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Sugar, Spice, and Everything Not So Nice: The Booming Trend of Girls Behaving Badly On Film

By R. Kurt Osenlund | Indiewire June 7, 2013 at 9:58AM

Back in 2010, a little-known 13-year-old named Chloë Grace-Moretz appeared as the vigilante Hit-Girl in Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass," a film that saw the actress, just 11 at the time of production, spill ample blood, endure serious beatings, and spout expletives like "cunt." Jaws dropped, eyebrows rose, and Moretz became a bona fide star. In films as diverse as "Let Me In" and "Hick," she has since assumed the mantle of Hollywood's go-to jailbait badass, carving out a whole new archetype as the markedly young envelope-pusher, who dances the line between feministic and fetishistic and makes lots of folks squirm in the process.
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"Violet & Daisy"
"Violet & Daisy"

"I thought that telling a modern, coming-of-age crime story through a female perspective had the potential to offer something new," Fletcher says. "I thought it would be interesting to make a film where girls have guns but remain girls. I also think that women behaving badly [in films] is okay as long as the consequences of that behavior are explored."

All three films in question here are undoubtedly cautionary tales, albeit with varying degrees of directness. "Violet & Daisy" probably has the most familiar, forgiving arc, with a bounty of redemption at the end of its proverbial rainbow. But the way it wags its finger at destructive life choices is a scrutiny shared by "Spring Breakers" and "The Bling Ring," two movies that are unmistakably linked in terms of tone and commentary. Both kick off abruptly with paradoxical assaults of the visual and the aural, ogling glorious beachfront debauchery and chic designer jewelry while cacophonous music blares on the soundtrack (Korine's film begins with Skrillex's "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," while Coppola's opts for Sleigh Bells's "Crown on the Ground," two reins-free jams that are even apt in name). The tunes establish the corruptive potential, and even horror, of all the "coolness" on display, and speak to the uniformly vacuous pursuits of all the girls in these films. If "Spring Breakers" lampoons the sun-soaked depravity endorsed by "MTV's Spring Break," then "The Bling Ring" likewise sticks it to the indulgences popularized by "MTV Cribs" and all the aggressive celebrity obsessions that have followed. In "Violet & Daisy," the hitwomen take a “job” so they can purchase couture dresses by their favorite pop star, Barbie Sunday, a fictional stand-in for Ke$ha, Rihanna, Britney, and their heavily-branded ilk.

"Spring Breakers"
Annapurna Pictures "Spring Breakers"

"However much these fantasies have always been part of being a girl, I don't think they've ever been sold to girls so aggressively,” Fletcher says. “Today it's much easier to get swept up in consumerism and celebrity fixation. If we're losing our way, perhaps it's not because we're bad people; perhaps we're adjusting to a new era, the likes and power of which we've never seen before."

Fletcher, Korine, and Coppola may be releasing post-MTV Generation critiques, but they're also dropping filmic bombs in the era of social media, which gives immediate power to just about anyone, and continues to lower the age of those with access and influence. "The Bling Ring," specifically, embeds a collage of social media right into its aesthetic, showing selfies, profile pages, and videos in a manner that looks viral in more ways than one. Rickey states that "The Bling Ring"'s glut of social-media iconography "reflects only the influence of how those social media sites signify a generational expression, as flannel shirts and stubble signified grunge." But flannel shirts and stubble didn't grant someone a seemingly limitless, potentially dangerous two-way portal to the world, through which power (and illusions of power) can be given and received in seconds. And while Rickey also opines that “the corruptions of fame and power are equal-opportunity destroyers for boys and girls alike," Royal Pingdom's most recent social-network demographic study, conducted in August 2012, revealed that Facebook and Twitter both have a 60-40 female-to-male user ratio, and that 17 out of the 24 most popular social media sites (71 percent) have more female users than male, suggesting that this particular potential corrupter has a particular audience (or, perhaps, prey).

"It's really gross, what's happening in our culture," Cassavetes says. "What's going on now is people just gossiping and wanting to be famous. Girls like the ones in 'The Bling Ring' probably think they're doing the right thing, like, 'I'm being responsible for my own happiness. This is what you do. You go, and you get yours, and you post it.' But that's insane. I have a young daughter myself, and it makes me vomit to think about these messages going out to young girls, and how perverted it all can get—and it's not even really their fault."

"The Bling Ring."
A24 "The Bling Ring."

Yet, Cassavetes's most provocative point is the notion of these girls "being responsible for [their] own happiness." However offensive, unnerving, or negatively-associated the circumstances, the distinctive (and novel) factor here is that, in each of these films, girls—young girls—are indisputably running the show, engaging in things that, for ages, have netted male-focused movies legions of fans. In "Violet & Daisy," the gals may answer to a male handler, but they're the ones holding the glocks and determining their own destinies at the end of the day. In "The Bling Ring," while Coppola shows no qualms with rendering her stiletto-wearing subjects as misguided fools, it's they who dominate the raidings of celebs' closets, and Marc, the impressionable one, is essentially relegated to handling logistics (one might even say he's their “bitch”). And though the girls in “Spring Breakers” do, as Rickey says, “use their sexuality as a diversion and a snare,” they don't do anything—sexual, illegal, or otherwise—that isn't entirely in their control, making Korine's hallucinatory work quite possibly the most unlikely feminist film in years.

"For me, I'd rather not speak too much on that kind of thing," Korine said upon the release of the movie, "because I'd rather let the viewers interpret it in a way that's personal or specific to them. But, obviously, these girls transcend anything you've seen other girls do. They transcend anything that the guys in the film do."

This article is related to: The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers, Carrie, Black Rock, Katie Aselton, Thriller, Violet & Daisy, Xan Cassevetes, Sofia Coppola, Interviews







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