I saw Netflix feminism 101 movie Moxie a couple of weeks ago, and found it enjoyable, though lighter on the laughs than you might expect from a film directed by Any Poehler. It does have plenty of heart and as well as trying to pass on the riot grrrl torch to a new generation it has a solid message promoting empathy and pointing out injustice. I've studied philosophy and sociology, and really don't understand why anyone would rationally be anti-feminist. Like, I get why you wouldn't march for it, or make it one of your core values; I can identify with being lazy and self-interested or just having no time or not giving a fuck. I get that. But all feminism really boils down to is giving women a fair shake and ensuring they are afforded the same opportunities as men. It's not a zero-sum game; making things better for women doesn't mean making things worse for men. To actively oppose feminism as a concept seems insane to me.
I'm going to lay some major plot points for Moxie, but it's not the sort of film that relies on big twists or action set pieces, its power comes from the charming performances and the realistic dialogue. The film focuses on a white girl named Vivian who is used to just standing by and keeping her head down when the boys in the school act like immature assholes and misogynists, going so far as to tell new black girl Lucy to just avoid antagonizing popular athlete Mitchell after she sees Mitchell take Lucy's drink from a vending machine, open it up and spit in it. Lucy tells Vivian her reluctance to speak up is part of the problem and encourages her to toughen up.
|Oh no, did the tampon store close early?|
Mitchell is a great villain, he's smart enough to avoid getting noticed by the teachers, framing his shooting down Lucy in class as lively debate, using social media to attack the girls anonymously outside of school, and endearing himself to the school by being a great athlete. He knows how to work the faculty; represented by Principal Shelley and by English teacher Mr Davis. His reluctance to weigh in clearly comes from a desire to keep his job and the fact that it's hard enough getting a bunch of teenagers to critically analyse The Great Gatsby without carving out time to engage in a battle of the sexes. When Lucy questions why they're supposed to read another book written by a straight white male and Mitchell defends it as an American classic it's easy to see why the teacher sides with Mitchell. Ike Barinholtz nails the character's frustrated adherence to the status quo, he probably didn't have much say in the curriculum and just wants to get through the day. It's not even apathy, he has limited time to do a thankless job.
Marcia Gay Harden is also great as the sympathetic but ineffective principal. She can't control what gets posted on social media, she can't punish Mitchell for stuff he does out of sight of the faculty. When he wins an athletic scholarship largely thanks to appearing on the school's televised morning announcements she tells the female nominee she could have had air time if only she had asked for it, but didn't think to offer her any. She's not actively discriminatory but she's not helping the girls play the game.
Vivian finally snaps into action when a list is published, as it is every year, awarding superlatives to some of the girls. Vivian is most obedient, a girl named Kaitlynn has best rack, head cheerleader Emma is most bangable. A new category has been added, and Lucy has been named biggest cunt. The girls all get sent this list during a pep rally, whilst the obnoxious jocks are being lauded for their athletic prowess.
Vivian goes home and starts going through her Mom's old stuff, reading her old zines and listening to Bikini Kill. She writes her own zine, titled Moxie, and anonymously leaves copies in the girls bathrooms before school starts. The girls start talking, share some of the injustices they've faced and band together to fight against their oppressors. When Kaitlynn is sent home for wearing a tank top, despite sitting next to a less endowed girl in a near identical garment, the girls all show up in tank tops out of protest.
They take it too far when Vivian disseminates a bunch of "You're an asshole" stickers and the girls plaster a bunch on boys' lockers, as well as giving some directly to the boys themselves. The jocks largely see it as a joke rather than a reason to examine their behaviour, with Mitchell frustrating Vivian by covering himself in stickers and acting like they're badges of honour. She lashes out and gets taken to the principal's office. Now that they're defacing school property the school has a need to stop Moxie. Again, Principal Shelley has no choice, you can't realistically expect her to ignore this.
