I have a movie going on in the background when I get ready in the morning because plots make boring things better. Today, though I’ve seen it probably six or seven times, I selected Sleepless in Seattle because it never gets old.

I mean, there’s THIS scene right?

When I was growing up, the 90’s chick flick was much like Sleepless in Seattle, and therefore delightful. The characters were charming.Women were feminine and intelligent and men were vulnerable, but manly. And the humor was clever and ironic and often times understated.  And the entire story revolved around one heavily anticipated, chaste, romantic kiss that was so satisfying that women everywhere rewound their VHS over and over again just to relive the moment. 

So when something was working, when something was so clearly working, why now does every trailer I see for a Romantic Comedy totally bum me out? What changed?

The answer that I have postulated on for some time now (and please excuse the following sweeping generalizations): Because they started marketing Chick Flicks to Men instead of to Women, or what they believe that men want to see these days: Sex, Sexy People, Potty Humor, and Anti-Realism.

I will use the following trailer from When In Rome for a closer examination.

In short, The Modern Chick Flick is one giant gimmick–A 90 Minute Sitcom. 


  1. Women are now portrayed, almost exclusively, as “Career-Women” who have no time for love. “That’s me in the headset. A few days ago, I was a very single, very happy New Yorker.” Says Kristen Bell in her fancy black pant suit. I’m not against women working, or being Women Power in ANY WAY, but must they always be calloused and hard-hitting, I’m already bored. Blah Blah Blah, I’m tired of this motif. Let’s get a working woman who also has a likable personality. For Instance: Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail.
  2. Chick Flicks today are filled with Slapstick humor. Oh! How funny! The Vase doesn’t break. I had no idea it was going to sail into the champagne glasses or that the sexy mail lead was going to do something klutzy at a major event.  I’m shocked. … I’m sorry but is that really funny to women? Especially when it’s so completely predictable? 
    I miss THIS kind of humor. Totally understated, tells us something meaningful about these characters and this routine relationship.
    Please excuse the end of the clip, this is my first ever .gif!
    This is Annie and Walter in Sleepless… They are working together to fill a humidifier.
    Do you understand what their relationship is like just by watching this little clip?
  3. The Romantic Comedy became a vehicle for blatant sexual innuendo more than intelligent romantic connection (Magic Mike, much?). Yes. Let’s have an artist paint a naked mural of our lead. That’s hilarious, right? Let’s make crude jokes that cater to the prurient interest. I get it, as humans we are sexual beings–but a sexual innuendo is as easy as a poop joke, and maybe you elicit a cheap laugh, but they are really hard to make clever.
  4.  Characters are too good-looking to be trusted. Josh Duhmel, I know about your personal life, how can I possibly trust you to be faithful to Kristen Bell’s character? You’re not a romantic lead, you’re a sexy lead. I think most women would way rather end up with a Tom Hanks or a BILL PULLMAN (whom I secretly love and you will too if you watch While You Were Sleeping). Real Women want a Real Man, not a walking steroid advertisement. I did not rewind to watch Kristen Bell and Josh Duhmel kiss. I didn’t care one bit whether they ended up together or not.
  5.  Characters are now caricatures. Yes. Let’s get Danny Divito, Napoleon Dynamite, Gob* from “Arrested Development” and Dax (who CAN act for real, but is best remembered for his outlandish characters in Punk’d). The characters are not authentic enough to help people believe that this kind of love story is possible for them.

I’m not saying there wasn’t some real winners in the last decade. We all saw Hitch, and The Devil Wears Prada, and Love Actually. But by-and-large Hollywood, I want the old chick flicks back.

Oh how I will miss you, Nora.

  1. Jul 13, 2012
    Sadie Crookston

    This is perfectly stated, and every Tom Hanks movie is my favorite so I'm definitely in agreement.

  2. Jul 13, 2012
    Christa Anne

    Oh, Sierra–what a spot on analysis! Nora truly was the best! I recently conducted a Nora Ephron marathon over a really long plane flight, and ended it all by reading "I Feel Bad About My Neck" on the beach. Now I'm back to real life but still wearing crew necks and cardigans like Kathleen Kelly, attempting to master the art of French cooking like Julie, and over-analyzing my daily maintenance routine like Nora herself. She made my day-to-day feel adorable. That's what those terrible chick flicks lack.

  3. Jul 13, 2012

    Yes and yes and yes.

  4. Jul 13, 2012
    Michael Paul Bailey

    I think you should rename this post to "Nora Ephron: You Will Be Missed". In claiming that movies are so much worse today, you are demonstrating a very clear case of selection bias. If you compare great movies by Nora Ephron to the crappiest movies out today, then it is no doubt that you will find a particular outcome. But please realize that sexually-charged crappy movies existed in the 80s just as they do today. There are also plenty of great, classic love stories which are being produced. Think of pretty much anything that Nancy Meyers directs or Meryl Streep stars in.

    But I definitely do agree that Nora Ephron will be missed.

  5. Jul 13, 2012

    That was an amazing post and I totally agree.

  6. Jul 14, 2012

    You named some of my favourites here: You've got mail, While you were sleeping…although sleepless in seattle is not one of them…Nora will certainly be missed. 🙂

  7. Jul 14, 2012

    I concur.

  8. Jul 14, 2012
    Tracy Allen

    Um, yes. Recently, when I go to watch a chick flick, I go for the old ones. The new ones leave me feeling unsatisfied. But While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail, Sabrina, even My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Those never get old.

  9. Jul 14, 2012

    I have to say that I agree! My favorite chick flick of all time is 10 Things I Hate about You! I'm also a huge fan of Notting Hill!
    I haven't seen Sleepless in Seattle in forever – I need to watch it!

  10. Jul 14, 2012

    i read this three times i loved it so much.
    and when in rome is a terrible movie. whoever made that trailer should have made a fortunate because it actually looked semi-interesting.

  11. Jul 16, 2012

    You forgot "The Holiday" with Cameron Diaz. Jude Law has never been and will never be that hot ever again. Although I couldn't quite buy Jack Black as a romantic lead. Ick.

  12. Jul 24, 2012
    Jason Akinaka

    Sierra, I loved this post.

  13. Jul 24, 2012
    Jason Akinaka

    Also, where are the real actors among our attractive "talent"?