From “Parks and Rec” sensation to now director and critically acclaimed actress, Amy Poehler recently adapted the book “Moxie” into a Netflix original. Starring as the accomplished single mom to Vivian, a young junior in high school. The movie came out March 3, with a soundtrack of 90s alt rock feminist bangers and received a 68% on rotten Tomatoes with reviews highlighting its “on the nose” message and how it was right on time.
The plot goes as follows, Vivian has to start writing college application essays and has a prompt about “what she cares about.” After looking at it for a bit she moves on and later asks her mom what she cared about as a teenager and she replies “SMASHING the patriarchy.” A bit perturbed, Vivian decides to look through her moms stuff and finds a suitcase full of old pictures and writings from her mom and her friends and also feminist article clippings.
Before watching her ask her mom, we got a scene of the new girl, Lucy, arguing that the “Great Gatsby” is just another book by a white man about white men being entitled. Upset by this, the antagonist of the movie, Mitchell, a star football player who is the epitome of being anti-feminist, attacks her saying that there's a reason we still read the book and that she should get over it. Later, Vivian sees Lucy being threatened by him and after reporting harassment to the principal and being ignored, Lucy tells Vivian off for telling her to ignore him.
After school that day, Vivian digs into the Suitcase and decides to start Moxie, a handmade mini magazine about women's rights. After distributing them in all the bathrooms, chaos ensues.
Whew. That plot summary took a bit didn’t it? Stay with me.
Notably, this movie is about high school students, and so as a college student I felt a small disconnect and definitely a small twinge of panic at seeing a college application being filled out, am I right? However, it is the target demographic for social change to start in our current world, as in high-school students and the movie influences most girls and assigned females at birth , as they begin to experience these issues for the first time with a sense of consciousness so it fits.
The strengths of this movie in addressing the issues of modern feminism include its subtle support of intersectionality, which depending on who you talk to is good and bad. Overall, it supports the idea that women of all sexualities, races, ethnicities, experiences and possible transition states deserve a voice in the feminist movement. Featuring a white lead, but with little other main character white casting, as well as showing girls from different backgrounds such as Vivian's friend, whose mother is a first generation Asian immigrant who wants her daughter to not get in trouble and go to college, this film showcases a story that relates to every girl. Other notable examples include Lucy, a person of color who is the most outspoken of the group, another girl and a possibly Latina girl, as well as Jose Totah, who is a trans girl in real life, as CJ. The movie even features a kiss between two of the girls at a party, further enveloping the full spectrum of women.
The movie even shows how easy it is for men to split up the movement among women subtle but dividing these groups. The patriarchy likes that women don't want to work together, and he’s been known to support and propagate infighting within feminist communities since its conception.
With a speech made from Mitchell about how he's being “bullied by the girls’ and how “they're being mean to him” and then the resilience of the girls, who are so young and still get this basic concept, stick together and don’t change their redomiciliation of the school due to some cat fight of disagreement about how the movement should progress. The overall triumph is more important than individual micro issues, and the patriarchy is the enemy, not other girls. Like in STEM where women are pitted against each other to be the best instead of competing with the men around them.
As far as the words said in the movie, pretty much every modern issue within the movement is brought up, even subtly. The main features include dress code requirements, which prompts the protagonist to organize a tank top wearing protest, the idea that male athletes are favored over females and also receive more academic claim and protection from punishment. It also combats the judging of women's bodies and slut-shaming in its portrayal of the school's “ranking” system.
Without spoiling anything, it also touches on rape culture, and how men are over-protected in this regard, even by female principals who simply wish to keep the “peace.” This is a delicate topic and this movie handles it well, choosing not to feature any actual scenes with an implied rape.
The implication of rape comes out in the climax of the movie and is the tipping point in finally convincing the principal that there’s a problem. The girl is supported following her confession and is not slut-shamed at all or told it is her fault. Also, her fears of not knowing whether to say anything or not are thankfully invalidated in that no one tells her off for incriminating someone.
The last thing that impressed me is that Vivian has a genuinely good male love interest. He supports the movement and treats Vivian well, giving the prototype for how men should react to these issues and concerns. Feminism means equality for all, not men over women, and in giving more perspective, he is the male lead that any man watching this can relate to and learn from as well. Also, he is not just doing the bare minimum either, which so often gets propagated.
Overall, although I’m sure there are some nuances that I’ve missed, and bald spots in the representation I didn’t even think of as an AFAB of english descent, this movie did a great job. Although I initially found the acting cringe and in fact almost set it down after 10 minutes, I soon was hooked and stayed up way later than I planned to finish it. Amy Poehler did a fantastic job with this movie and it saddens me that movies like this still need to be made. But, hopefully in releasing content like this, things will improve. So, go watch “Moxie” and draw a star on your hand in support.