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Moxie: Amy Poehler opens up about her own experience as an activist

A promotional still from Netflix's Moxie.
Amy Poehler and Hadley Robinson starring as mother and daughter in Moxie. Pic credit: Netflix

This new young adult comedy-drama tackles topics related to modern-day feminism and is loaded with a star-studded cast. Moxie marks Amy Poehler’s second feature film directorial project and she’s been very candid about her connection to the movie. 

What is Moxie? 

Directed by Amy Poehler and based on a novel by Jennifer Mathieu, Moxie is a Netflix movie about a high school student Vivian (Hadley Robinson), and her exploration into finding a cause that she is passionate about.

While Vivan has managed to fly through high school under the radar for the last two years, she is increasingly growing sick of the misogynistic and “annoying” behavior from the beloved class-clown dudes. 

A series of events enrages her and the arrival of a new student, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña), provokes her into making a change. Vivan decides to start distributing an anonymously-published zine around the school, calling out harassing behaviors and challenging the school’s norms.

“Inspired by her mother’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past,” Vivan kick-starts an uprising at her high school through forms of peaceful protests — like student-led walkouts and sticking “you’re an a**hole” stickers on top of targeted lockers. 

How did Moxie capture Amy Poehler’s interest? 

Poehler is well-known for her work in comedy television and movies. She played the studious and ambitious Leslie Knope in the very-popular NBC series Parks and Recreation, and she was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for over a decade. More recently, she directed and starred in Wine Country for Netflix and is a voice actor on the animated series she created called Duncanville.

She shared that she came across the Moxie novel when a producer from her publishing company brought it to her attention. Poehler said, “All the women in our office read it, and we were all really moved by the story and the idea that a revolution can start with one step.” 

From there, the team connected with Mathieu, the original author, and created the Moxie movie “from start to finish.”

Behind-the-scenes image from the set of Moxie.
Behind-the-scenes image from the set of Moxie featuring Poehler and the movie’s cast. Pic credit: Netflix

In an interview, Poehler was asked about her involvement in the “Riot Grrrl movement in the ‘90s,” which is considered to be an underground women-led punk uprising. Riot Grrrl offered a more-inclusive look into feminism, drawing focus to topics that were considered taboo, and it was especially appealing toward outsiders who initially felt left out of the overarching feminist movement. 

Poehler answered, “I was a fan, but I wasn’t cool enough in any way to be considered part of it. I think Gen X’ers had a really interesting and incredible opportunity growing up with all these different types of women musicians.” 

She began listing female artists who were essentials to the rebellious movement and mentioned the artist Kathleen Hanna from the punk-rock band Bikini Kill. Poehler said, “[Hanna] helped us a tremendous amount by providing music for the film” and was a “huge part” of the Riot Grrrl movement. 

While recognizing the lack of intersectionality and amplifying diverse woman voices in past feminist movements, Riot Grrrl included, Poehler acknowledged that Moxie comes “from a certain perspective.” However, she emphasized the importance of “actively including women of color.” 

Which is something that she believes this newer wave of female empowerment is keen on. Poehler stated, “Young feminists today understand that there is no one voice or one face or one take on women’s rights, and that in order to make change and to have real conversation, you have to have all different voices in that conversation.”

While creating Moxie, Poehler made tremendous strides to portray its story well. She brought activists on set to have conversations with her cast and filming crew— and the activists and organizations were also invited to distribute reading materials.

Moxie comes from the heart and purest intentions of many woman creators, filmmakers and actors. As told through the story of the production process, it’s certainly a project that worked hard to authentically deliver a crucial story about the harassment that teenage girls continue to face in school while calling out the constant “look the other way” approach to toxic male behaviors. 

Moxie is now streaming on Netflix.

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