DISCLAIMER: This review contains mild spoilers.
Moxie is a novel written by Jennifer Mathieu and was recently adapted into a movie by the same name on Netflix. The movie centres around a group of women in school who call out the institutionalised gender bias prevalent in the school through the means of an anonymous zine named ‘Moxie’. The movie was inspired by the feminist punk movement Riot grrrl that started in the early 1990s within the United States in Olympia, Washington, and the greater Pacific Northwest.
I had great expectations from the movie as it addresses the issue of sexual harassment at school or workplace that women face and generally disguise with vexation. As the plot develops, it delves into the core theme of the movie, i.e. feminism. It tries to portray the everyday objectification and sexualisation of the female gaze that, when questioned or resisted, is shunned by trivialising it. The movie shows that patriarchy and misogyny are deeply rooted in the structures of our society, and offers a critical perspective on how people tend to normalise this behaviour. However, the problem lies in the utter misrepresentation of the term ‘feminism’ in the movie that is giving a negative connotation to the term.
Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes. It is to be noted that equality doesn’t mean sameness. Its aim is not to propagate the idea of anti-men or misandry. The movie ruefully describes the male as antagonistic and vulturous in nature, while constantly nodding to the mistakes and silliness of the female gaze.
In a scene, Vivian, the protagonist and brainchild of the zine, questions her Principal over the reason for letting Mitchell (the main antagonist) give a speech during the morning announcements. To this, Principal Shelly replies, “He got it because he asked for it.” She adds, “If anyone from Moxie asked for it, they would have gotten it, too.”
The way Vivian reacted to her Principal’s reasonable explanation by playing the ‘victim card’ and ridiculously accusing her of paedophilia is deeply problematic and does not resonate with the true essence of feminism. In a different scene, Vivian hurts her boyfriend, Seth, by ranting some incomprehensible lecture on female gaze, whereas Seth genuinely supports and shows affection to her and her zine ‘Moxie’.
The scene clearly presents that a woman has the liberty to be rude and self-centred to the male even if they show genuine support and affection. The movie wrongly equated feminism ‘anti-men’. Also, the way of expressing dissent — through vandalising public property and resorting to stealing — is disputable and uncalled for.
Although the movie has some really controversial takes on the subject, it nevertheless has some heart-touching moments as well. The solidarity expressed through sisterhood by the women of the school to fight against the subjugation and atrocities faced by them is a really feel-good moment.
Despite being rebellious and controversial in nature, Moxie provided a wide base to the female gaze for sharing their tormenting experiences of rape, sexism and sexual harassment without any inhibition or the thought of getting looked down by people. The platform provided a new voice to smash the stigma associated with women’s issues and allowed their vivacious expressions to get recognition.
One of my favourite scenes in the movie was the collective wearing of tank tops by the girls of the school to mark their unity for their friend Kaitlynn, who was wearing a tank top and asked by the school authorities to cover her body as her body was apparently ‘different’ from other women’s. It also projected the constant encouragement of women by the womankind and has taught the female gaze to ‘hold their heads high’. The movie has an amazing soundtrack, which ultimately acts as a cherry on the top.
The cast performs their respective roles brilliantly and my personal favourite is Lucy’s role for inspiring the ‘Moxie’ zine to happen and taking action. Overall, Moxie is a movie packed with a highly questionable and controversial take on the subject related to women’s issues and empowerment, but it also offers a few light-hearted and proud moments that make it a good one-time watch.