Scrolling through Netflix on a Thursday night, I was hoping to find another cheesy, predictable rom-com to half-heartedly watch. When I stumbled upon Moxie, I thought: “I am all for a good high-school drama, so why not try this one?” Little did I know that this movie was so much more than that. Directed by Amy Poehler, Moxie highlights the everyday systemic struggles that women, especially teenage girls, face while capturing the nuance of an intersectional perspective. The movie as a whole is well-produced and well-written, but I think a few aspects make it stand out as a particularly influential piece of feminist film.
- It shows girls standing up for themselves, even against normalized male behaviors.
Moxie has numerous examples of women standing up and speaking out against a male-dominated social structure. One of my favorites, and one of the launchpads of this movie, is when the high-school popular guys release their annual superlatives list, including categories like “Most Bangable,” “Best Ass,” and “Biggest Bitch.” This sparks the main character, Vivian, to revive her mother’s anonymous feminist magazine Moxie, and start a silent protest where people wear stars and hearts on their hands in solidarity against the list. What I love about this is that it sends the message to girls that they should not have to sit back quietly when they know they are being objectified. It also shows the power of women coming together and building each other up, instead of tearing each other down and competing to be the best in categories created by men.
- The main love interest is the ideal feminist man.
Vivian’s main love interest in this movie, Seth, is a skate-boarding, quirky, and charming boy that she has known since childhood. Seth is a perfect role model for a supportive feminist boyfriend. He joins in on Vivian’s silent protest, drawing stars and hearts on his hand in solidarity with the girls. He makes sure that their first time having sex will be not be rushed and will be special. And, perhaps most importantly, he calls her out for taking out all her other frustrations on him when her protesting starts to get out of hand. Seth shows us the importance of men being respectful and empathetic of the sexist high-school environment while also treating Vivian as his equal by expecting that respect and empathy in return.
- It shows the diversity of feminist activism and makes it known that these different forms are all valid.
A big theme of this movie is that women are not a monolith, and while women may have very similar negative experiences, it is okay to go about addressing those experiences differently. Vivian emerges with encouragement by a new student, Lucy, as a very radical, disruptive protester once “Moxie” gets the movement off the ground. Her best friend since childhood, Claudia, feels left behind when she is not willing to go down a radical route. This is where the movie does a great job interacting with the racial dynamics of their friendship: Claudia is Asian-American and Vivian is white. In one of their confrontations, Claudia voices that Vivian cannot understand her position because she is white. Claudia explains she doesn’t have the same liberties as Vivian; her mom is a first-generation immigrant and gave up so much for Claudia that she does not want to jeopardize her future by participating in radical protests. This is a beautifully-complicated dynamic and, ultimately, expresses that supporting a cause you believe in comes in many valid forms and can be deeply tied with racial and class privilege.
- The popular football jock is the villain.
I know that growing up I watched a lot of 2000s movies where the football jock is an asshole the whole movie, but then falls in love with the nerdy girl, who sees him for who he “truly is” and forgives him for being a huge bully. In Moxie, the football jock is not given this forgiveness. Mitchell, the captain of the football team, is portrayed as the villain, as he is one of the co-creators of the degrading superlatives list and constantly tries to gaslight the girls into believing that their struggles are invalid. For so long, we have seen the archetype of the misunderstood popular guy, and now finally we see that misogynistic, degrading actions—no matter the backstory—should not be tolerated.
- It captures the scary realities of rape and sexual assault.
My friends and I have had a lot of conversations about how there is a general tendency to paint rape and sexual assault against women as something that only clearly-dangerous strangers can do. Moxie emphasizes the truth: many times rape and sexual assault are committed against women by people that they are close with.**Major spoiler alert** Emma, captain of the cheerleading team, confesses at the end of the movie that she was raped by Mitchell (the football jock) the previous year when they were still dating. I think this is critically important to bring up because it drives home the point that consent is necessary no matter how close you are with your partner or how long you have been together. Additionally, it is through the coalition of women formed by “Moxie” that Emma finds the strength to come forward, further reaffirming the importance of women sticking together and not being turned against each other by male standards.
This movie is great because it normalizes the behaviors that have been so stigmatized for women in the past. Feminism can often be perceived with a negative connotation, as being too radical or being anti-men. Moxie shows that feminism is quite the opposite: it is about coming together to raise women to an equal playing field. This movie is important for anyone to watch, but it particularly creates a story that can show teenage girls struggling with these problems that it is okay to not keep their heads down; it is okay to fight back. I wish I had movies like Moxie when I was in high school, but I’m glad I have it now.