Vivian thinks about jacking it in, but finds an anonymous note left for Moxie left in a bathroom, explaining how a girl had been raped but didn't feel she would be heard reporting it. Vivian heads back to the school under the cover of darkness and writes "RAPEPORT" on the top of the school steps. She then drops a message on social media imploring girls of the school to walk out during attendance to show the victim she's not alone.
The scene the next morning is fantastic. Mr Davis distances himself as per usual, telling the students he's going to read them the school policy before informing them "any student walking out will be seen as demonstrating support for the Moxie group, who has vandalised school property, an offense that is punishable by expulsion." He then weighs in, telling them that this is serious stuff and that the pupils should really think about it, warning "If you do this, it's your funeral." He tells them he's washing his hands of the whole thing, and holds them up as if in surrender. However, by doing so he reveals he's drawn a heart on one palm and a star on the other, code that he's secretly a Movie ally. The girl's expressions go from visible anxiety to knowing grins, and as soon as the bell goes every girl stands up and heads out. It's the boys that are left who look worried now.
Vivian admits to starting Moxie, saying she was sick of nobody doing anything, and announcing that if anyone should be expelled it's her. Lucy says they'd need to expel her too, as she created a Moxie Instagram account. Kaitlynn adds that she protested the dress code. Other girls show solidarity and take ownership.
Cheerleader Emma announces that she wrote the rape note, feeling that Moxie were the only ones that would listen to her and believe her. She tells them that Mitchell raped her after last year's prom in her own bedroom. Suddenly the "most bangable" moniker doesn't seem so harmless. She doesn't know what she should do, she just feels like screaming, and the girls suggest she does so, joining in when she does.
It's a sweet moment, and immediately after we see a visibly upset Principal Shelley head to Mr Davis' classroom, where he's teaching the remaining male students. She finally has a real reason to deal with the toxic athlete, and it's obvious she's going to take her responsibility seriously.
The film's a solid watch; I can't imagine I'd watch it again but I enjoyed it and I hope it finds an audience it can really help. I've seem the film criticised for depicting another white saviour and complaining that Vivian should have stood up for Lucy and the other minority students earlier. Vivian's Asain BFF lets her know that as a white girl with a supportive mother she has it easier than some of the other girls. Nobody in the film seems to be struggling to make ends meet. It didn't particularly bother me; there's only so much representation you can fit into a movie. Amy Poehler plays Vivian's mom as well as directing, and tells her that when she and her friends fought the patriarchy back in the day they weren't intersectional enough; this seems to be hanging a lampshade on a critique the film was bound to get by featuring a white protagonist. The film is an adaptation of a young adult novel, and I have to wonder if the film would have received the same funding, distribution and exposure with a more diverse cast. Maybe I'm just a dumb white cis cynic!
My main criticism is that the one solid male student ally is detached skateboarder Seth, who is suddenly attractive after a Summer growth spurt. When he draws Moxie symbols on his hands both Vivian and Lucy make a big deal of agreeing he's hot, as if he's sprayed them both with Spanish Fly. He's a nice guy and ends up dating Vivian, but I think it would have been better if either more guys joined Moxie's fight or if Seth kept his hands off. There's already a stigma that male feminists are all beta boy bitches trying to get a sniff; this film doesn't really push against that stereotype. There are maybe ten guys at the back of the walkout, and Clark Gregg plays Poehler's new love interest as a perfect gentleman and an inappropriate target of Vivian's frustration, but I would have liked to have seen some more solidarity from the male students.
Overall, the Gen-Z actors portraying the scenes do a great job. A lot of them have already had roles in other projects and it's clear that many of these kids are here to stay, and deservedly so. If I were a betting man I'd put money on Patrick Schwarzenegger, who really does a good job portraying oily misogynist Mitchell, being given more chances in the industry later. Call it women's intuition!
