In India. Available at: <https://feminisminindia.com/2019/02/04/patriarchy-divide-women-solidarity/> [Accessed 26 August 2021].

 

Thrills, A., 2008. ‘Britney? I wish her all the best… honest!’ Christina Aguilera calls time on one of pop’s bitterest feuds. [online] Mail Online. Available at: <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1083708/Britney-I-wish-best–honest-Christina-Aguilera-calls-time-pops-bitterest-feuds.htm> [Accessed 26 August 2021].

Zalis, S., 2019. Power Of The Pack: Women Who Support Women Are More Successful. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2019/03/06/power-of-the-pack-women-who-support-women-are-more-successful/> [Accessed 26 August 2021].

Jennifer’s Body and the Feminine Revenge Trope Hollywood Has Been Missing Out

In a small town in Minnesota, there lives a teenage girl named Jennifer Check. She is popular, attractive, and reckless. Her best friend, Anita “Needy” Lesnicki, is the opposite and serves to show just how wild Jennifer is. One night after a concert, Jennifer leaves with the band. The band wants power, fame, and riches. In order to achieve this, they agree to sacrifice Jennifer to Satan but not before confirming she is, of course, a virgin. She lies and says she is, which results in a catastrophe for the town. Now, possessed by a demon who is only satisfied by eating human flesh, Jennifer begins a rampage against the boys in her town by enticing them with sex and then killing them. Jennifer’s Body redefined the genre of horror, comedy, and what it means to be a young woman in the world. It only took 12 years, but this movie is finally getting the recognition it deserves. 

When Jennifer’s Body, starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, first premiered in 2009, it did awful in the box office. It had a budget of $16 million dollars and it made about that much. It was so awful, in fact, that the Chicago Tribune labeled it a “gruesome paint-by-bloody-numbers succubus story.” I was only nine years old when the movie first premiered, so I did not get to watch it. But I remember my friend’s older sister did. She loved it. We sat around the kitchen table as she recounted a story about a young woman who was sexualized and vilified (but of course being nine we did not know what this meant, rather it was her strength and sense of self), but rather than let herself be defined by others, she was reclaiming the labels of “slut” and “sex.” It would be another 6 years until I would watch the movie for myself, but it was everything I needed to hear at that moment. 

It is only recently that the cult following of Jennifer’s Body has grown. While in quarantine, many people have been going back and watching movies that came out in the early 2000s, such as Jennifer’s Body, and people got to talking about how overlooked it was. They realized that this movie was not awful; it was just marketed to the wrong crowd at the wrong time. And the actors knew that this is what the movie had coming. When asked about the movie Megan Fox said, “I am on display for men to pay to look at me.” Vox writer, Constance Grady writes that this was a movie that was targeted towards young teen boys by offering up sexualized images of Megan Fox on the poster and on the trailer. Rather than be a “sexy movie” for teenage boys, the director offers this as an explanation of who this movie is for and what it is about:

“This movie is a commentary on girl-on-girl hatred, sexuality, the death of innocence, and politics, in the way the town responds to the tragedies [of the bloody deaths of several young men]. Any person who dares to respond in an unconventional way is branded a traitor.”  -Diablo Cody

So what does all this mean? Why should we care that a movie like Jennifer’s body is finally getting the recognition that it deserves? Well, it shows us that we are not alone. That when a group of men want to sacrifice the body of a woman so that they can gain more power and sway, that we have the power to tell that story, when we want and how we want. That when men see women as disposable, as there for them to use and discard (like what we often see in Hollywood), there is a chance at a beacon of hope. It also shows how the movie industry works and who is dictating what a “successful movie” is. Because to 9-year-old, 15-year-old, and 20-year-old Cassidy Herberth, Jennifer’s Body is the movie that was successful. It was a movie that changed everything. It was a movie that said, “you know what, you are not alone.”

Jennifer’s Body tells the story, albeit a horror story, about a young girl who is discovering what it means to be both a victim and a survivor. It is a story that was ahead of its time, but it is still not as widely recognized as it should be. Jennifer’s Body tells the story of many people out there, and I, for one, hope there is only more to come.

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org. 

 

Peitzman, L., 2021. You Probably Owe “Jennifer’s Body” An Apology. [online] Buzzfeednews.com. Available at: <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/louispeitzman/jennifers-body-diablo-cody-karyn-kusama-feminist-horror>.

Grady, C., 2021. How Jennifer’s Body went from a flop in 2009 to a feminist cult classic today. [online] Vox. Available at: <https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/10/31/18037996/jennifers-body-flop-cult-classic-feminist-horror> [Accessed 17 August 2021].

IMDb. 2021. Jennifer’s Body (2009) – IMDb. [online] Available at: <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1131734/plotsummary> [Accessed 17 August 2021].

Hirschberg, L., 2021. The Self-Manufacture of Megan Fox (Published 2009). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/magazine/15Fox-t.html> [Accessed 17 August 2021].

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