Since being drug in to see the Sex And The City movie, I have seen Mamma Mia, and now Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.
1) They are emotionally sophisticated. You can, if you look, generally see the manipulations, and in fact, it was because I liked deconstructing these manipulations that I've come to enjoy the genre. But compare the carefully constructed and thought-out characters in even a simplistic chick flick, like SATC, to a male-oriented film, like, say, any of the Bourne movies, and it's no contest. The Bourne films have simple characters driven by simple motivations, whose interactions with each other seldom involve more than gunshots. In a chick flick, the interactions are the whole point of the movie. A male movie is about the action, the what; a female movie is about the who, the why. Action films center on technique: cool car chases, well choreographed fight scenes, pacing; chick flicks center on dialogue. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.
2) Chick flicks seem to focus on relationships between women. Men are necessary, but entirely peripheral, actors, little more than props and plot devices. I have never in my life known a woman who had relationships with other women like the idealized ones you see in these films. In fact, I've never known a group of women who could stand each other for very long. Pairs, yes, but get more than two together for any period of time and trouble has always been the result. I have no idea why this is, but the stark contrast between the reality of female interaction and its idealized version in these films is jarring to me. Why is reality so incredibly different from what women seem to want, based on what I see in these films?
This isn't intended as a put down, as man movies are no more realistic. Arnold or Stallone or someone shooting their way through a roomful of bad guys is no more realistic than these sisterhood things. Man movies have gotten somewhat better than they were in the 80s, but not all that much. But the point is, if women really wanted to have these beautiful, perfect relationships with each other it would seem to be something they can create, whereas the idealized world of a man movie is an impossible fantasy.
The women I know I could talk to about this and get some answers aren't the kind of women who watch these films, while the women I know who watch and enjoy them haven't been able to give me any answers, and sometimes get annoyed with me when I try to bring the subject up. :/
One further point: why isn't anyone making movies of those romance novels that seem to sell so well? You'd think there's a market for them.
To finish up this mental doodle, a more realistic chickish flick which I just saw was Rachel Getting Married. Outstanding acting all throughout, especially from Anne Hathaway, who bounces back from what I thought was a listless performance in Get Smart, and the long MIA Debra Winger, who fell off the map and now, we can hope, will re-emerge, although I don't know what kind of roles she will be able to find. But she's still as gifted as ever, and there's something about her, even in her 50s, that draws your eyes to her wherever she is onscreen, or at least for me. If she can't get good filmwork maybe she can do something on stage. Way too much talent to let it waste.
Anyway, the female relationships in this movie are much more realistic than in classic chick flicks. The women fight, they vie with each other, they don't care for each other, men are in the center, not on the periphery -- just much more like real life. And that's probably why an excellently made and acted film like this one will likely do about half as much business as a fantasy movie would have.