MOXIE Review: Gen Z’s Blueprint for a Feminist Revolution
I love a good kick-ass female-driven film any day. I will stan Birds of Prey as the ultimate feminist action film until my dying breath. But as much as I love a superhero (or villain), they’re not very relatable. Taking down a global crime syndicate? Avenging the murder of my family? That’s a lot.
That’s where Moxie comes in. Moxie centers on 16-year-old Vivian Carter (played by Hadley Robinson) who, after seeing mementos of her mom’s (played by Amy Poehler, who also directed the film) “fuck the patriarchy” youth, is inspired to publish a zine admonishing sexist behavior at her school. She names the zine Moxie in a subversion of a cringe, eye-roll-worthy comment Principal Shelly (played by Marcia Gay Harden) says at the pep rally for Rockport High’s losing football team: “This school’s got moxie.” The zine calls out an unofficial school wide ranking with awards like “Best Rack” and “Most Bangable” and the double standards of the school’s dress code.
For me, the best thing about Moxie was how it showed the realities of starting a revolution, no matter the scale, and how there’s room for everyone in the movement regardless of gender, ability, race, or skills. Vivian publishes Moxie anonymously and admits that she’s not brave and hates speaking in public. Lucy (played by Alycia Pascual-Peña) is outspoken about the harassment she faces from football star Mitchell Wilson (played by Patrick Schwarzenegger) while everyone writes his behavior off as merely annoying. Claudia (played by Lauren Tsai) is initially reluctant to participate in Moxie’s demonstrations because of the pressure on her as the daughter of a Chinese immigrant. But she finds her place in the group when she files Moxie to become an official school group so that they can hang posters in the hallways. We even get cute and woke boy Seth (played by Nico Hiraga) who participates in Moxie’s demonstrations.
Moxie also doesn’t shy away from showing the hardships of activism. Activists are people with desires and friends and parents and love interests. And when the cause is so personal, it can be hard for different facets of someone’s life to coexist peacefully. This tension comes to a head in a fight that Vivian has with her mom Lisa when she’s simultaneously stressed out about Moxie, her friendship with Claudia, the potential of having sex for the first time, and her mom’s new boyfriend.
The story of Moxie, and the reason why it was so important for us to review and hype it up, is because of how closely it mirrors the origin story of Outspoken. In the fall of 2019, an Indiana University professor tweeted quotes from an article titled “Are Women Destroying Academia? Probably.” IU’s Women in Business club, led by Outspoken founder Mandy Novicoff, responded by selling “Female Genius” hoodies as a fundraiser for Girls Inc. The club sold thousands of hoodies, but IU said they couldn’t fire the professor for his comments, and the professor doubled down on his misogynistic views.
In researching for this piece, I tried to find real-life situations of administrations failing to properly address instances of injustice in schools. And I failed. Not because there were none – but because the sheer volume of complaints of sexism, racism, and ableism was impossible to comb through. I would wager that every high school and college has some issue it would rather not address.
As a Boston College alum, it was difficult for me not to notice some of the Easter eggs that Poehler, BC class of 1993, slipped in. Rockport High’s colors are the same as BC’s and the marching band plays “For Boston,” the school song, at the football games and pep rallies. Rockport High and Principal Shelly are portrayed as reticent to change even though Shelly acknowledges “the world outside is experiencing a tornado.” Maybe I’m reading too much into it and if that’s the case, blame the English degree that Boston College gave me. But I could not separate the obstinance that the school, dressed up with BC’s colors and song, from actual events on the BC campus. I speak on the university’s scandals not out of hate but of love. Hell, I’m writing this while wearing one of my many BC hoodies.
For years, there have been repeated, targeted instances of hate speech, racism, and vandalism in Boston College dorms, as recently February 2021 in a freshman dorm on the multicultural learning floor. AHANA (a BC-specific acronym for African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American) students have organized rallies, urging action from administrators. Again and again, the administration has done too little, too late and students have been left frustrated, angry, and scared.
Faculty, on the other hand, has been overwhelmingly in support of the student movements. In the fall of 2017 when AHANA students organized a march in support of Black Lives Matter during class time, my literature professor canceled his class that was taking place at the same time and encouraged us all to attend the march. Other professors dedicated class time to having an open discussion about the events happening on campus and how we could support the movement. Like in Moxie, Mr. Davies (played by Ike Barinholtz) shows his support for Moxie by drawing stars and hearts on his hands, the code that you’re down with the movement. And without giving spoilers, Moxie gives the viewer the satisfaction of seeing the school and the antagonist receive their comeuppance.
Moxie shows the viewers what we already know but maybe are sometimes hesitant to accept: that you don’t have to wait for someone to step up to the plate. You can be the driver of change in a way that feels authentic to you. One person does not make up a movement and there will always be something you can uniquely contribute. And it’s especially important to strive for change in places that are supposed to be havens, like schools. And, as Lisa said, her youth feminist movement made a ton of mistakes. But when Vivian asked Lisa if she was glad she did it, she replied, “Of course. What are you going to do? Nothing?”
In honor of International Women’s Month, Outspoken has a limited edition re-release of the original Female Genius hoodies (and t-shirts!). And watch Moxie on Netflix, available now.
–Sabrina Serani, Content Creator