The real scene stealer is trans girl CJ, played by trans actress Josie Totah, who is first seen at an early Moxie meeting where the girls share some of their gripes. CJ complains that some students and teachers refuse to call her by her new name, and that people are freaking out because she wants to audition as Audrey for the school production of Little Shop Of Horrors. She states with confidence that she would crush "Suddenly Seymour," emphasising the word crush like it was a done deal. Later we see her audition, singing the first lines. The opening words seem surprisingly poignant: "Nobody's ever/Treated me kindly..." She auditions with piano for accompaniment, but as the film cuts away and starts a montage of more zines being published and more girls finding seats at the table a pop punk version of the song cuts in. The few lyrics we hear are surprisingly apt; Audrey is thrilled to have Seymour standing beside her, not giving her orders of condescending to her. The song was first performed on Broadway in 1982. The bar for being a good dude remains that low!
|Josie Totah crushing it as promised!|
Totah will be turning twenty this August, and she's already racked up a string of credits. I first noticed her pre-transition as the child star of NBC's Champions. She played Michael, a gay fifteen year old who aspires to become a Broadway star, and tries to fulfil his dream when his mother sends him to live in New York with his slacker dad and knucklehead uncle. It was a good show, but not great, and NBC cancelled it after one season. Totah already had screen credits in the double digits at this point, appearing first on Kroll Show, working up to single episode credits on shows including New Girl and 2 Broke Girls, four episodes of Glee and a small part in Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017. Post Champions I spotted her as a gay kid who has an inappropriate crush on the male lead in an episode of Comedy Central's The Other Two, a great show about the loser adult siblings of a Justin Bieberesque teen sensation. She also has a nice role in the fun Disney+ movie Magic Camp, where she played a kid scared to tell his father that he was more interested in costume design than perforing. I find she has great delivery, and a confidence that I guess you need if you're a trans teenage girl of Palestinian and Lebanese descent, the youngest of three kids and a consistently working actress!
When she came out it was a relatively big deal, with lots of well-wishers on Twitter and articles printed about her, including one in Time magazine she wrote herself. She's continued to find work, on Moxie, multiple episodes of Netflix shows Big Mouth (a show I feel I should like but am just weirded out by) and No Good Nick, and as a producer and lead on Peacock's revival of Saved By The Bell, where she plays edgy trans rich kid Lexi, the closest the show has to a spiritual successor for Lisa Turtle.
I fucking loved the new Saved By The Bell when I first saw it last November. The premise is great; Zack Morris has grown up and become Govenor of California as part of a scheme to avoid paying a $75 parking ticket. When he misallocates funds from the education budget the underprivileged kids from Douglas High find their shitty school is being shut down and they're being bussed to Bayside. Zack's son Mac rules the school in a manner uncannily similar to his father before him, pulling pranks and doing whatever it takes to avoid cracking a book or putting pen to paper. The Douglas High kids can't believe how easy the Bayside kids have it and are blown away by their incredibly privileged lives. The old Saved By The Bell kids were consumed with popularity and getting the hottest dates, this generation is more consumed with class prejudice and getting equal opportunities. A lot of fun is had by subverting our expectations of the jocks; they're more interested in sharing their feelings and having fun than they are in winning.
The show reminded me strongly of the fantastic NBC (and briefly Yahoo!) series Community, a darker show that also often focused on the have-nots, and where compassion and empathy would almost always triumph over selfishness and profiteering. It was a show famously willing to poke fun at itself and to bite the hand that feeds, and the new Saved By The Bell has plenty of that too, fondly remembering the original whilst poking fun at iconic moments and playing up to the fact that, though beloved, the show wasn't actually very good, and that the plots were kind of stupid. The old series never gets drubbed too hard though, and the returning characters look back at that time fondly. In one episode Zack earnestly tells his wife Kelly "I'm so glad you're the only woman I've ever been with in my entire life," he sells the line with such conviction that it is as endearing as it is ridiculous.
|A tad overdressed, perhaps?|
We're introduced to Lexi post-transition. She's a cheerleader with a reality show and a mean girl past. Nobody ever deadnames her, treats her like a guy or even references her past. The closest we get to a very special episode is when she pushes Douglas kid Devante into trying harder at acting seeing as he's taken the lead in the school musical alongside her. He tells her he likes to sing but isn't interested in committing to the corny script, worried people will see him as a joke. Lexi, who's been hamming it up, asks if that's how he sees her and he admits yeah, it kind of is. Lexi tells him that he'd maybe be better off quitting.
