In one of the first scenes of Moxie Vivian (Hadley Robinson) stares at her computer pondering her college essay question: “Reflect on a cause you feel passionate about. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took to make a change.”
Vivian’s struggle to answer the question is exactly why I want every teenage girl I know to watch Moxie.
Moxie is a movie about a group of girls who start a revolution in their high school and stand up for women’s rights inspired by the zine ‘Moxie’, anonymously created by Vivian.
Let’s back up. Vivian is the only daughter of a single mom, and former sixteen-year-old revolutionist Lisa (Amy Poehler). When Lisa was a teenager she wanted to smash the patriarchy, read zines and listened to feminist punk music from Bikini Kill. Vivian is the opposite.
She’s a quiet introvert and is very happy to be a wallflower with her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai from Terrace House). Her strategy to survive high school is to keep her head down. All that changes when two things happen: first a new girl, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) shows up and doesn’t want to keep her head down (and nor should she!), and the ‘list’ comes out and the girls of the school are awarded “superlatives”. For the first time, Vivian sees the issues at her school — how wrong the list is and how predatory the boys are.
In a rage, she goes home and starts a zine called ‘Moxie’.
The zine is packed full of feminist calls to action – with the first being to draw hearts and stars on your hand.
Vivian nervously leaves a stack of zines in the bathroom but is soon secretly thrilled to see the girls in her school galvanized by what she’s created. She sees stars and hearts on their hands. She sees the girls start to stand up for themselves. She becomes really close with Lucy and friends with a larger group of girls who are also sick of the status quo. She finds a cute boy, Seth (Nico Hiraga), who supports the feminist movement and who she has an adorable relationship with. Most importantly, she gains confidence. We watch her stand up straighter, wear bolder clothing, and get reckless.
Sure it comes crashing down at some point because you know every good movie needs a conflict. However, it all works out and the girls have a great ending.
The movie is extremely well made: the plots great, the acting is phenomenal, the production design is wonderful, and Amy Poehler should be extremely proud of herself for the overall direction of this movie.
I want teenage girls to watch this movie because it’s a great movie, but I really want them to watch this for all the little moments.
I want them to call out The Great Gatsby for being an antiquated book to their English teachers. I want them to bust out their arts and crafts make creative things they are proud of. I want them to ride their bikes in the rain to the copy shops. I want them to call out dress codes. I want them to nominate their friends for scholarships. I want them to date boys who can name all the American Girl dolls (swoon) and have their friends send them supportive texts hyping you up.
Unfortunately, they are going to make mistakes and they’ll probably yell at their moms. They’ll probably have some friend fights (they are the worst but highly likely). Overall, I just really want them to learn that’s it’s going to be ok in the end
Along the way, they’re going to have to deal with jerks like Mitchell Wilson (Patrick Schwarzenegger) and all their micro (and not so micro) aggressions. They’ll come up against the establishment – people like Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden) who will stand in your way. You might lose an election like Kiera does (and like 16-year-old me) and it’s going to be hard.
But I want all my teens to know they can do something about the things they are passionate about.
I feel like I ask my Girl Guides what they are passionate about every week. We talk about ways they can make a change and we encourage the girls to figure out how to make it possible. We’re constantly talking to the girls about feminism and smashing the patriarchy. My girls get this in their lives – but I know these girls are often the only girls in their schools in our program, the only ones getting this kind of feminist leadership training in a formal way. So I obviously want my Girl Guides to watch this movie because I think they’ll love it – but really, I want their friends to watch it. I want them to tell everyone they know to watch this movie because I want all the girls to be inspired by Moxie.
Basically it should be mandatory teen girl watching.
For my adult friends – I feel like this movie fits in with a few of my other favourites from recent years, Eighth Grade, Booksmart, and Promising Young Woman – all exploring themes of feminism, misogyny, gender inequality, and generally what it’s like to be a young woman/girl. However, those movies all felt like movies for adults. Promising Young Woman is Moxie with murder, Booksmart is what the girls from Moxie become when they hit senior year, and Eighth Grade is more of a reflection on that time rather than a movie for eighth-graders.
Moxie is a movie about teenagers for teenagers. Sure there is some drinking, swearing, and sex – but it’s all done in an age-appropriate way. It’s not pandering or too mature. It hits the right balance and if I was a teenager I know I’d be running to my craft cupboard to make a zine for my school.
That being said – teenagers who are reading this… it’s not cool to cuddle with your potential boyfriend in a casket. Like yes it’s cute in the movie… not in real life. Just fyi.
Moxie is now streaming on Netflix.