Genre: Comedy, activism, teen movie
Run time: 1 hour 51 minutes
March is National Women’s History Month, so what better way to celebrate than to release a Netflix original film encouraging young women to go against sexism in their schools? “Moxie” is a film all about women empowerment and standing up against the usual sexist ways that society has learned to cope with and look past. To be simple, it tells us why we should stop using the excuse, “boys will be boys.”
The movie is directed by, produced by and stars Amy Poehler, and it was adapted from the book by Jennifer Mathieu. The film stars Vivian, a 16-year-old high schooler who’s gotten too used to the way her student body functions, always pushing women down below the men. It isn’t until new student, Lucy, gets in a fight with their English teacher and bigoted jock, Mitchell, that Vivian starts to see the closed-minded views of her school. Lucy argues that “The Great Gatsby” is a one-sided story of a rich white man told by a rich white man, and rather, they should be reading a book that embraces diversity, only to be shut down by Mitchell and harassed by him.
Even after this event, Vivian still doesn’t fully comprehend how serious Mitchell harassing Lucy is. She tells Lucy that it’s just the way Mitchell is and that you just have to ignore him. But when a list comes out at the school objectifying girls’ bodies to list who’s “most bangable” and who’s the “biggest c-word” (they technically never say what c-word it is though you can assume it’s the one that has four letters), Vivian finally wants to take action to bring the female student population together.
From here, Vivian takes inspiration from 90s all-women, feminist punk band, “Bikini Kill” to create a zine, basically a smaller, self-published magazine, with the goal of liberating the women in the school to stand against the blatant disrespect for women. She calls herself and the zine, “Moxie,” a play on when the principal says that the cheerleaders have moxie. She’s reinventing the phrase to represent the feminist movement. Eventually the zine catches on, and the women of the student body, along with a few male students, come together to tackle the prejudiced notions they face every day.
Overall, I’m very happy to see such an inclusive movie. Not only is it promoting a great message to empower young women who watch it, but, it features women of color and LGBTQ+ women as some of the main characters. It’s not often you see women of all different races, lesbian couples and transgender women all at the forefront of a movie, especially a movie meant for teenagers.
The movie even recognizes the punk feminist movement of the 90s and features a soundtrack of mostly female punk rock bands. This is something I usually wouldn’t expect a movie to show in a positive light since most mainstream media portrays the punk rock scene as nothing but drugs and disappointment. Really punk is about going against the patriarchy and social standards to allow everyone to be themselves with respect for others.
Even though it’s all about women, the movie isn’t meant to undermine men either, as Vivian’s boyfriend is a huge supporter of the movement. But, it still includes characters like Mitchell who make it hard for women to attend school without being made fun of.
Where the movie falters a bit for me is some of the later portrayal of some of the characters. Vivian ends up getting caught up in her “Moxie” plans and ends up causing damage to others and herself between damaging property, getting her best friend into trouble and genuinely just becoming too invested in her plans.
While I’m a huge advocate for never giving up what you’re fighting for, young minds can be very impressionable and a young woman’s first thought to take down sexism shouldn’t be destroying their principal’s trophy and spray painting the ground. They end up turning Vivian into a not-so-likable character by having her destroy her mother’s date with a nice guy because she wouldn’t stop pressing him about sexism and the American flag on his car. They take the whole thing too far and basically imply that being a feminist turned her toxic.
If it weren’t for the toxic actions that the movement turns to towards the end of the movie, I’d be praising this movie left and right for all young women to watch. However, this aspect brought the movie up short for me as I almost looked at Vivian’s “feminism” with disgust. Feminism is not about destroying property, but that’s about all they make it out to be towards the end of the movie.
Maybe one day we’ll have a perfect movie with a diverse cast and characters that preaches activism in a good way, and I have to admit this movie got pretty close ‘till the last bit. Though until that day, I shouldn’t expect much more from Hollywood than their almost harmful way of showcasing their own definition of “activism.”