[FOUNTAIN]Epicurean bean paste“Chick-lit” is a genre of American and British popular fiction mainly targeting female readers in their 20s and 30s. Since the genre first emerged in Britain in the mid-90s, it has quickly spread across the United States, Asia and Eastern Europe.
The heroes are usually young, urban female professionals in the media or fashion industry, who chat about sex, love and work. Topping bestseller lists around the world, chick-lit has established itself as a major genre, and movies and television series based on or influenced by the books have also been big hits: Witness the success of “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Sex and the City” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”
Chick-lit is not a mere literary subgenre but a major cultural phenomenon in the 21st century. Korea is no stranger to it. “The Devil Wears Prada” and self-help books for single women are increasingly popular.
Hollywood is taking note of “babebusters,” blockbuster movie versions of chick-lit in which women rather than men are the leading characters.
While chick-lit books are often seen as being light reading with little substantial philosophy, feminists seem to approve of the genre. Chick-lit novels approach traditional feminine themes from a new angle, exploring the concept of “post-feminism.” In short, it is given in the chick-lit novels that the heroines are the modern women with completely different values on sex, consumption, desire and body image. Mallory Young wrote in “Chick Lit: the New Women’s Fiction,” that in a society where feminism has failed to take root, chick-lit satisfies both feminist liberty and post-feminist spending habits.
On the other side of chick-lit is “lad-lit” novels focusing on the lives of contemporary young men. Nick Hornby, the leader in the genre, has written such popular novels as “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy,” both of which have been made into films. If the girls in chick-lit unapologetically pursue worldly desires, the guys in lad-lit are often depicted as socially inept outsiders who are insensitive to trends and clumsy with relationships.
The “bean-paste girls,” a degrading term referring to vain young women who want to live like the characters in “Sex and the City,” have become a source of huge controversy in Korean society. Chick-lit emphasizes only one message: “Be realistic. Worship material, body and worldly desires over the spirit.” It might be unfair to judge these girls using a yardstick of ethics and morals. Behind the chick-lit boom, we can find a portrait of young women armed with materialism and epicureanism, working hard to survive in both the market of love and marriage and the job market in the era of unlimited competition.
by Yang Sung-hee
The writer is a culture and sports desk writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.