December 6, 2010

Girls more likely to dig coming of age movies, even ones about boys

Just fooling around on imdb.com and noticed that coming of age movies just about always get higher ratings from females than males. That's not an effect of girls rating everything higher, as though they were merely gentler when judging. And it's not just for movies that they can relate to directly through a female lead character, like My Girl or Labyrinth, or with mixed-sex casts like Dirty Dancing or The Goonies. Even ones focusing only on boys get higher ratings -- including ones with non-dreamy and barely pubescent boys like Stand By Me, The Sandlot, and Lord of the Flies (! -- though only by a hair), as well as the ones packed with teenage heartthrobs like The Outsiders.

Time was when a boy dreamed of becoming a man, and couldn't devour enough of these rite of passage stories. Yet these days girls are more into them. I think this is due to the institutional squelching of male-on-male violence. That takes away a lot of the anxiety, as well as the appeal, of becoming a man -- you no longer expect to physically defend yourself, your kin, and your friends, since there's a policeman, a bouncer, or a school security guard who's supposed to take care of that business for you. What's left for you to do in the job description of man's work? Get a job and provide for your kids, perhaps, but that might as well be another lifetime when you're a teenager. It's no wonder adolescent boys are in such an existential drift, aside from the previous wave of crime during the '60s through the '80s, when they were suddenly needed again as protectors and avengers. Now it's back to studying hard and dorking around with gadgets, like during the 1950s.

Girls, on the other hand, have no protection from society's institutions when their enemies plot against them. It's mostly verbal, not physical, and it's typically done behind their back in the hallway or in secret in the girls' locker room, not like a brawl that erupts in the middle of the cafeteria. It's just about impossible for authority figures to locate the attack, let alone contain or ameliorate the harm once it's begun -- are they going to erase the memories of every girl who's heard and passed along the rumor that so-and-so really slutted it up last Saturday and slept with two guys in one night?

So while modern institutions may have tamed male aggression a good deal, females still live in as much of a dog-eat-dog world as they always have. It's only natural then that they'd get sucked into a good narrative about rites of passage, even ones about violent boys that are outside their first-hand experiences.

2 comments:

  1. Your theory doesn't jive with the reality of today's girls and the rise of violence.
    Though you are correct in that we love coming of age movies but I think we have always had that attraction. I just saw Flipped and wanted to see it again, even before the movie finished. I was just thinking there is a commonality between coming of age movies and chick flicks but I can only explain it as my reaction

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  2. Semi-related but I was talking with an experienced security guard/bouncer and he said that while male on male violence is on the decline since he was young (thirty years ago) girl on girl violence has started increasing very recently.

    I spoke to other bouncers and the general consensus is that girls are becoming more feral.

    - Breeze

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