The beginnings of a curated list of beloved movies, music and content that are my personal beacons of hope in a trash-fire dumpster world.
The Hairy Bird (1998):
The Hairy Bird (also known by the more PG-friendly titles All I Wanna Do and Strike!) is proof that naming a magnum opus of an all-girl teen sex comedy after a slang penis term is a sure fire method to doom it to a life of obscurity. Which is secretly a win, because I feel like everyone who knows about this film is conspiratorially protective of it, lest its brilliance get out to the masses.
And boy, does it have everything! A secret sisterhood devoted to eating ravioli, quirky one-liners that barely make sense (“Up yours Ziggy with a yah-yah brush!”), vintage prom dresses, vomiting boys choirs…wood chopping?! I could go on.
Set in 1963, it follows Odette (Gabby Hoffman), a defiant high school student, who gets sent away to an elite all-girls boarding school after her parents catch her with a diaphragm, intended for doing the dirty with boyfriend Dennis. She initially feels like an outcast, but falls in with a group of non-conformist girls led by Verena (Kristen Dunst), the aforementioned D.A.R. (“Daughters of the American Ravioli”). They find out their school is about to go co-ed with an all-boys academy, and wicked shenanigans ensue to stop the merger from happening.
The film has a killer ensemble cast, with so many moments of “wait…she’s in this movie?!” (think Rachael Leigh Cook from She’s All That and Heather Matarazzo from Princess Diaries). It’s such an unapologetically female, spunky, novelty product that would never been made today, and appears to have been an earnest labour of love, despite its ridiculousness- note the opening credit, “A Movie By Everyone Who Worked On It”. The female characters are witty, intelligent, and fearless. They tease each other about sex and fight about the pros-and-cons of gender segregation, but there’s ultimately an undying respect for one another (when Tinka storms the dance to find Tweety’s asshole date, or when the D.A.R. plot for Odie to lose her virginity on her own terms).
It doesn’t fall into girls boarding school lesbian stereotypes, although I do love the subtle chemistry between Kristen Dunst and Gabby Hoffman’s characters as they share a late-night cigarette out on the school roof. How could I not with the sneaky tease of the line “Alas, I lust for no one…not even you”? I’m also fully here for the quiet butch energy of Momo, the pigtailed, dry-witted aspiring scientist who cooks up the diabolical punch to sabotage the visiting St Ambrose Academy.
Speaking of which, the boys in this movie are so ridiculous- I’m looking at you, Flat Critters gang. Most of them are hopeless dweebs, but there are one or two predatory sleazeballs, who do get their deserved comeuppance in one way or another.
Also the thrill of seeing people failing to have sex, oh my god! Relatable and hilarious! The canned contraceptive foam scene with Dennis is honestly one of the funniest, most realistic virginity-losing scenes I’ve ever seen in a teen movie. It captures the emotions so well- the awkwardly earnest mixture of desire, enthusiasm, frustration, and eventual hilarity at how ridiculous the whole thing is in the first place. I also scream every time Odie asks Dennis if he believes in a centralized government afterwards (we stan a politically aware queen).
But even if you’re not into chaotic fun, The Hairy Bird really gains momentum in its finale, revealing an earnest, feminist, and surprisingly political heart. It’s difficult for your sprits not to rise at the end when the female students protest for their right to vote on the future of their education by staking out the dorm building with hockey sticks- “no more little white gloves!”
That’s why this movie is empowering beyond demystifying teenage girls and their desire for sex. By the end, it has moved on past it to make a bigger statement about what equality looks like. Not a petty debate about boy versus girl, but the right to have a voice that matters, to assert your own power. As Odie tells her defeated headmistress to defend the student’s right to vote, “Miss Godard’s gave us a voice and now it’s pretty hard to shut up”.
Ergh, I love. If you have a special place in your heart for the late 1990s/ early 2000s teen girl movie renaissance (think Princess Diaries, Clueless, Drop Dead Gorgeous, etc), this is truly the unappreciated cult classic we deserve.
P.S. Obviously, I would never provide you with any naughty free methods of watching this movie. So I’ll just leave this random, totally unrelated link here and back away.
The hairdressing scene in Battle of the Sexes (2017):
Man, this scene is just the sweetest.
It’s a haircut. Literally just a haircut. But it’s also everything. You know?
I love that it’s not a sexual scene, but one of seduction through intimacy. The connection between the actresses is so perfect (Emma Stone’s FACE, my god). Andrea Riseborough really encapsulates the tingly, soothing feeling of someone really seeing you, focusing on you, listening to you. In ASMR terms, it’s the buzz of personal attention. When Marilyn talks to Billie Jean, she leans down to softly speak directly into her ear, like they are having a secret, private conversation. Sometimes her cheek is almost resting against her head, as she lavishes her with care- playfully rustling and smoothing her hair, asking her questions. Everything else is out of focus, the hustle and bustle of the busy salon a distant, hazy blur. The rest of the world seems like it’s been left on pause. All that is left is the gentle snip-snip-snip of scissors, the cooling whoosh of the blow dryer.
