Recent Netflix release, “Moxie,” fails in its attempt to explore the topic of gender equality in a coming-of-age format.
At the beginning of this year, Netflix announced that they would release new Netflix original movies every week, a bright spot for 2021. Now that we are three months into the year, Netflix has released a variety of films ranging in style and genre. One of their more recent releases, “Moxie,” has drawn viewers’ attention.
Directed by none other than Amy Poehler, “Moxie” looked like a promising new coming-of-age film. Fans of Poehler’s distinct comedic style may remember her from her time on SNL, her role as Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation” or her role as Mrs. George on “Mean Girls.” After such a successful comedic career, it’s no surprise that many were anticipating the film’s release.
In “Moxie,” Poehler takes on the “cool mom” role similar to the one she had in “Mean Girls,” but now, 16 years later, her character is an inspiring feminist rather than a popularity-obsessed mom. The film is a more serious version of the average high school flick and focuses on gender equality; however, “Moxie” misses the mark.
“Moxie” has everything an audience expects from a Netflix coming-of-age movie, but in its attempt at “wokeness,” it misrepresents feminist values and shallowly tackles too many topics.
In the film, the silent, misunderstood main character, Vivian (Hadley Robinson), anonymously creates a zine at her high school after being inspired by her mom’s past. With the help of the new girl at school (Alycia Pascual-Pena), Vivian and her ragtag group challenge the school’s culture of inequality and sexism created by the male jocks and the school’s president (Marcia Gay Harden).
All the while, Vivian has to maintain her old friendship with her BFFL, Claudia (Lauren Tsai), figure out her new relationship with skater-boy Seth (Nico Hiraga) and come to terms with her single mom’s newfound dating life.
If this sounds like the stereotypical coming-of-age movie plot, that’s because it is. “Moxie” is Netflix’s latest attempt to appeal to the Gen Z demographic by spinning an overdone genre to conform to the younger generation’s world view.
Representation and discussion of topics such as gender equality and race in mainstream media is needed in today’s divided political atmosphere. However, “Moxie” fails by trying to mention every modern issue like they’re checking topics off of a checklist.
By cramming all of these topics into a two-hour time frame, “Moxie” sacrifices depth of discussion for the quantity of issues included. The movie briefly touches on issues of dress-code, literary representation, sexuality, gender identity, environmentalism, feminist intersectionality, immigration, rape and more.
A review of the movie in The New York Times put it perfectly. “Burdened by oversimplification and a troubling coarseness… ‘Moxie’ is a CliffsNotes guide to fighting the patriarchy,” said author, Jeannette Catsoulis. “In its hyper-condensed view, all you need is a tank top, a Bikini Kill song and a mass walkout and voilà! The struggle is over.”
Another issue I had with the film was the misrepresentation of modern feminist values and how people should go about creating equitable environments.
“’Moxie’s’” narrative paints the world as deeply misogynistic and presents feminism as an us-versus-them movement to “fight against the patriarchy.” This is problematic because feminism should not be narrowed down to a two-sided dispute mentality that further promulgates the exclusive, militant connotation often tied to feminism.
The characters in “Moxie” force people to take sides and reject those whose opinions don’t necessarily line up with theirs. In the students’ version of creating an equitable environment, they also paint men as innately misogynistic and alienate them from the feminist movement. This furthers the false idea that feminism is an exclusive, girls-only movement.
For example, Vivian’s zine labels the men at the school as “dirtbags,” and, in one form of protest, the girls put inflammatory stickers on the guys they think are part of the problem.
At one point, Vivian’s crush, Seth, discovers that she’s the author of the zine and offers to put some in the boys’ bathroom. When she doesn’t answer he says, “I don’t want to mess with your plans or anything. Totally get it if they’re just for the girls.”
It’s this type of culture that alienates men from the feminist movement and creates an exclusive nature in advocacy for social change. Men can be effective advocates for gender equality, but “Moxie” fails to fully present this option.
In one of the final scenes of the film, girls are coming forward and saying their contributions to the feminist movement on campus. After the conversation jumps from the issues of rape culture, feminist intersectionality and racial discrimination in the span of a few minutes, one girl comes forward saying she tripped Bradley (Charlie Hall), the school’s student body president, causing him to break his arm.
Bradley is an oblivious, yet harmless male character whose stance on the movement was never made clear. When the girl says she tripped him, the crowd cheers and she remarks, “That’s feminism right there.” It’s not. It’s just bullying
As a coming-of-age story, “Moxie” is completely average, but its failed attempt to be part of “woke culture” makes it hard to watch.
Lovers of the genre may appreciate “Moxie” as another mindless coming-of-age film, but in my opinion, “Moxie” is best viewed as a satire on the issues that plague modern feminism.