21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Chick Lit Uncovered

Chick Lit and Chick Flicks
Callum Graham

Chick Lit and Chick Flicks. It’s sexist, elitist, self indulgent and often badly written. And you know what? It’s exactly the same as men’s.

I came to this conclusion when flicking through ‘How to Kill your Husband’ by Kathy Lette. Chapter by chapter I had been intrigued by its ridiculous stereotypical male characters, bad dialogue, classest views and overblown sex scenes.

But then it suddenly hit me. Casting my eye across the room, seeing the open Ian Fleming novel by my bed and the book shelf containing countless George MacDonald Fraser novels, a few disconcerting similarities sprang to mind. Sex? Yes, Ian Fleming and George MacDonald Fraser defiantly included that. Class? Yes, the characters Flashman and Bond where both roguish social high fliers of their time. And as for stereotyping, in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ Bond’s infiltration of a group of dense but attractive young females at a ski resort in Switzerland is hardly a balanced view of the female psyche.

Delving into women’s fiction for the first time had been a scary revelation. At first I felt like an impostor. How should I tackle this? Should I go all out, don my pyjamas, bring out the duvet and snuggle down with a cup of hot chocolate? No, I thought not. A cup of tea, a pint of beer, a glass of whisky to really assert my masculinity as I endured what I thought was sure to be hours of unrequited love, soppy love scenes, midlife crises and the stiff upper lip of the modern British gentleman.

Fingering through the first pages like a bungee jumper who, teetering on the edge has decided maybe he doesn’t want to jump into the abyss after all, I steadied myself and took the plunge. It was hard going to begin with. Some of Kathy Lettes dialogue was awful, and after the first few pages of "Dah-ling’s" and painful one liners such as "… advice is like syphilis. It’s better to give than receive" I was about ready to put the book down. However, I persevered, all the while feeling heavily emasculated by the chiselled six foot alpha males that littered the plot.

As I continued through the book, implausible plot point followed by ridiculous plot point I began to realise something. This was not a skewed take on real life but actually pure escapism. If I could suspend disbelief that Flashman survives unscathed after falling the complete height of Niagara Falls I could believe Jasmine’s cheating husband could manage to have sex with seven different women on seven consecutive nights. I won’t say I was beginning to enjoy the book but I was at least starting to understand how the genre worked. The jokes aren’t funny, in the same way that Steven Siegel’s one liners in ‘Under Siege’, such as ‘You’re in the Navy, remember? It’s not a job, it’s an adventure’ aren’t funny, but I could still sit through and enjoy watching that. Why? I realised it was because it was so ridiculous it was actually good.

It was this tongue in cheek attitude that I was beginning to warm to. This was re-affirmed by a viewing of Bridget Jones Diary. A film which, like many males, I had previously avoided watching in the past because ‘it just wasn’t my thing’. However, there was a certain skill to the film. I could appreciate the terrible fight between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, and the witty dialogue.

However, after reading ‘Taking Sides’ by Emma Lee Potter I could see how when written badly the genre could be truly awful. Where as ‘How to Kill Your Husband’ had at least made fun of itself, ‘Taking Sides’ seemed to be terribly serious and mundane in comparison. It lacked the escapism of the previous whilst being sickeningly bourgeois.

In all the male orientated books I had read the protagonists solved their problems through adventure and where necessary a certain amount of ruthless violence. I was surprised to find that in ‘How to Murder your Husband’ the women did exactly the same thing. Substitute the suspicious wife for a spy and the cheating husband for a villain and you have the beginnings of a thriller. Kathy Lette even throws in a few high brow dinner parties, a suspicious death and the odd sex scene. All it was missing was a car chase, (although there were some references to ‘action’ in a car).
My expectations had been blown away. Men and women aren’t so different. They both want sex, death and suspense from fiction. The balances between each might be slightly different, the reasons for the above occurring might change, but ultimately these seem the elements, that when written well, hold any reader, regardless of gender gripped to the story.

© Callum Graham - December 2008
callum.graham at

Callum is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
Walk the line
Directed by James Mangold
Callum Graham review
Its 1952, a young Johnny Cash returns home to Memphis after finishing active service.

More Reviews


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.