By Emily Rosenberg
At first glance, ‘Moxie’ looked like any classic teen film. Within the first couple minutes I was rolling my eyes due to the use of cheesy costume that narrows high school students into problematic stereotypes.
I was happily proven wrong.
Released on Netflix, March 3, and directed by Amy Poehler, the film follows Vivian, a senior in high school who’s shy and compliant with the rules.
This changes when she recognizes the new girl, Lucy, being harassed by football quarterback, Mitchell. Not too long after Lucy’s arrival, he and his obnoxious buddies publish a list of misogynist superlatives calling Lucy the C-word. Bubbling with anger, Vivian goes home and puts together a zine made from her mother’s ’90s mementos while Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” explodes in the background.
She plops 50 copies in the girls’ bathrooms, and within a week, the “Girls of Moxie” are drawing hearts and stars on their hands, throwing a campaign to win their friend a scholarship competing against Mitchell, and doing anything they can to smash the patriarchy under the instruction of the anonymous Moxie, Vivian.
The “Girls of Moxie” are a progressive dream. Compared to older teen classics that focus on romance and ditzy girls concealing their flaws to get their fantasy boy, “Moxie” portrays unapologetic women fighting for what they believe in with romance as a side consideration.
While I regret to say my window for battling sexist athletic policies has passed, the passion and grit that is conveyed through Alycia Pascual-Pena, Lucy, and Hadley Robinson’s Vivian limitless acting will be inspiring to the loudmouth generation we call Gen Z.
Where it especially shines is its inclusiveness and unforgiving dialogue. Right off the bat, Lucy tells her English teacher that “The Great Gatsby” is no longer a classic as “It’s about some rich white guy... and I guess we’re supposed to feel bad for him because he’s obsessed with the only girl he can’t have?”
The diverse cast of queer, Black, Hispanic, and Asian actors whose voices remain prominent throughout the film allowed the story to be intersectional and show how different and more cruel women of colors’ experiences can be while still emphasizing the need for women empowerment in general.
There were also a few moments in the film like when Lucy and her friend Amaya kiss at a concert, but it is never discussed again. Though it felt a bit random it’s a step in the right direction as including small interactions such as this in future films will help to normalize characters with queer identities without their whole character arch being their coming out.
One uncomfortable choice, however, was when Seth – Vivian’s crush and only male supporter of Moxie – and Vivian hang out and end up cuddling in a display casket while trespassing in a funeral home. Despite my longing for representation of young relationships that are realistic and geeky, this only brought discomfort and confusion. It did not fall into place with either characters’ personal development, and just felt like the writers were trying to be overly quirky.
Still, Seth and Vivian’s slow-paced romantic B-plot is a heart-clenching adventure that is worth fighting for. Their excellent ability to communicate with one another also becomes a crucial story telling device that drives home the message as the two are a perfect example of equality in a relationship.
‘Moxie’ screams everything that every girl wanted to scream in my high school and in all high schools across America. The greatest bit of writing is a dream where Vivian is running hopelessly through a forest, unable to scream for help. Then, toward the end, the girls hold a walkout to protest a sexual assault and they all scream together, Dashing back to Vivian’s dream – but now we can hear her.
The dream was a beautiful way to capture the feeling of being trapped by society’s demons. The moment they were heard felt like an official call of hope for young women and other marginalized people.
You will be heard, not just in film, but in the world.
An important message with odd choices