Welcome to the world of gender disparity. In an American High School, high on progressive jargon, a girl in a tank top is asked to leave the class and come back in “something more appropriate.” The girl hits back, arguing that guys in the classroom were wearing even shorter t-shirts,
But sorry, that doesn’t work. Not when gender disparity and workplace toxicity are normalized. So far, all the workplace films on sexual harassment have been located in corporate offices (The Assistant being the mother of all MeToo movies). Moxie takes us into a school where passing offensive comments against a girl is considered boy-talk and where the girl is often subjected to scrutiny about their social habits and judgment for their clothes while the boys are exempted from establishment rules.
Moxie takes itself seriously enough, but not so seriously as to forget to laugh and sing. Yes, sing. There are lots of really enjoyable songs in the film which outwardly seem like mere rhythmic eruptions. But listen carefully. These songs tell us it’s not okay to accept casually sexist comments or to be subjected to lewd scrutiny by the male gaze to the point when the tank top begins to seem offensive to the girl wearing it.
Moxie is about the memorable 16-year old Vivian (the charming Hadley Robinson). Spurred on by her mother (played well by the director) Vivian begins to circulate hand-sketched Xeroxed comic books about a girl named Moxie who stands up to high school bullying. In this film, the class teacher pretends he can’t hear his male students insulting the girls. The principal (Marcia Gay Harden) would rather pretend all is gender-correct. But then the plucky Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) won’t allow it. She won’t let the class bully Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger, Arnold’s son and a better actor) get away with it.
The film is about Vivian, Lucy and their friends saying no to casual sexism on the school campus. It is also about a lot of other issues like Vivian’s stormy relationship with her mom and with her gender-mature boyfriend Seth (Nico Hiraga) who sometimes, poor chap, gets in the crossfire between Vivian and the school bullies for no fault of his.
There is a wonderfully tense dinner table sequence where Vivian insults her mother’s amiable boyfriend and makes everyone squirm with her unnecessary aggression. Well-meaning and trenchant, Moxie doesn’t make the mistake of making Vivian a Joan Of Arc-meets-Gloria Steinem kind of flag-waving feminist.
It’s all done in a spirit of sportsmanship and fun, never too flippant to be taken too lightly, never too self-important to be taken too seriously. The balanced tone, the rousing soundtrack and the ignited performance trigger off a kind of movement in the film that goes beyond the screen. Every young adult, male or female, should be shown this film to understand that rating women for their body parts and blocking girls’ way “playfully” on school/college campuses is not cool.
Directed by Amy Poehler, Moxie gets 3 stars!
Image Source: Instagram/moxiethemovie/alv_ha, youtube/netflix
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