Romantic comedies – commonly referred to as chick flicks and rom coms – entertain audiences with fun, lighthearted humour. The plotlines follow the stereotypical "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again" sequence. Fairy-tale-style, happily-ever-after resolutions are practically mandatory.
Chick flicks are steeped in the message that "true love" does exist, offering a young girl hope that there’s someone out there just for her. These films imply that she can be the leading lady in a romantic tale, overcoming all obstacles to get what she wants. And therein lies the attraction.
Although these movies are entertaining, and oftentimes inspirational, romantic comedies paint an unrealistic picture of love. Chick flicks give girls the notion that a strong feeling of physical attraction is the primary indicator that a person is in love. According to romantic comedies, infatuation equals love. And therein lies the problem.
Bill Johnson, a Hollywood scriptwriter, explains that romantic comedies offer a sense of what is sophisticated and current about romance. They serve as both a "herald of change and a subtle instigator of change," Johnson says. Rom coms present "fresh" ideas that come across as the latest (and most effective) means of attaining relationship success. The stories not only entertain; they define what a girl should want and how she can get it.
Shifts in the storyline
Historically, chick flicks inspired viewers to cling to the hope of finding romance in their own lives; over the years the message has shifted. Today’s rom coms champion sex outside of marriage. They push the idea that romantic feelings will naturally lead to sex – usually right after the first kiss.
This message is problematic for Christian teens because it blatantly promotes behaviour that contradicts biblical standards. Equally as troubling is a more recent rom-com storyline that having casual sex is the prerequisite to finding true love.
That’s the message of No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits. Both films were 2011 nominees for Teen Choice Awards – an annual awards show that honours the year’s biggest movies and actors, as voted on by teens ages 13-19. These movies suggest that sex is the initial step in a relationship, rather than an intermediate or consummating step.
Dealing with the chick flick
Does your daughter understand the difference between Hollywood’s messages and God’s design for true love? Here are a few suggestions for helping her grapple with the unhealthy messages presented in romantic comedies:
Mary Kassian is professor of women’s studies at Southern Baptist Seminary and the author of Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild.
Copyright © 2012 by Mary A. Kassian. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.