Skip to main content

Girl power in theaters now

Color me amazed, but there is not one but TWO "chick flicks" in theaters that challenge female conventions of the genre, Jennifer's Body and Whip It. Now I'm not going to claim that either film is great cinema, but if I had a daughter, or if I even knew any teen-girls, I would want them to see these two movies.

While is isn't uncommon for horror movies to provide plenty of roles for women, it is rare to see one that actually understands the women portrayed. Screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Karyn Kusama understand girls and with Jennifer's Body, they have crafted a horror movie that does not hinge upon fear of female sexuality and power, but instead plays upon the actual horrors of being a teen-aged girl.

Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) are BFFs and they even wear the lockets to prove it. But like so many high school friendships, the two girls are not equals. Needy is what her name implies. She's a bit nerdy, smart, and has a boyfriend that cares about her. But Jennifer is the most important person to Needy. Jennifer is perfect in Needy's eyes. She's beautiful and knows it and her looks gives her power in the realm of high school, i.e. popularity. Jennifer even speaks in the manner of a popular girl, being the only character who routinely uses the lingo that Diablo Cody coined in Juno. But Jennifer is not just the typical early bloomer that has learned to use her prematurely developed body to gain status, she also uses it to eat boys.

To Jennifer, her looks are everything. They are the source of all of her power, so Needy poses a threat. Not a serious threat, as beauty trumps smarts, but enough of a threat that Jennifer cannot seem to keep her hands or um... teeth... off of the boys that like Needy. I have never seen such a perfect depiction of friendship between girls. I knew girls like Jennifer and Needy in high school. Hell, there were times when I was each of them. In California, I was Needy to my BFF who always had some ill-advised adventure underway with older boys. I was more interested in protecting her then in boys. But in Spokane, I morphed into a Jennifer and finally tasted the power of looking and acting older than my peers. And while I don't remember being a shit to the girls that looked up to me, I probably was just because of the ugly lessons learned over the years prior. Because no one delivers life lessons in quite the same cutthroat way as a teen-aged girl.

And that is what I see at the heart of Jennifer's Body. The story of a friendship with a beautiful girl, who actually IS a monster. And the discovery that what will finally destroy that demon girl, is the realization of the destruction of the friendship.

Whip It is feels less true about the experience of growing up a girl, but instead revels in the potential power of sisterhood. Drew Barrymore's directorial debut is a very formulaic coming of age story. There are literally no surprises in this story about small town girl, Bliss (Ellen Page), who learns confidence and independence in roller derby.

While Whip it doesn't know too much about today's women's roller derby, like that it is now on a flat track, it does understand the spirit of female empowerment that blossoms alongside the derby. The film spends little time with the women that are Bliss's inspirations, teammates and rivals, but it does use the screen time with the roller-girls to paint a portrait of mature women who have found a home within the derby leagues. And they are shown as tough, independent, and surprising women. One character has children, and Bliss' rival, Iron Maven (the badass Juliette Lewis) is nearly two decades older than the 17 year-old Bliss. But the most important element brought to the screen is the spirit and fun of roller derby.

The women of Whip It are fun, tough, exciting. These are women that are a blast to spend 90 minutes with. So while I have no new insights on life from seeing Whip It, I had a great time. But the best experience came after the movie in the ladies bathroom, where I could hear the excited conversations of young women who minutes after seeing Whip It are ready to go out to Rat City Roller Derby matches and maybe get some skates of their own.


Popular posts from this blog

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan

Right after seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's film, Borat, I was disappointed. I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I had hoped and it wasn't quite as outrageous as I had expected. But in retrospect, I have to admit the comic brilliance of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen has adeptly created a film about a fictional man, Borat, from a fictionalized Kazakhastan and used this creation to show the hipocracy of America. Using tactics pioneered by reality television shows, Borat travels across America on a quest to find his true love, Pamela Anderson. On this journey, he meets numerous people who share their thoughts about a multitude of things, exposing the way some Americans really believe about race, class, homosexuality and the other sex. It is a very interesting film. Sure, it gets laughs from ambushing Pamela Anderson with a wedding bag, traveling with a bear, and a bit of naked wrestling, but this film is also very smart in its sly portrayal of the wealth of prejudices that are ali

Girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls...

Where does one begin? Peaches Does Herself is a German concert movie of Peaches. Written by, Directed by and starring Peaches. But how does one describe this experience? Normally, I skip the Face the Music program of films at SIFF each year, but Peaches Does Herself was described as the queerest film in the festival. As it turns out, I knew exactly one Peaches song prior and still know little to nothing about her, but it didn't matter. I enjoyed the music and most of all, I loved her persona. Her sexuality was on display and was not only unapologetic, but read as loud as if it were a billboard with "fuck normalcy and judgement, this is who I am" in bright pink neon. To give an overall impression of the film, I've decided just to lay out what happens along with stills. I suspect that is the best I can do for readers to decide whether this is something they should seek out. The film begins in Peaches' bedroom and after the dancers climb through a giant vu

Brand Upon the Brain! And more horror...

Brand Upon the Brain (2007) - I'm on so much crack! I'm a huge fan of horror. Guy Maddin! I love his movies and he was just in Seattle to perform Brand Upon the Brain! I'm certain I've written about Guy Maddin's films in the past, because he has been in Seattle several times for screenings and discussions of his work, especially since he spent quite a bit of time here casting, filming and scoring Brand Upon the Brain! with all local talent. What is so unique about Guy Maddin is that he creates modern, silent expressionist horror movies. His other films have been scored and therefore have the look and feel of a 1920s era silent picture without being silent. Brand Upon the Brain! is a silent movie and his best feature thus far. Like much of Maddin's previous work, this is totally autobiographical, or to quote Guy, "The thing is literally a true story - only much, much better." The main character is the prepubescent, Guy Maddin (Sullivan Brow