Released on March 3 during Women’s History Month, “Moxie,” a Netflix original movie directed by Amy Poehler, is the feminist film everyone thinks they want. Unfortunately, its attempts to address intersectional issues fall flat.
“Moxie” promises it all: teenage girls uniting to smash the patriarchy, challenging sexist issues ingrained in every high school — such as a selectively applied dress code — and a diverse cast. The film stars Hadley Robinson as 16-year-old Vivian, who is inspired to take a stand after discovering her single mother’s (Poehler) Riot Grrrl zines, self-published booklets connected to an underground feminist movement of the ‘90s. Vivian’s growing awareness of how the male students of Rockport High evade culpability after making a public list objectifying their female peers leads Vivian to anonymously create her own zine, boldly decrying the males and the school principal’s blind eye towards the blatant sexism plaguing the high school. Subsequently, a diverse group bands together as the Moxie club to confront the issues they all face as women.
Every element of the film seems to be perfectly aligned to provide a feminist commentary in a high school setting — which most women can surely see the need for. Yet, the execution backfires.
While “Moxie” illuminates sensitive issues such as sexism, racism, transphobia and sexual harassment, it does so in the safest way: through the lens of a secure and privileged protagonist. The diverse secondary characters, whose voices were often neglected from the feminist narrative, were more compelling than Vivian and deserved more attention.
The feminist message that “Moxie” wants to convey would garner more power if any other character were granted the protagonist role. Uplifting the marginalized perspectives could have presented a new layer to a story that would portray realistic issues that high school girls experience. Instead these voices become an agglomeration, stifled from a perspective saturated in white feminism.