From Dumplin’ and The Half of It, to Enola Holmes and Never Have I Ever, Netflix is bringing strong, complex, and diverse female leads front and center on our screens. The streaming giant recently unveiled its new releases which includes Moxie, the movie adaptation of Jennifer Mathieu’s best-selling novel directed by Amy Poehler. The story revolves around Vivian, a 16-year-old girl who anonymously publishes a zine called Moxie to call out the sexism in her school. Vivian’s small project turned into something bigger–giving birth to a club and inspiring a movement in the school.
Curious about what moxie refers to? Is it a brand, a band, or an old show? When you look it up on Google, it actually means “force of character, determination, or nerve”–adjectives that best describe the story’s female characters. The movie has its ups, downs, and loose ends, but it’s a nice first step toward learning more about feminism and the inequalities faced by women today.
Watching it can make you feel uncomfortable–a testament to how the issues portrayed do happen in real life. While it has its moments, Moxie also had its areas for improvement. Read on as we discuss the movies highs and lows:
Good: Its portrayal of how harassment can take root in school.
In Vivian’s school, girls are ranked according to their looks and the football team reigns supreme. From catcalling and harassment–girls experience these on the daily, yet those in position turn a blind eye. In the movie, even the principal doesn’t like hearing the word “harassment” saying how such a complaint would require paperwork. Aside from dismissing the concerns brought about by Lucy, the new student befriended by Vivian, those in charge also give special treatment to Mitchell Wilson, the star of the football team.
Good: How it showed that it’s always girls who have to adjust to the situation.
From keeping one’s head down to avoid being targeted to adhering to dress codes–girls are always called to adjust so as not to attract harassment. In the movie, one of Vivian’s classmates, Kaitlynn, was asked to go home because she’s wearing a spaghetti strap top and is getting attention from boys. Not once were boys called to dress differently. Most of the time, girls don’t also speak up when harassed to avoid further bullying.
Good: Depiction of bullies turning the tables and playing the victim.
With the student body realizing the sexism in the school and with more girls joining the Moxie movement, Mitchell is seen in a bad light which lowers his chances of winning an annual award. To turn things around in his favor, he uses a school platform to tell everyone he’s the one being bullied. This is a classic tale of how those who torment others paint themselves as victims to gain sympathy.
Good: Finding one’s voice can be empowering.
From choosing to be silent and keeping her head down, Vivian learned how to speak up toward the end of the film. She owned being Moxie’s creator and inspired others to speak their truth. In the beginning of the movie, Vivian is shown running in the woods and screaming with no sound coming out of her mouth. When she screamed together with the other students during their protest, it alludes to Vivian finding her voice and making a stand.
Can-be-improved: Moxie tries to tackle multiple issues in a two-hour time frame.
The intention is good, but Moxie wanted to feature so many issues at once–from inequality and empowerment, to living with a single parent and showing diversity. The message of the film is clear, but it would have been good to get to know some of its characters deeper. It takes a look at sexism viewed from Vivian’s point of view, but it would help to also see it from a person of color’s, Asian’s, and transgender’s perspectives–after all, they are represented in the Moxie club.
While it’s almost two hours well-spent, Moxie can also work as a series. Think allotting an episode for Vivian, Lucy, Kaitlynn, Claudia (Vivian’s Asian best friend), and even Vivian’s mom–it can create a more well-rounded look at sexism, inequality, and how girls are making a stand against these.
Can-be-improved: Tying up loose ends in the ending.
In the beginning of the film, Vivian faces a college application question about something she’s passionate about. While it’s implied, it’s easy to assume that she found her passion in empowerment and striving for equality. It would have been fulfilling to see her complete her essay and conclude the film with the things she’s learned since starting Moxie. It can also serve as an opportunity to kickstart the discussion on how others experience inequality on a daily basis.
Moxie makes for a good jump off point if you want to be woke and get started on learning about feminism. While it’s a good 101, it shouldn’t be used as basis for generalizing the issues faced by women today. Have you seen Moxie? Did you enjoy it? Let us know what you loved and didn’t enjoy in the comments below!