Words by Robyn Cowie
Chick Lit is a term in the book world, which historically when used is never deemed as a compliment. Instead it is a term which implies being of low culture, light amusement and literary fluff.
The definition of chick-lit is simply books which either appeal to female readers or consists of “heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists”. The genre addresses issues of modern womanhood; relationships, the world of work, motherhood and female friendship. Often not considered worthy of the respect and reputation which other forms of literature can garner. And this is all despite the fact that ‘Chick Lit’ is one of the most popular and financially successful in the last few decades.
The reclaiming of Chick-Lit, is something which is necessary, how can it still be okay for cultural items which are created to apples to over 51% of the world population, still have lesser status. Popular chick lit novels have gone on to be some of the most successful cinematic and television ventures in recent times. Both Chick lit and Chick flicks dominate their respective artistic spaces, they are still extremely popular, have been able to evolve over time to be far more current, inclusive and progressive, address important societal issues head on and all whilst continuing to inspire their readers/viewers. But that is still not deemed as meaningful or impactful, as at its core this is a genre often created by and created for women, over half of the world’s population, but that statistic is not enough for female orientated creative ventures to be given the credit they are due.
Enter Sentimental Garbage, a podcast hosted by Caroline O’Donoghue, who each week is joined by a guest to discuss and devolve a guilty pleasure chick lit text. In the hope of discovering “what makes chick-lit tick, and investigate why it’s so often overlooked”. This podcast is helping to reclaim the chick lit genre and offer it the time and space for it to be analyzed as the respectable creative genre that it rightly should be.
The show had a myriad of well respected guests, who along with Caroline do a deep dive in classic chick lit texts. With the crux of the whole show being to recognise the mastery of these texts and of this genre. The podcast goes from witty humour to very sincere discussion as to why books such as these are undervalued. O’Donoghue simply puts that this disregard of this genre is down to sexism and the power of marketing, which had left Chick lit as simply something for women. It is trying to change this stereotype by offering a place for thought provoking, enlightening and charming discussions about the importance, impact and messages of books which have been shutdown so easily for being based on the female experience.
The latest series of Sentimental Garbage, has taken a slight detour from its literary canon, and is instead Sentimental in the City. Caroline is joined by bestselling author, agony aunt and podcaster, Dolly Alderton, where the pair break down season by season the ‘great American novel’ that is Sex & The City. The extensive episodes breakdown everything; from what is problematic, the best male character of each season, the best outfit, what the purpose of that particular season is, what Carrie’s biggest faux pas of the season was. As well as what that particular season says not only about modern womanhood when the season was released but also discussing the cultural impact and also backlash which occurred in tandem with each other throughout the programmes airing. This has been a real tonic for me in the month or so, helping me on my daily works and making my staying at home far more humours, thoughtful and enjoyable. As well as making me re-evaluate how I myself acknowledge a genre which is worth far more credit than it both currently and historically has had.