This article discusses sexual assault. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
For Hadley Robinson and Alycia Pascual-Pena, finding a community of passionate and powerful women has looked slightly different than the experience of most women in their early 20s. The two young actresses were able to find fellow strong female voices on the set of a new movie directed by SNL veteran Amy Poehler, “Moxie,” which Netflix released March 3.
Finding the tenacity to fight against injustice is a theme that carried from the set to the overall message of “Moxie,” according to Pascual-Pena.
“You should be dismantling the oppressive systems around you, and you should be burning down the patriarchy,” Pascual-Pena said in a virtual roundtable interview attended by staff writers at The Hoya.
“Moxie” tells the story of Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a high school girl who starts distributing an anonymous feminist zine in the bathrooms of her high school after her friend Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena) is harrassed by a male student on campus.
Vivian starts the zine to expose both the sexist behavior of their popular male classmates and her school administration’s unwillingness to hold such students accountable for their actions. Her work ultimately inspires dozens of female classmates to speak out about their own experiences with sexism in the community.
Those in positions of power do not always believe young women who come forward about their experiences with discrimination, as is the case with Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden) in “Moxie.” However, the film uses this unfortunate truth to highlight the importance of upholding female narratives and fighting back against oppression.
The motif of the strength of the female voice is upheld in “Moxie” through the dynamic performances of the mostly female cast. Robinson’s fiery portrayal of Vivian ultimately inspires the audience to fearlessly pursue equity as much as the character and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) inspire Lucy.
In addition to a cast of powerful women, the film is directed by Amy Poehler and features an all-female art and set direction team. Poehler’s direction, which impresses in terms of keeping the pace of the film steady, is complemented by the effort to bring in as many female perspectives as possible both on- and off-screen.
The screenwriting of “Moxie” by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer ensures the film’s theme of activism and inclusivity remains persistent throughout. The film was adapted from the YA novel by Jennifer Mathieu of the same name and excels in highlighting powerful scenes from the book, particularly when Vivian and her classmates show up to school in tank tops to fight back against sexist dress code rules.
Robinson expressed appreciation for the diversity of narratives that “Moxie” features in her roundtable interview.
“I think intersectionality is really at the forefront and is a huge highlight of the film. I think it’s something that needs to be focused on, along with just the feminist aspects,” Robinson said.
The key to successful community activism, which the film attempts to inspire, is highlighting one’s individuality, according to Pascual-Pena.
“Our film really tries to highlight a spectrum of activism, and tries to encourage young people by telling them that the way that you use your voice is going to be unique. It’s okay to be met with discontent, and it’s okay to make people uncomfortable,” Pascual-Pena said in the roundtable interview.
The last scene of “Moxie” is a perfect representation of this activism. At the climax of the film, Vivian and Lucy alongside dozens of their female classmates stage a walk out. The group congregates outside their school building to take turns standing up and sharing their stories about the sexism they have experienced in school.
It is also in this scene that Principal Shelly finally calls football star Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), revered by his classmates for his athleticism and academic prowess, into her office to confront him about accusations made against him by many of the students participating in the walk out. This part of the film ultimately attests to the idea that real change can arise when people come together to work toward justice.
With a powerful cast and compelling screenwriting, “Moxie” is a powerful study on the importance of supporting women, uplifting not only their narratives but also their voices to make change.
With Women’s History Month soon coming to a close, “Moxie” is a must-watch for those who are drawn to social justice and are seeking inspiration to combat inequity.
Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (1-844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. (202-742-1727). To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s Title IX coordinator (202-687-9183) or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave. NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.