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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.
"Black Rock."
"Black Rock."

Of course, the Lolita and the uninhibited heroine aren't new character types, but to find something comparable to what the gals do in these films, you'd have to dig pretty deep into your cult-movie archives, and even then, you'd be unlikely to find similar titles with leading ladies so young. Katie Aselton, the writer-director-actress who released the female-driven "Black Rock" in May, says she's pleased with the new development, and what it could mean for females charting their own courses on screen.

"I think it's great," Aselton says. "I am so over the mousy librarian trend of girls that was so cool for so long."

In Aselton's film, a horror-thriller that saw her star opposite Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell, and take on a trio of male hunters on an island in a brutal battle of the sexes, there's a lot of gore, profanity, and some female nudity, but virtually all of it seems to be on the women's terms. The characters in the movie (which Bell dubbed "#deliverancewithbitches" on Twitter) are older than those in "Spring Breakers," "Violet & Daisy" and "The Bling Ring," but even they seem to be pushing a certain boundary, taking hits and kicking ass in a primal flick that feels markedly uncommon.

"In a lot of ways, I am obeying the thriller genre," Aselton says. "You gotta have blood, and you gotta have boobs, but whereas I am the one who's making this movie, I'm going to abide by those rules how I see fit, and do it in a way I'm comfortable with. It was very important for me to have three women who aren't afraid to use their big girl voices, or apologize for being sexy, or feel like they're compromising their femininity by being strong. I am so sick of girls apologizing for being strong, or pretty, or whatever. I think [this new trend of films is] great. Do something really different and shock people."

"Spring Breakers"
"Spring Breakers"

The issue of shock is one that seems inexorably linked to this topic and these films. Cassavetes calls "Spring Breakers"a "missile-blast movie," and says "the participation in something like that, which doesn't follow codes or conform to structures, empowers everyone involved, whether what they're making is politically correct or not." Additionally, Fletcher, in response to the potential of "Violet & Daisy" being viewed as morally reprehensible, says, "Some people find it morally reprehensible when films don't take chances." It's conceivable that the whole trend, however incidental the close proximity of the films' release dates, is indicative of a collective backlash against not just blandness, but oppression. Perhaps the actions of these girls partly reflect an agitation over the presumed role of the young female, and do indeed mark a kind of missile blast, whose wick was lit in the MTV era, whose spark kept burning thanks to factors like Moretz and social media, and whose true explosiveness has yet to be revealed.

"They're movies, not calls to revolution," Rickey says. But with "Spring Breakers" and "The Bling Ring" easily standing as two of the year's most talked-about, who's to say?

"From a narrative perspective, the fact that women are driving these plots is an empowering thing," says Fletcher. "If that gets audiences in to see more films that are genuinely about women, that's a socially and financially empowering thing."

Near the end of "The Bling Ring," when he's being interviewed by a reporter about the robberies, Marc opines that "America has a sick fascination with a Bonnie and Clyde kinda thing." What Marc doesn't say is it may be time for Clyde to move over.

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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