Moxie's Intersectional Downfall
By Shiva Chopra
Taken from IMDB
When I first found the trailer for the Netflix movie Moxie, I felt like it was created just for me. There was discussion of revolt, patriarchy, and adolescent girl rebellion. I was hooked right from the beginning.
In Moxie, Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a 16-year-old learns about feminism from her mom, Lisa (Amy Poehler), who was a part of the riot grrrl circuit when she was younger. After the boys at her school produce a list assessing the girls and their so-called "fuckability", Vivian creates a zine named Moxie to spread the ideology of gender equality. Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pea), an Afro-Latina, politically-aware, cool new girl, becomes her companion. Lucy pulls Vivian into the feminist community and the two help to bring down their principal, who seems unconcerned about the list, the school's blatant misogyny, or Mitchell, the school's dirtbag football player. It is a traditional coming-of-age story with a feminist twist.
Throughout the movie, Vivian struggles with how to better articulate her anger towards gender norms; she finds out how to aim it at the appropriate person, while navigating a quite adorable relationship with the very nice, pro-feminist, Seth (Nico Hiraga). The movie showcases Vivian’s evolution.
Moxie, like me, is commendably candid — nowhere more so than in its clumsy manoeuvring of the more nuanced aspects of empowerment and equality. For the most part, this was very familiar territory for me. A cool friend introduced me to riot grrrl feminism a couple of years ago. During lunchtime at my high school, I became known for ranting about gender inequality and beauty norms. I was completely sincere. However, this was a wake-up call. I finally had the vocabulary and contextual knowledge to put my indignation about my peers and media depictions of women into words.
However, Vivian eventually falls victim to complacency and white feminism. Her politics were basic and informed with a limited viewpoint. She knew about gender disparity, but she had no idea how much worse it was for women of colour. She detested the expectations for women's bodies, unaware that they were based on anti-Black racism.
Vivian is considered a hero for making the Moxie zine, but it's her new friend Lucy who is the story's true core. As the new kid, Lucy is singled out and harassed by Mitchell. She has a powerful voice that she uses to confront Mitchell, filing a harassment lawsuit and refusing to allow any explanations that include “boys being boys.” Although she has the courage to speak up, the movie does not address how her race leads to her being more susceptible to harassment, considering that Black girls are more likely to be sexually harassed at school.
Moxie contains the heavily condemned trope of Black characters primarily being used to enable white characters to understand more about themselves and the world. It does this through Lucy, but also Amaya and Kiera, two of Vivian's soccer teammates, who are Black and already aware of the injustices they face, which affects Vivian's growing feminism. Other BIPOC roles in the movie, such as Vivian's closest friend Claudia, play a critical part. Consider the scene in which Claudia informs Vivian that, as the child of a Chinese immigrant, she finds it more difficult to publicly revolt like Vivian. The statement is right, but the movie never returns to it, leading me to think: is there really something Vivian has managed to learn from this conversation?
This occurs frequently. We'll hear something fascinating or informative from a secondary character, but the movie immediately moves onto another topic, making it seem like lip service. CJ (Josie Totah) mentions her real name not being recognized in school, but that is all we learn about her perspective as a trans student.
All of this got me wondering why Lucy, who was far more interesting than Vivian, wasn't the lead. Why is it that the clumsy, uninformed white girl is chosen to lead the way?
There is some good, however! Instead of the stereotypical pink-washing and "boss lady" plot, it was heartening to see new-wave feminism at the forefront of a Netflix film. At the end of the day, I would consider it a really large success if Moxie encourages Gen Z girls to begin creating zines, accepting feminism, and confronting their biases.