Inspiring the next generation of feminists in Amy Poehler’s 'Moxie'.

The film begins with a nightmare. Our 16-year-old protagonist, Vivian (Hadley Robinson) is running through the woods at night. There are rustles in the trees around her and an ominous sense of dread. She opens her mouth to scream, but no sound comes out. This is ultimately the central premise of the film: a young woman finding her voice, and ultimately a collective female voice, out of a silenced scream.

Cut to present day, where the annual high school "rankings" have just been announced, categorising the girls into labels which include “best rack” and “most bangable”. Detestable football jock, Mitchell (Patrick Swarzenegger) personifies this day-to-day objectification that pervades the daily lives of the school’s young women. When he begins to bother new girl Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), Vivian tries to reassure her by telling her to just keep her head down, to which Lucy corrects her: “I’m gonna keep my head up... high."

After being ranked “most obedient”, and discovering her mum’s old feminist memorabilia, Vivian experiences her own feminist awakening. “Moxie” is defined as “force of character, determination or nerve”, and Vivian anonymously creates and distributes the titular feminist zine, calling for a collective female uprising against the high school’s gender double standards, and encouraging solidarity among her female peers. In a particular impassioned and liberating moment, Vivian exclaims: “I hate that we are shoved aside, dismissed. Nobody does anything, nobody listens to us!”.

The film is extremely timely in the #MeToo era, and female solidarity is needed now more than ever. In light of recent events (Reclaim the Streets), Moxie emphasises the duty of both men and women to speak up about injustice, and do something to change it. We witness the complacency of both male and female authority figures, as their male teacher dismisses the girls’ outrage as “women’s issues”, and the female principal winces at the word “harass”, which will force her to take their complaints seriously. This dangerous “boys will be boys” complicity, normalises and perpetuates an extremely damaging culture, that accepts and even expects sexism as commonplace in our society. This sexist high school “banter” is effectively a microcosm for a much wider societal problem, and the reluctance to address it nurtures a culture of misogyny and silence.

While on the surface, Moxie is a fairly light and optimistic story of high school feminist rebellion, Poehler also touches on (albeit briefly) heavier themes of rape and racism. It is also a brilliantly diverse cast, including disabled, trans and multi-racial actors. 

Moxie promotes an optimistic and hopeful message on the power of female solidarity, and the potential for past generations to inspire future ones (Amy Poehler echoes Mean Girls, as the ultimate “cool mom"). Channelling 90s Riot Grrrl power with a punk rock infused soundtrack (Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl), Moxie is the ultimate “fuck the patriarchy” air punch of a film.

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