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‘Moxie’ merges high school drama and feminism

So, after watching “Moxie” in my quest to find something new, I have to say that it was actually pretty good. Rather than shuffling high school characters around in a game of “who-likes-who” in the usual teenage drama style, the Netflix film focuses on feminism, the intersectionality of feminism and the journey one high school student takes in navigating her new activist lifestyle at her problematic school.

The gist of the movie is that Vivian (Hadley Robinson), who’s going to her first day of 11th grade, meets new kid Lucy Hernandez (Alycia Pascual). Lucy’s confidence and sense of self somehow offend Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), the big man on campus who then starts to target her. This culminates in the “the list,” which rates the female students in categories like “Best Rack” and “Most Bangable,” among other demeaning things. While everyone else sees the list as just another part of Rockport High culture, Lucy speaks out about it and Vivian starts to reconsider this tradition as well as other parts of the school culture. This, partnered with the discovery of feminist zines and pictures from her mother’s activist youth, leads Vivian to start “Moxie,” a feminist zine she puts in all of the girls’ bathrooms speaking out about the sexism occurring in the school. The publication of “Moxie” then culminates in a social movement at the school and drama in Vivian’s personal life with her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai), Seth (Nico Hiraga)—the boy she has a crush on—and her mother (Amy Poehler). The big question on every student’s mind at Rockport High becomes, “who is Moxie?” 

Speaking of Seth, he is the one guy at the school that initially supports the feminist movement. His continued support for “Moxie,” and in turn Vivian, spans the length of the movie and only makes him even more likeable. He’s goofy, supportive and is respectful of both Lucy’s feelings and her privacy. The two even lay down in a casket together—you’ve got to be pretty close to someone to do something that romantic. That’s all to say that the only man I will support at this school, and the only one who I think deserves it, is Seth. He is an all-around “Best Boy.”

One of the main personal issues Vivian faces in the movie is Claudia’s response to the “Moxie” zines. Rather than jumping fully into the movement at the school, Claudia has reservations, and doesn’t partake in the first demonstration. She then tries to participate in the second one, which asks for supporters to wear tank tops to school that day. However, her mother protests, and she doesn’t participate, which Vivian doesn’t take well. This fracture grows as the movie continues, and after continued pressure from Vivian, Claudia does participate, but in her own way. However, it leads to Claudia landing in hot water after taking a hit for “Team Moxie,” and a confrontation with Vivian over the privilege she has, which is an important point to mention.

This ties into my main problem with the movie: Vivian’s treatment of those close to her. While she gets along amazingly well with her group of fellow revolutionaries, this new side of Vivian not only clashes with Claudia, but with her mother, who is pursuing a new relationship, and Seth, who supported Vivian throughout the entirety of the movie. Rather than find a healthy way to deal with her frustration and stress, like talking to Seth or journaling, or maybe even buying a punching bag, she takes it out not only on the three of them but on Lucy as well. Her stance on feminism goes from standing up for equality to being just plain rude to others. Not only is this harmful to feminism as an ideology, but it messes up Vivian’s relationships with those previously close to her. Thankfully, she redeems herself at least somewhat at the end of the movie when an anonymous student writes to Vivian saying that she was raped and Vivian organizes a walkout in response. Not only do the other students show support for the anonymous student, but they show support for one another in regards to the entirety of the school population. Vivian remembers why “Moxie” was created in the first place, and her inner circle is rectified.

Despite my problems with Vivian, I do recommend adding “Moxie” to your watchlist. It is not only an entertaining film with a cast filled with amazing side characters and annoying antagonists you can hate, but it also has an important message for everyone in regards to feminism and activism as a whole.

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