Moxie is the story of Vivian (Hadley Robinson, Little Women, Utopia), a shy teenaged girl who is distressed by what she sees as social injustice in her high school. As an introvert, she is not comfortable expressing the angst that is consuming her until she decides to anonymously write a zine she calls Moxie and distribute it at her school. Director Amy Poehler also plays the part of Lisa, Vivian’s mother, who has inspired the youthful rebel with her own feminist Riot Grrrl past. Vivian becomes caught up in a school-wide revolution that Moxie inspires.
Vivian’s growth in self-advocacy and her choice to embrace the women’s empowerment movement, partly as an homage to her mother’s youthful enthusiasms, is a sweet story. While viewers get some glimpses into other elements of her life that are fueling her internal turmoil, the movie stays primarily concentrated on the theme of sexism at the high school. From the uneven enforcement of school rules to literature books that reinforce the patriarchy, from disengaged teachers to an administration motivated to keeping the status quo and a complacent principal, the movie portrays a disturbing picture of high school life. The undercurrents of the student culture that revolves around parties and the creation of an annual List (which celebrates prominent physical characteristics of female students and includes categories such as Most Bangable) are an indication that the issues portrayed in the movie are part of the longstanding entrenched culture of the school.
The lack of gender equality at the high school is clear. Unfortunately, with the support of a losing boy’s football team over a winning girl’s soccer team, along with the enforcement of the no-tank-top-rule only for female students, the storyline continues to strike only one note. Repeatedly. Over and over.
However, in the scenario provided in this movie, change is clearly called for, and the Moxie zine is raw and unfiltered, eliciting a strong response from students and administration. The story wanders a little as Vivian’s participation in the revolution has a detrimental effect on her relationships. This, however, seems less worrying than the acceptance of the zine’s irresponsible persecution of potentially innocent victims with unsubstantiated claims and call-out culture. Highlighting the problems is important, but there are no clear consequences for the irresponsibility implicit in inciting rebellion.