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Mars And Venus At The Video Store

Mars And Venus At The Video Store

Discussing gender differences is always fraught with peril. Even Christians, who normally embrace more traditional ideas about the sexes, find it easy to step on toes when considering something as harmless as “renting movies.” Yet, without painting men as barbarians, or denying women’s suffrage, I think it’s safe to say that there are “guy movies” and there are “girl movies.”

It’s easy to note significant differences between the two cinematic camps. On the male side, you’ll find Bill Murray films (Lost in Translation the exception) and movies where men regularly spit tobacco. On the female side, there are the Julias (Roberts and Stiles), as well as 3-hour affairs in which people begin to sing for no apparent reason.

But it’s tough to put a finger on exactly what separates the two. Drama and emotion do not make a chick flick (see Magnolia), nor do all girls steer clear of testosterone-fests like Fight Club (I know more than one girl who put it in their top ten). In some ways, gender–centered movie tastes, like table manners or clothing customs, are based on arbitrary grounds.

But, arbitrary differences are not all bad. In Scotland the men wear kilts and in Japan it is a sign of good manners to slurp the soup, and nobody’s outraged by either custom. Difference adds interest and we should not seek to abolish it. Plus, like other animals, we humans need to mark our territory. By designating certain movies as “guy movies” and others as “chick flicks” we stake a little claim to our identity as male or female. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with this instinct.

The problem with this sort of thinking starts when we forget that it is just a little game. There really are no movies that are exclusively the territory of either sex. (If there were, perhaps the Oscars should be awarded along these lines: “And the winner for Best Men’s Actor … The Rock in Stomach Punching Fever!”).

All of us, men and women alike, need a little reminder every now and then to expand our horizons. Too often we dismiss a movie before we really get a taste of it. It took me years before I would consent to view a certain musical (which is first on the list below) but now that I have, I wish I had taken a look over the gender divide much sooner. There’s even more to be gained than just good movies; by taking an interest in the other sex’s films we can gain insight into their minds and hearts as well.

With this goal in mind, we have assembled a list that, we believe (with helpful collaboration from a number of women: wife, fiancé and sister, respectively), reflects the general tastes of men and women. Each film is from a genre generally considered solely a woman or man’s domain that we believe can be enjoyed by either sex.


1. Musical: Singin’ in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain fills me with joy and a little sadness. The joy is in the whip-fast plotting, the great music, and especially the amazing dance numbers. The sadness comes from realizing what we have lost. Last year’s “best picture,” Chicago, was an accomplished movie, but it’s a far cry from Singin’ in the Rain, the pinnacle from the glory days of movie musicals. Watching Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor dance, one wonders how musicals came to be thought of strictly as feminine. Gene Kelly is, here and in other films, a picture of masculinity that’s missing from today’s so-called “guy movies.”

2. Frock and Bonnet Drama: Sense and Sensibility

This movie is instant girl bait. One: it’s a costume drama. Two: it’s Jane Austen. Three: it has Hugh Grant, that titan of the chick-flick domain. It also has characters of true virtue, people you can actually respect. And what guy can’t identify with Alan Rickman’s long-suffering suitor, waiting nobly in the wings?

3. Weepy: Shadowlands

Take Jaws, replace Sheriff Brody with C. S. Lewis, switch the innocent swimmers with women Lewis cared about, and exchange the shark for cancer, and you’ve got Shadowlands. You know what’s coming, but it still gets you. The movie makes no bones about bringing you to tears, but doesn’t brutalize you in the process, not being near as shameless as many of its ilk (see – or don’t – I Am Sam). It’s about faith and loss, and while you may not cry, you certainly won’t be ashamed if you do.

4. Romantic Comedy: The Shop Around the Corner

Most of you, gals and guys, probably haven’t seen this. The perfect, original romantic comedy, director Ernst Lubitch’s film was You’ve Got Mail before Tom & Meg were even born. It’s light, funny, and sweet, but not so sugary that you’ll gag.

