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Volume 14, Issue 3: Femina

Chick Flicks

Nancy Wilson

God created men and women with many differences, and one of the significant differences is how we are wired sexually. So, of course, given our differences, our temptations are not the same. The enemy of our souls, being an experienced strategist, hits us where we are weak. Generally speaking, men are aroused by sight and are wired to their appetites, and so we have the porn industry working hard night and day to devise ways to devour and destroy men. Millions of men have been seduced, captured, and made slaves, all the while thinking they are exercising their "freedom." The attack is straight forward, in your face, and with no subtlety at all.

Women, on the other hand, generally speaking, are seduced emotionally and perhaps more subtly. Women are wired to their emotions and respond to touch, as well as to tenderness, thoughtfulness, sacrifice, and sentiment. Thus we have an industry devoted to producing sappy romantic novels, hours of TV time filled with soap operas, and films that aim to seduce women by drawing them into a vicarious illicit relationship.
In drawing these distinctions between men and women, I am not saying that either set of strengths/weaknesses necessitates falling into sin. And I am certainly not saying that women cannot be seduced by sight or men by tenderness. These categories are generalizations. Still, if we are going to understand how to resist our own temptations, we must be acquainted with our vulnerabilities.
One genre of film in recent years that has achieved popularity among women is what is commonly called the "chick flick." This is the movie that revolves around a relationship; it satisfies the emotional feminine need for masculine understanding and tenderness, and has a happy ending culminating in a successful relationship. Now of course not all chick flicks are necessarily bad. But it is helpful if women understand what is going on in these stories, and it is crucial that we see what effect they are having on the women who watch them. And of course romantic novels present the same temptations as romantic films.
A chick flick may be great art, like Pride and Prejudice, or it may be altogether poor, like so many movies that come and go. And just because it is a story geared for women does not mean that it is necessarily evil. Women must guard themselves no matter what they are reading or watching, but I am addressing a particular temptation here that is found in romantic works of fiction or film.
If watching or reading Pride and Prejudice causes a woman to become discontent with her own husband because he just doesn't match up to Mr. Darcy, then she is not reading cautiously. Works of fiction (including film) should delight and instruct us, not cause us to get into sin. If they do, either they are not worthy of our time, or we are not thinking properly when we watch or read them. Let's consider each of these categories separately.
In The Discarded Image C.S. Lewis pointed out three essential tests of literature: it should teach what is useful, honor what is honorable, and appreciate the delightful. If a book or film is teaching destructive philosophy, if it is honoring fornication or adultery, if it is appreciating what is reprehensible, then we can safely conclude that this is not what we should find amusing or entertaining. A film that elevates adultery and leads us to sympathize with sin is not good for our soul. The romantic hero is often rebellious, individualistic, and guided by his passions. Women who are sucked into reading book after book with this kind of hero are going to be affected in an unhealthy way.
On the other hand, if a film or book is first rate, we still have to be thinking as we read or watch it. Like I said above, even the good stuff can stumble us, and we need to be paying attention. Guard against fantasizing about other men, even if they are just from the pages of a book. The married as well as the unmarried woman needs to consider this. Some have called emotional, romantic films "feminine porn." It can seduce women into approving of ungodly conduct and relations. It can arouse the passions in an ungodly way, encouraging women to fantasize about men who are not their husbands, or lead to an unhealthy mental role-playing. Unmarried women can be misled into thinking this is what a loving relationship is like. Married women can become discontent that they are not lusted for, sought, and chased after, like the women in the book or film.
Women are led into lust in a different way than men are. Women lust to be lusted after, and seeing a film or reading a book that arouses this kind of lust can be very destructive. Though a woman may not be aroused at the sight of another woman taking off her clothes, it can make her wish she could do that, or look like that, or get men to look at her that way. This is clearly sinful thinking that needs to be repented of and forsaken, and it cannot be justified by saying, "But I am imagining seducing my husband like that woman on the screen." Women think when a "bad skin scene" comes on, only the men should turn their heads. But this is indeed a double standard. Women can be stumbled by this, even though it is in a different form. Lust of this kind leads to discontent in her own relationships, and a little discontent can lead to a host of other sins.
A steady diet of romantic novels and films can have a devastating effect on the home. Women can begin to look to their books for fulfillment instead of their husbands. They can view their own relationship in terms of their "unmet needs" and view their husbands as falling far short of the romantic ideal. This can lead over time to the desire to find a new "satisfying" relationship where someone will sweep her off her feet and carry her away to a world where there are no responsibilities, only passion.
A good dose of biblical thinking is the best way to counter romanticism of this kind. God wants us to honor Him in our long-term relationships that are hedged in by His covenant of love. We are not to live for the moment, from one emotional high to another. And He knows what is good for our souls.

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