Moxie & The Power Of Leaving Zines In The Girls’ Bathroom

Stars: ⭐⭐⭐

Netflix is an amusement park of movies. As soon as you walk in you are greeted with signs for the latest attractions, ranked by popularity in “your” country. Thorough browsing is almost impossible, as within a few days films disappear into the flashy titles and pushy video previews. Moxie could have been swallowed by the sea of entertainment around it if I hadn’t been told by Ana that somewhere, in that cauldron of fast food moving images, there was “a film about making zines”! 

Moxie is the film that would have made me want to make my own zine if I was 10-12 years old. It is a predictable but good-hearted coming of age film revolving around the struggles of 16-year-old Vivian who keeps the lowest possible profile in school in a combination of shyness, confusion and conformism. When Lucy, a fierce new girl from the Bay Area, calls out the institutionalised sexism of the school, something stirs inside our protagonist. In a montage under the notes of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl”, Vivian rummages through her mother’s wardrobe, finding an old collection of feminist zines. Inspired, Vivian decides to create her own: “Moxie”.

Ultimately, Moxie is about finding our own voice, a theme that is presented to us in the first sequence of the film, when Vivian dreams of running through the woods, confused and voiceless. Upon creating her zine, she prefers to keep it anonymous, leaving it in the girl’s bathroom for like-minded students to find. On several occasions, she denies ownership of it, keeping safe in her aura of invisibility and conformity. As the narrative unfolds however, Vivian finds out that for any change to truly happen, we must own our ideals and put ourselves on the line for what we believe in. 

One aspect I found particularly nice about Moxie is that none of the issues Vivian decides to fight are specifically about herself. She is generally left alone in school, having carved her own perfectly invisible space. She is one of the “safe” girls, however it is injustice and other people’s suffering that drive her to challenge the system. This is an important theme and I hope Moxie will be able to stir similar feelings in its viewers. In the words of Allen Ginsberg: “While you are not safe, I am not safe”. A space that is abusive to some of us, is abusive to us all. 

It’s also important to note the relationship between Vivian and her single mother Lisa, who is herself a feminist and as a Generation X-er lived through the complicated politics of the 90s. 

In bringing back her mother’s past, Vivian realises that the fight for women’s rights is not new, but an ongoing battle. In this context, Moxie is a gentle invitation to young people to let the older generation be part of our current fight and be ready to listen to them and what they have to teach us. The fight is both young and old, and it is about all of us.

On a less positive note, I found that some of the inclusivity choices in the film were not nearly as incisive as they could have been. The exclusion of different body types was quite disappointing and it made the school environment stereotypical. Furthermore Meg, one of the most interesting girls in the film, is little more than a signpost, a box to tick in the “inclusivity” of the cast chosen. She could have easily had much more impact on the story and I believe this to be one of the biggest missed opportunities in the film.

In conclusion, I think Moxie is a good starting point and a commendable effort to portray zine culture and its important topics and uncomfortable truths within a commercial film. Directed and produced by Amy Poehler, it fits its 12 rating perfectly, but is thought-provoking enough to hopefully serve as a springboard for much needed conversations, especially with teenagers and young adults, about standing up for injustice and for each other.

Watch Moxie on Netflix.

Words: Chiara Viale

Image: Screenshot from Moxie

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