By Ellie Spencely, Second Year, English
Moxie! brings the warm charm of Amy Poehler (that Parks and Rec (2009-2020) fans will know and love) together with a modern homage to the ‘Riot Grrrl’ movement, and it is as delightfully energetic and heart-warming as it sounds. While the feminism it explores is no doubt entry-level to many of us, and at times feels on the nose, the film nevertheless proves itself to be a wholesome coming-of-age exploration of consent, rape culture, and female solidarity. It is beautiful to consider how the film’s younger target audience could be galvanised and inspired as feminists.
A lyric from Riot Grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill’s song, Rebel Girl (1992) – ‘that girl, she holds her head up so high’ – aptly describes the film’s momentum, as main character Vivian (Hadley Robinson) and new girl at the school, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) propel a feminist movement in their school against the sexist conventions that have been accepted as the norm. Most girls will be familiar with the dress code debate and Moxie! touches on this relatable question with the girls staging a ‘tank top revolt’ after a girl is sent home for wearing one the previous day.
Despite its contemporary edge, the film feels nostalgic in its presentation of teenage girls first encountering feminist rhetoric and embracing it with full force - and moxie! The Girl Power in the film is coated is cliché in the best possible way, executed with good intention, and used to promote the necessity of fighting back against the status quo.
While it is clear that the film wants to be inclusive, it does feel lacking in intersectionality at times, with more tokenism than true diversity, and an unwillingness to address these factors directly. An example of this is when new girl Lucy is harassed by school sports champion, Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), for speaking out against the English reading list that is packed with white, male authors. He attacks her for refusing to back down and for holding her own against him, and we are led to view this solely as an attack on her womanhood - but there is also definitely a thinly-veiled racism within his spite that is never addressed, too.
‘I’m angry and I want to scream’ – one girl says at the film’s climax as striking truths are revealed in a moment of collaborative female empowerment – and scream she does, with everyone else following in her footsteps. The writing may not be perfect at times, but Moxie! does a beautiful job at validating and encouraging the silent scream of women enraged as they come to terms with the injustices their society condones.
Poehler has never been silent about women having a right to be loud, and while watching I thought back to an episode of Parks and Rec that even without context provides poetic empowerment in the line ‘I am a goddess, a glorious female warrior. Queen of all that I survey. Enemies of fairness and equality, hear my womanly roar’. It is always wonderful to be able to blatantly see artistic consistency without it seeming inauthentic in any way, and Moxie! fits perfectly into Amy Poehler’s brand of comforting and urgent feminism that is always fun to watch.
Have you watched Moxie! yet?