Amy Poehler’s 'Moxie' Is Just Another Movie About A Problematic White Teen

Amy Poehler’s 'Moxie' Is Just Another Movie About A Problematic White Teen

03/11/2021

Amy Poehler’s new movie Moxie arrived on Netflix last week and has secured its place on the streamer’s Top 10 list. As a long-time Poehler fan, I thought it would be an easy watch. So one night, I got cozy on the couch, and settled in—ready to be lulled to sleep after a long day of work. Instead, as the movie progressed, I found myself very awake and very upset.

Moxie follows a young white teen named Vivian (Hadley Robinson) on her journey to find feminism, but Vivian’s revelations come at the expense of her classmates and friends who are people of color.

In the process of exploring what a “feminist awakening” looks like for a white teenager, Vivian’s classmate Lucy (Alycia Pascual), who is Afro-Latina, is both exploited and ignored—by teachers, by peers, and most importantly—by Vivian. Vivian doesn’t speak up when Lucy is interrupted by a white male peer after questioning the diversity of the syllabus, and Vivian hangs her head low when she is the only one who witnesses the same white male spit in Lucy’s drink after she denies his sexual advances. Vivian even goes as far as to approach Lucy one-on-one in the hallway and tell her to ignore this behavior. That is, until they become the best of friends after Lucy tells Vivian she won’t ignore chauvinist comments and behavior, inspiring feminist ideas in Vivian.

Black girls don’t need saving, but we do need people to stand up for us and stand by us.

It’s only when someone releases a sexist list about Vivian and her female classmates (most of whom are predominantly white) that Vivian slides into her mom’s old leather jacket, and decides she will publish an anonymous zine calling out the misogynist behavior in their high school—all after remaining silent as a fellow classmate, who is a person of color, was harassed.

This kind of selective white feminism is seen throughout Moxie. While no one stood up for Lucy in the very first classroom scene, a later scene shows white female students calling out the boys in the class for their misogynist Britney Spears comments. Why was no one there to do the same for Lucy?

Whiteness is centered in most spaces in America, including schools. And as a byproduct, white people very often center themselves in conversations about equality. It has to happen to them to matter. And that’s exactly what happens in this film.

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