The film Moxie! is a fun and feisty display of women’s empowerment, that all should sit down and see.
By Maia Pagán
Moxie! Definition: A force of character, determination, or nerve. The film Moxie! fits this description perfectly. Moxie! is a Netflix original film that was released on March 3, 2021, directed by Amy Poehler. This movie focuses on the constant silencing of women's voices in education. Moxie! centers around Vivian, a shy girl (Hadley Robinson), whose inspiration is her mom's (Amy Poehler) rebellious past and calls out the sexism within her school. Her revolution begins when she starts working on a college application, and the essay question is, "what is something you care about and why?" Vivian isn't sure what to say. All her life, she keeps her head down and just goes through the motions, but now she must look within and find her Moxie.
Looking back at her mother's teen years, Vivian finds her mom's favorite song, "Rebel Girl" by Bikini Kill. Her mother talks about her involvement in trying to crush the patriarchy. Vivian is inspired to create an anonymous zine named Moxie. Her zine calls out sexism at her school. A new friend Lucy played beautifully by actress Alycia Pascual-Pena, a bilingual sensation who helps introduce feminist thinking to her new school. Her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) struggles with the new Vivian, reaching to define herself as a feminist in a culture clash of her own. The upbeat defiance rounds out with many other actors of color, a nice change! This comedy is full of interesting LGBTQ+ characters, even the classic bad boy and ideal boy.
Moxie starts with the first day of school and the sexist rating system where girls are rated for "best ass" or "most bangable," depicting a real-life scenario in many schools. The main bad-boy character, Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), plays a mansplaining chauvinist who turns out to be a (spoiler alert!) rapist. Lucy tries to engage the school principal played by Marcia Gay Harden but minimizes her experience and chooses to do nothing. Lucy and Vivian question the school system's lack of response. This movie shows oppression, and an example is Patrick's response, "There are bigger things to care about in the world than feminism." Patrick is a male football player and knows nothing about feminism, and he's also one of the biggest problems in the school.
On the flip side, Vivian's love interest Seth is positive to Mitchell's negative. Nico Higara is a huge hit and has many conversations worldwide since Moxie debuted. Seth completely supports the feminist movement and his girlfriend, Vivian. Seth treats Vivian with respect and showcases his commitment slowing the relationship when they start dating. He has quickly become an example of a man who is not afraid to be a feminist. All girls who want to smash the patriarchy want a supportive partner, as Seth is in the film. Often in movies about feminism, there isn't a positive view of males supporting the feminist cause. Instead, they're always some kind of villain, so it's refreshing to see a man of color so supportive of a movement that created a lot of commotion in the school.
Although this film had many great points, there were a few issues. The film chooses to ignore disabled people. A girl in a wheelchair is the comedic relief. This portrayal shouldn't happen in a movie that is about women and inclusivity.
Another issue that I have with the movie is that the film shows the primary character lacking courage, and she expects everyone else to be willing to risk it all. Vivian is even afraid to admit that she is the creator of this revolution in her high school, and the only time she does is at the end of the movie when everyone else has lost everything.
As a Chicana, I question the main character, the girl who starts this whole revolution, is white and makes me wonder why? When Vivian witnesses Lucy's harassment, she chooses to remain silent, but in the end, she is a white savior. I'm not sure why this movie's main character is not a woman of color who helps other women of color rise, and even other white women. I know it is hard to cover every social aspect possible in a two-hour film, but I walked away disappointed in the same version of an old story of the white savior complex in cinema.
Does a feminist story need to be told? Always! Movies like Moxie! spotlight people's stories and the essential message of inclusion, justice, and diversity. A women's strength in a patriarchal society is a story for all members of society, and they remind us that society's injustices are normalized. I hope this movie inspires women and young girls everywhere who are smashing the patriarchy, being a rebel, and remember having a little moxie is powerful, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Now, I'm going to pose a question to you, the reader, do you have Moxie?
Ryan Ford '23,