When, when I ask you, are movie makers going to break down and admit that they are making their action-adventure epics not for young males between 18-34, but for women 18 to 50-something? Let’s stop for a moment and define chick flicks. “Chick flicks” are movies that are presumed to focus on things that have special appeal for women e.g. love, romance, relationships. As I define them, “action chick flicks” are action-adventure movies that, while heavily dominated by male characters not intent on “feminine” things like finding a mate, are chock full of things that women especially like.
And just what are those things says you? Thought you’d never ask.
Horses of Rohan from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Horses: It starts with My Little Pony and progresses to Black Beauty and National Velvet. Women just plain love horses and hey, if the horse in question happens to be conveying the studly male hero around, that’s a bonus.
Russell Crowe as Maximus in Gladiator.
Leather Gear: No, not that kind of leather gear. I’m talking about beat up military harness or well-worn bomber jackets–leather clothing that the hero is wearing because it happens to be in his character’s closet. Chain mail is a plus as are close-fitting breeches and kilts of any kind.
Mel Gibson as Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace in Braveheart. The blue warpaint he’s wearing is woad.
Sweat and Dirt: Nothing improves the masculine appearance like a little–or a lot–of sweat and grime, especially if the male in question has gotten hot and grubby on the heroine’s behalf e.g. fighting off bandits or pulling her carriage out of the mud.
Adrian Paul as Duncan from the TV series, Highlander, based on the movie of the same name.
Full Body Immersion: At some point in the movie, the male lead must fall into the water and emerge dripping wet. Pools and bathtubs don’t count. Ideally, he should get soaking wet more often than the female lead. In the male-dominated movie business, it’s a given that the heroine will wind up taking a dip during the course of the story.
Left to right, Vyelle Croom as Aramis, Gerald Kyd as Athos and Paul Agar as Porthos. From the stage production of a play by Ken Ludwig, based on Alexander Dumas’s story, and commissioned by the Old Vic Theatre in Bristol, England.
Brawling/Sword Fighting: Is there anything that makes the female heart beat faster than the classic sword-duel-on-the-stairs between the hero and his main opponent? Gunfire just doesn’t have the same panache. Likewise, trading punches in a tavern or on the battlefield is always good. Women don’t want to see loss of limbs or intestines–they just want to see some male-on-male pummeling action.
Viggo Mortensen as Aragron from the Lord of the Rings triology.
Bringing the Scruffy Back–Close attention must be paid to male facial stubble. The unshaven look isn’t for everyone. Does the hero’s three-day-growth of beard say “I haven’t gotten to a barber because I’ve been busy fighting oppression” or does it say “I’ve been drunk for a week and I can’t remember where I parked my horse”? In other words, can the gent in question work the stubble?
Miranda Otto as Eowyn from LOTR: The Return of the King.
Girl Power–The heroine can’t be a ninny. This is the area where otherwise promising films fall from contention. The ideal heroine needs to have a combination of brains, guts, and fighting ability and while she needn’t be an Amazon, she can’t fall to pieces in the final scene.
Uma Thurman as Marianne and Patrick Bergin as Robert Hode from the TV movie, Robin Hood.
All for Love–In the immortal words of Damon Runyon, the guy’s gotta be doin’ it for some doll. No matter what initial motivation the hero had, by the end of the film, he must try to achieve his goal in part because he’s trying to help/save/win the love of the heroine.