We later see Devante chilling with two of his old Douglas friends who got sent to Valley, and they have a laugh at how one of them tried to reinvent himself by wearing a red hat on his first day. They applaud Devante for staying true to who he is. However, when his two friends head off in search of pizza Devante catches an episode of Lexi's reality show - the only time it's ever a plot point. The episode shows Lexi's first day at school as Lexi, and she's nervous about her friends seeing her for the first time as herself. Mac and Jamie, the football playing son of counsellor and original character Jesse Spano, welcome her with a hug, and she narrates how glad she was everyone respected her and that nobody took her as a joke. Devante is crushed!
Obviously, Devante apologises to Lexi and everything is okay again. It's the only time that it really made a difference whether Lexi was cis or trans. I think it's great that the show decided to have a strong trans character and that it didn't really make a big deal about it. Inclusion and giving minorities a voice is great, but normalizing them is even better. Laverne Cox broke all kinds of barriers after starring as post-op trans woman Sophia in Netflix show Orange Is The New Black, but her character was very much defined by her trans-ness. Her stories understandably focused on her status as the only trans woman in the prison and her struggle to stay connected to her wife and son.
On this side of the pond Doctor Who, a show that has historically been lauded as being multi-cultural (when it debuted in 1963 it was produced by a woman and directed by a British-Indian), kind of dropped the ball with their first trans actor, Bethany Black, who portrayed a barely educated type of clone named a Grunt, bred for war rather than speech. She was part of a team the Doctor tried to help in a gimmicky found footage episode from 2015 where the Doctor faces monsters made of rheum; the dust that gathers in the corner of your eyes when you sleep. A lot of hay was made over the casting of what was really a pretty thin role; one that could have been filled by a man, woman, genderless space creature, robot or whatever else. I understand there's a trans companion who lent her voice to the audiobooks and would like to be the first trans Doctor. I'd love to be the first bedridden Doctor, I doubt either of us will get what we want.
I really can't think of many trans figures besides those, and that's sad. Obviously there's Caitlyn Jenner and the Wachowski sisters. Elliot Page came out late last year and has since made the cover of Time; I'm glad he's working on the third season of The Umbrella Academy and look forward to seeing what he does in the future. It's pretty sad I can't think of more famous trans people than that. Laser from The Doubleclicks is non-binary. No doubt it's something that'll be more common in time.
I can't wait to see what Josie Totah will do in the next ten years. She has a producer credit on Saved By The Bell and sounds genuinely interested in learning more about that side of the industry. She sold her first TV show to NBC at fifteen! She's a force to be reckoned with and clearly isn't going anywhere soon, so get used to seeing her I guess!
As for me, my week's been fine. I successfully rebuked my very best friend, the gracious Julie of Strict Julie Spanks. You can read me doing it here. It was a risky gambit that paid off in spades! It's a bit of a shame not to finish the trilogy with some more sexy shenanigans, but if you're disappointed you know who to blame! I encourage you to leave her feedback, it will only get her naughty little pussy wetter! I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I would giving her a true OTK spanking on her delectable bare bottom, but I imagine it was as much fun as giving her bum a quick slap over her jeans! She told me she felt punished and repentant, and, yes, horny enough to cum! I certainly feel like we've had a bit of a hug as aftercare, and that we're genuinely closer together now because of it.
My Batman vs Joker statue looks brilliant even though I'm sure it's a bit dodgy. The box describes it as "Batman vs Clowns" which makes me question its legitimacy! It's not a problem, I didn't buy it as an investment. I also cracked open my big box from down under! Inside was a small box full of Marvel Zombie bobbleheads and an unmasked Deadpool statue I'd forgotten about! They all look great. A carer on the night staff packed some of my smaller boxes into the big box, I didn't mind because she was nice about it. I've decided to play some Neil Cicierega music on a Saturday morning and leave it running whenever Jane comes in. It's the most unwelcoming behaviour I think I can get away with. I'm not known for my maturity!