Quick Film Diagnosis: Spice World

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Yes, I was one of many that waited in line to see Spice World when it premiered. I remember disliking it then, and not much changed when I rewatched it recently. It’s a jumbled and weird movie, even by British-humor standards, and feels like a skit performed on the last night of summer camp when there’s only an hour to pull it together. Is it a “good” movie? By all means, no. But Spice World is interesting, if only for the almost prophetic messages it held for the state of modern feminism and millennialism (no, seriously).

To be clear, the Spice Girls are amazing. This is a science fact. They’re far from the first band to have a “Girl Power” artistic agenda, but they’re one of the most influential and sincere despite the criticism they drew for the superficiality of their Spice movement. It’s a fair critique; the Girl Power embedded in Spice World is almost like pre-bottled, branded, and commercialized feminism. At many times, the concept seems more of a dream than an actualization.   For example, the girls mock their stereotypes throughout the film, but aren’t actually given many opportunities to break them. There are also several moments where it seems female empowerment is mistaken for scenes where men are humiliated or broken (FTR, feminism ≠ destruction of men). Scary Spice ultimately says it best in a clearly improvised scene: “Blah blah blah girl power, feminism, d’you know what I mean?” I can’t help but wonder if they do. This vagueness ends up being the central theme of the film.

The Spice Girls still deserve a lot of credit—they were like a gateway to mainstream-pop-culture-feminism. However, since the birth of social media, it doesn’t seem like there’s been much success on expanding the concept. It remains difficult to start an open conversation on feminism without retaliation and a lack of consensus remains as to what it’s even about, even among women. Scary Spice is a pop singer, not a fucking sphynx—why does the answer to her question, poised back in the days where flannel and slap bracelets were socially sanctioned, still seem so hard to answer? It’s this confusion that permeates millennial feminism, resulting in a frequently self-defeating movement that still disproportionately benefits white women and often elicits anticipatory-defensiveness across genders. Of course, the closer we get to social justice equality, the opposition grows too, and perhaps this is part of the haze. Fifth Harmony seems like the closest thing to a modern Spice Girls, and it’s great to see women continue to dominate the music industry. If only 5H’s biggest hit didn’t involve great anticipation for pleasuring their partners and sexting at work…

If feminism was a dream in 90s pop culture that at least set down the rules that “friendships never end,” it’s like a bizarre fantasy nowadays that ironically centers around female sexualization and the mistaken notion that friendships last as long as Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez are besties. When they break up? Sound the alarms—it’s every woman for herself.

Watch it When: You really, really, really want to zig-a-zig-ah. (Alcohol, lots).

While You Watch: What does girl power mean to you, and why?

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