‘Moxie’: Bland Protagonists & White Feminism

“We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts” — Kimberley Crenshaw

‘Moxie’ could have been a good movie. The premise was promising; Vivian, a teenager disillusioned by her misogynistic school creates an anonymous pro-feminist zine. Inspired by her Mom’s participation in the ‘riot grrrl’ movements of the 90’s and the new girl, Lucy’s defiance against misogyny, she becomes a force for change.

Despite engaging messages, ‘Moxie’ was a movie that missed the mark for me. While I wasn’t expecting much what with Netflix’s historically bad attempts at representation, it’s still frustrating to see what comes across as forced inclusivity that tokenises POC characters.

My main qualm? Vivian shouldn’t have been the protagonist. The ‘quiet to confident girl’ trope is all-too-familiar, but it felt misplaced to spotlight the introvert here. Until her Afro-Latina classmate Lucy challenged Vivian’s acceptance of Mitchell’s harassment, she remained in the background. But rather than focusing on Lucy’s journey as a feminist, Vivian shines as the hero who begun it all, despite never considering why ignorance does nothing in the long-term before Lucy’s speech.

The movie served as a stark reminder of how historically, feminist movements have deliberately excluded POC women; often labelled white feminism, these movements solely uplift white women. Conversely, intersectional feminism considers how facets such as race can impact your female identity. By hailing Vivian as the leader — the progressive woman who started it all, white saviourist ideas taint ‘Moxie’. This is amplified in scenes where POC characters are given some semblance of plot. For example, when Vivian’s 1st generation Chinese-American best friend, Claudia, confronts her on her white privilege, the movie focuses on Vivian’s loneliness and struggle’s instead of holding her accountable for her damaging line of thought.

So, ‘Moxie’ was a a miss for me. While I can’t deny there were empowering scenes, I wish it explored intersectionality within feminism and not only highlighted its POC characters, but gave them leading roles. With ‘riot grrrl’s’ inception came ‘sista grrrl’, a movement that gave POC women a true voice within the feminist punk community. And after watching ‘Moxie’, the need to create separate spaces for POC women has been affirmed for me.