The Power Of Moxie
Most of us were shaped by the films we devoured when we were younger. You know the kind – the ones we couldn’t stop watching on repeat. The ones that we can still quote almost word for word to this day – whose characters helped us to understand the world around us. As we grew up, it’s likely that we took aspects of our favourites and incorporated them into our personalities because we looked up to them so much.
Considering their impact, of course, it’s only natural for us to get nostalgic looking back. Disney and Dreamworks’ finest animations have this effect - but I think we should give more credit to coming of age teen movies.
The 1990s and 2000s were packed with gems like Mean Girls, Clueless, Wild Child, and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. Most of these plots follow a girl battling against high school pressures, bullies, family dramas, insecurities, popularity and puberty. They almost always have a love interest, who initially seems out of the protagonist’s league somehow, until she embraces her authentic self. The moral of these stories is that self-love and kindness are more important than materialism, which is so crucial for tweens and teens to hear – it gives them the confidence to stand out and live their lives for themselves only.
For the most part, these cheesy teen flicks have become less common – so when I watched Moxie on Netflix, I was genuinely excited for all the little girls who would be shaped and raised by it. Moxie, released on 3 March, has everything you could want from a feminist movie. It’ll teach a generation how to make a change, have the courage to defend their beliefs, and see the strength in sticking together. Directed by Amy Poehler and adapted from a 2015 novel, the story has an undeniable political motive – but a powerful and important one in this day and age.
Moxie follows Vivian, who is usually reserved, but takes inspiration from her more outgoing mum and decides to tackle sexism in her school. She goes home and creates her own anonymous ‘zine outlining where she feels school policy needs to change, which she distributes in the toilets and plasters on the corridor walls.
She names it Moxie, which means having nerve, determination and vigour - I think this is big, because her hesitance to speak up shows that girls are still expected to keep quiet and accept the status quo. The bravery in using our voices shouldn’t be overlooked just because we all agree it’s the right thing to do; starting the process is daunting.
Vivian uses Moxie to persuade her classmates to stand with her against issues like the discriminatory dress code. As word spreads and her message has an overwhelming effect, she finds herself in a community of like-minded allies.
Something I found unique was Vivian’s quiet admiration for her mum - and her mum’s support for a rebellion and dismantling the patriarchy. Their relationship feels different to what we usually see on screen; the stereotype that young people should be embarrassed by their parents is reformed. It’s made clear that the ideas and feelings we have aren’t new or unique to our generation, so we aren’t alone. It shows there are ways to move through the things that feel like the end of the world because those who have come before us have had the same experiences.
Despite the lack of change since she began protesting, her mum’s determination and still fiery passion for the cause is motivational – we want to join her and help. Vivian feels comfortable telling her mum about Moxie and the protests, but not that she is running it. In response, her mum is supportive and interested in what Vivian has to say. I think for a lot of people, seeing this will make them feel safer creating similar connections with their parents. Not every boundary always has to be broken to get on with and confide in them.
In the same breath, Moxie’s diversity and acknowledgement of other cultures demonstrate the importance of intersectionality – Vivian must understand why her non-white friends are hesitant to find their voice, and how her whiteness grants her privilege. Thankfully, intersectionality is more commonplace in modern feminism, but it hasn’t been mainstream for very long – normalising it in young people’s minds from as early as possible will make the future of feminism look more inclusive and hopeful. Feminism without intersectionality isn’t effective feminism – so introducing it to a new generation in this understandable and emotive way is central to maintaining a unified movement in the future.
The fact that love interests aren’t the driving force of the plot is another of my favourite aspects. Love is portrayed as an extra aspect of a young persons’ life, instead of it being the be-all and end-all. Again, this is something that culture usually neglects to tell us. Every prince has a princess and every princess dreams of finding her prince. A film like this, where friendships take priority, tries to prevent this – teaching inner strength is everything. It shows that the princess can live out her own fairy-tale and be the main character instead of relying on a romantic interest.
Without spoiling the plot, Moxie challenges a whole array of stresses that ordinary young people experience. I would completely recommend it to anyone of any age or background. It’s admittedly targeted at a younger audience, but in my opinion, this doesn’t make it any less relevant – it only adds to its importance and the accessibility of its message. Social media is full of feminist education resources, as are books, plays, podcasts and documentaries. But a younger audience isn’t usually appropriate for these. Creating relatable heroes for young people, teaching them about troubles they’re going to face as they grow and how to combat them safely and effectively is key.