Amongst the straightforward line of the rest of the movie, it feels almost like a dream sequence. The sound design, lighting and cinematography is so perfect at creating this moment of pure relaxation, comfort and euphoric bliss. I often listen to the tinkling background music, “Lavender Oil” by Nicolas Britell, just to feel calm and happy sometimes. Oh, to fall in love like a lesbian.
Rihanna’s first Savage X Fenty fashion show (2019):
Victoria’s Secret could NEVER. They, specially, could not ever. This whole show in general is just pure excellence. As high empress of her ever-growing business empire, Rihanna is the spirit of everything, the holy muse – this whole show is the performance equivalent of a man spread. Think accessible inclusivity meets high fashion immersion but make it hot as fuck.
The success of the Savage X Fenty show really demonstrates how businesses like Victoria’s Secret were always doomed to fail because of their inability to evolve their idea of what a supermodel looks like. Which seems absolutely insane- surely diversity can only help your brand to succeed? A few years ago, their long-standing marketing consultant was very publicly cancelled for his comments stating that the inclusion of plus-sized and transgender models didn’t fit with the “fantasy” of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. But who is this fantasy created for? What aspirational purpose does it serve? Is it intended for women themselves or men shopping for women? Ergh, that’s not the fantasy I want to live in.
That’s why this show such an AWAKENING- it makes you realize how deprived you were the first place. There are all sizes, ethnicities, trans women, women with prosthetics, non-binary people…how do you even go back after this?! Diversity in this show feels effortless, not forced. It just feels like the natural conclusion of what an inclusive modern fashion show should look like. Savage X Fenty’s consumer isn’t even necessarily a woman- it’s just anyone who wants to feel sexy and powerful. Uniqueness is king.
The format is most similar to an elevated performance art/concert hybrid that incorporates fashion, music, and dance. The visual language is sort of classical bejewelled goddesses mixed with street style, hip-hop sensibilities. The set itself has the grandeur of a minimalistic, modern Roman coliseum mixed with a Greek Island resort. At the beginning, all the models are dancing on these white pedestals that make them look like Renaissance sculptures come to life, with Rihanna leading them as a lacy dominatrix Michelangelo. Later on, rows of rounded, backlit windows frame more dancers, like you’re spying into the windows of an apartment building full of debauchery.
The performance aspect is what inspires me the most from this show- the dancing is just INCREDIBLE. New Zealand choreographer Parris Goebel really captures the strength of the Fenty woman in her movement- there’s no fragility, no delicateness. The choreography is beautiful, ferocious and fiercely SEXUAL?! It seems bizarre that true expressions of female sexuality are rarely present at traditional lingerie shows. The use of women of all shapes and sizes actually using their bodies- swivelling their hips, thrusting, grinding, moving with freedom- is so joyful to see. In other words, wearing lingerie in the context it’s actually intended for.
During Halsey’s performance, there’s a part where she’s walking down a staircase lined with dancers, their bodies rising and falling, legs open, backs arching in unison. The effect is just so fluid and gorgeous. There’s just something about watching these big, diverse groups of women moving together in total synchronization, like one wondrous, living organism.
The full show is available on Amazon Prime- would highly recommend! Look out for DJ Khaled awkwardly coming out at one point like a dad at a barbecue (bless his cotton socks).
“Woman” by Kesha:
Wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy, indeed.
Based on the autotune laden pop hits that were the soundtrack to all my pre-pubescent school dances, you could not have told me that Kesha would ever win me over as hard as she has. But my god- the woman is a badass. After facing years of well-publicized legal battles with an allegedly abusive collaborator, she responded by making by far the best music of her career.
Rainbow (2017) is a genuinely great album- fresh, raw, and vivid, think some welcome cosmic, psychedelic desert vibes colliding with June Carter Cash in a 70s honky tonk bar. Even though the most popular songs from this era are the cathartic power ballads like “Praying” and “Rainbow”, there are much dreamier jukebox gems to choose from here. But “Woman” is the song that I’m already dreading seeing in my top Spotify plays of this year, an annual list that continues to personally victimise me and my private music taste (shout out to last year when my top genre was “show tunes”).
Don’t get me wrong- there’s no shortage of bland empowerment anthems, especially in pop. But “Woman” is a blissfully irreverent statement of resiliency, presented in the style of a retro-soul shouter backed by beloved Brooklyn funk band the Dap Kings (rest in peace, Sharon Jones). It just oozes FUN. The groove of the live instrumentation provides so much spirit and energy. Even without the inclusion of moments where she bursts out laughing, you can hear Kesha smiling as she proudly asserts her dominance.
This song has succeeded in getting me out of bed more times than I’d like to openly admit. Maybe it’s just how straightforward the message is, but it never fails to boost my mood, make me focus even. Sometimes I even murmur the start of the chorus under my breath to pull myself away from a niggling negative thought and back into reality.
And the reality is that I’m a motherfucking woman.
That one line in Noname’s “Self” where she raps, “My pussy teaches ninth-grade English, my pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism”:
Talk about a boast to believe in. Don’t know about you, but other things my pussy does includes checking in overdue library books and singing the national anthem in five different languages.
Phew, that’s enough for now- talk more soon.
Love Eve X