Arts, Culture, and Entertainment

Amy Poehler’s ‘Moxie’ highlights the importance of intersectional feminism

This Netflix film’s diverse cast of ‘rebel girls’ come together to promote women’s rights and allyship.

Netflix’s new teen film, “Moxie,” directed by Amy Poehler and based on Jennifer Mathieu’s book of the same name is one of the streaming platform’s top 10 most watched movies in the U.S. since its March 3 release. The film may focus on adolescents, but it turns the typical coming-of-age teen flick into something far more influential — a coming-of-rage story that combats the patriarchy.

The film follows Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a 16-year-old girl who keeps to herself and struggles to find her voice while facing the traditional and sexist ideals of her high school community. But after a new student named Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) arrives and begins to outwardly acknowledge these microaggressions, Vivian realizes she also has a social responsibility to resist the inappropriate and unpunished behavior of her fellow students. Taking inspiration from her mother’s (Amy Poehler) past activism, Vivian anonymously publishes an underground zine called Moxie all around her high school, sparking a school-wide revolution that empowers and unifies the student body.

The film takes place at a modern day high school, a setting that relates to young audiences. As with many high school films and shows, social hierarchy sets the precedent for teenage existence. However, Vivian’s high school presents an even more problematic system where the school staff consistently appeases and glorifies male students while silencing and disregarding their female counterparts.

In fact, what initially motivates Vivian to create Moxie is when a group of misogynistic jocks release a list that categorizes every woman student in offensive and derogatory ways. Vivian is nominated as “Most Obedient’' since she tends to fly below the social radar, but some of her peers receive titles that sexualize their bodies, damage their reputations and belittle their agency as women. The list is created by the “popular boys” who hold power and prestige on campus, but it is also symbolic of the larger social binaries and expectations that powerful men have constructed as a means to define and limit women in the real world.

Rather than remaining apathetic toward the jocks’ bullying and misconduct, Vivian and her peers band together to rewrite the patriarchal standards that fuel their campus community, to reclaim their narratives and to demand changes on both small and large scales. From holding secret meetings to organizing dress-out days where students show their solidarity by drawing stars and hearts on their hands, the Moxie girls fight back against their school’s sexist status quo. They campaign for a female athlete named Kiera (Sydney Park) to win a scholarship that is always awarded to a male jock, and even stage a walkout to advocate for a sexual assault survivor on campus.

Vivian and her team of rebel girls actively liberate the underrepresented voices within their high school community. Together, they spearhead these public activities and demonstrations, making previously silenced women’s issues a part of mainstream conversation. The Moxie organization not only empowers the other girls at their school, it also educates the male characters, illustrating that partaking in this widespread activism is not exclusive to any one gender.

When reflecting upon past and contemporary women’s rights movements, it is clear that feminism has not always valued intersectionality. However, “Moxie’' defies this notion and creates a space for young women of all backgrounds while also promoting allyship. Its diverse cast provides representation of BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and disabled communities and brings forth topics that most teen films have yet to mention, let alone gracefully explore. The knockout performance from the Linda Lindas, an all-teen girl punk band whose songs spread girl power also added to the film’s overarching theme that the only true feminism is intersectional feminism.

“Moxie” brings forth a number of unexpected characteristics for its women-led cast, but perhaps its most revolutionary attribute is its examination of white privilege. While the story centers around Vivian, an upper-class young white woman, the film is also aware of its privileged gaze and addresses this issue head-on.

This can be seen when Vivian shames her shy best friend, Claudia (Lauren Tsai) for not being more bold in promoting and fighting for Moxie’s initiatives. In response, Claudia, who is Asian American, explains that she does not have the same freedom and privilege to take part in the rebellion without having to face consequences. The discussion shared between the two friends serves as a pivotal moment in Vivian’s path of activism, forcing her to recognize that she needs to reevaluate her own actions just as much as the misogyny around her.

All in all, “Moxie” is a sweet but fierce teen comedy that amplifies diverse voices and serves as a call to action for Gen Z to initiate their own kind of change. It is stories like this that remind young viewers that their existence is resistance and they are capable of monumental progress, which is why this film deserves all the stars and hearts possible.

Celebrate Women’s History Month by watching “Moxie” on Netflix now.