5. Kid’s Movie: Tie: Babe or The Parent Trap (1999)

For some reason, women generally don’t think it’s strange for them, as adults, to watch and enjoy kids’ movies. Whereas men often scoff at children’s films, thinking them ‘infantile’ – yet can’t get enough of movies with no more to them than bodily functions and breasts. Neither of the above movies are in heavy rotation at fraternity houses, but if you can stop being a guy for a while you’ll find yourself feeling like a kid again.

6. Women-Bonding Drama: Steel Magnolias

I don’t know of a drama more beloved by women. My fiancé says that men should watch Steel Magnolias if only to gain some insight into what women are like when men aren’t around. I can’t think of a better reason.

7. Dance: Strictly Ballroom

If you could stand Moulin Rouge, this one is no sweat. But if you didn’t, don’t fear – Strictly Ballroom is not nearly as frenetic, though just as exuberant. And that’s the appeal of the “dance movie:” an abundance of spirit that elevates things to being just a bit more than they actually are. Strictly Ballroom is particularly good because, while it allows us to enjoy its rhythm and movement, it also freely admits how ridiculous it all is.


1. Sports: Hoosiers

The sports movie is for guys what the dance movie is for girls. Gals, no matter what you think of sports in general, or basketball specifically, Hoosiers is the one can’t-miss in the category. It’s got all the standard clichés, but just enough heart, and it’s even based on a true story.

2. War: Bridge over the River Kwai

There’s nothing quite like a good war movie to show the best of camaraderie between men (Animal House being perhaps the flip side: showing the worst). Bridge has just enough action, but it’s really about how war can unite, destroy and finally redeem men. At the very least, what Bridge over the River Kwai shows is that guys aren’t always cracking fart jokes when you’re not around.

3. Action: Jaws

Hundreds of imitators (Alien: Jaws in Space, Twister: Jaws as weather, Arachnophobia: Jaws as bug), including its own sequels, but nothing tops the original. If you’ve always regarded The Shark Movie as too scary, be comforted in knowing that the suspense comes more from what you don’t see than what you do. It’s not nearly as grisly as an average episode of CSI, and it’s a whole lot more fun.

4. Gangster Drama: Heat

No mark on The Godfather or Goodfellas, but Heat is our top choice for women in this genre. The theme, news to nobody, is cops, criminals and what they have in common. DeNiro, Pacino and a host of other fine actors wear nice suits, the gun battles are brutally realistic and at first glance it’s all terribly cool. But pay special attention to how the women in these men’s lives are affected; Heat is, in its own way, sadder than Steel Magnolias or Shadowlands.

5. Sci-Fi— Tie: Aliens and Blade Runner

I’ve known girls who haven’t seen Star Wars – I can give you names and addresses. The mere fact that any girl could avoid Star Wars tells me that sci-fi doesn’t rank very high on a woman’s list. Of course, Star Wars is merely a western in space, and so Aliens is really just a war movie – with a strong female lead. Nobody before or since has ever seemed as vulnerable, while still kicking butt, as Sigourney Weaver does here. Blade Runner is the other side of the sci-fi coin. Set in the future, it has eye-candy galore but ultimately enthralls with its ideas: what does it mean to be human?

6. Crime: Out of Sight

The epitome of cool, Out of Sight tells the story of a con (Clooney) in love with a woman who could take him down – a federal marshal (played by Jennifer Lopez). Sexy, funny and suspenseful, it’s a romantic comedy with a testosterone swagger. Don’t be fooled by the tough exterior; gals, you might like it even more than the guys do.

7. Western: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

If unsavory, criminal types populate “guy movies”— there’s none quite so dastardly as Eli Wallach’s Tuco. Clint Eastwood is the good guy, but Tuco takes the cake. We want to have it and eat it too; only the movies can create a character as despicable as Tuco who’s still, somehow, loveable. He’s the rascal that most of us guys alternately want to be and fear we are.

We hope that this list restores a little balance to the force. Guys, instead of insisting she sit through yet another Will Ferrell laugher, here you can find something to delight her that won’t turn your stomach. Girls, remember that movies can end with other than kissing or tears, and even ones that have lots of guns can still have a heart. And if that still isn’t enough justification, just think of it as an opportunity to learn something about the other sex without talking, and tell yourself that it’s more fun than marriage counseling.

[This piece written by Felix Tallon and a whole lot of help from Campbell Andrews]

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