Retrospective Review: Whip it

In a warehouse space, a little drab around the edges, a spotlight illuminates a disco ball suspended over Jimmy Fallon holding a large microphone. He welcomes the stars of the night: women of all ages ready to compete in the roller derby. Outfitted in green vests, skirts, padding, and roller skates, the Hurl Scouts team skates as the crowd cheers them on. Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), is in the crowd and ends up becoming a Hurl Scout. The film follows Bliss as she juggles work, relationships and her new alter ego, Babe Ruthless, roller derby novice.

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This out-of-the-ordinary sports movie is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut and the first film written by former roller derby athlete Shauna Cross. This month, September 2019, “Whip It” celebrates its ten-year anniversary. Though not financially successful, the film received positive reviews from critics and has since developed a cult following.

It has all the classic ingredients for an enjoyable watch: well-timed jokes, a coming of age story and a star-studded cast. It has a similar feel to many coming of age comedies without the typical tinge of sexism. Instead, the film takes Bliss’ concerns seriously while still finding joy and excitement. All too often, teenage girls are dismissed in movies for the supposedly trivial nature of their problems. “Whip It” is refreshing in how it documents Bliss’ growth into herself.

“Whip It” is worthy of a watch ten years after its release. It breaks the norms of coming of age films with a fresh, entertaining story of women’s roller derby.” 

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Especially among the LGBTQ+, “Whip It” takes on new layers of significance through its portrayal of chosen family. Bliss becomes close to Smashlee Simpson (Drew Barrymore) and Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), along with the rest of the team. They’re like family to Bliss and she sacrifices her relationship with her parents to participate on the team. When she’s with the team, Bliss is accepted for who she is and not forced into a hyper-feminine role. Bliss’ mom is very traditional, always pushing her to enter pageants.

“[It] has all the classic ingredients for an enjoyable watch: well-timed jokes, a coming of age story and a star-studded cast. It has a similar feel to many coming of age comedies without the typical tinge of sexism.”

Bliss gets to break out of those expectations when she’s with the Hurl Scouts. She has a chance to be everything her mom cringes at. Bliss swears, plays rough and hangs around with tough, tattooed women that her mom disapproves of. For lesbians, bisexual women and non-binary viewers, Bliss’ narrative is familiar. It mirrors the experience of many folks as they find their people and come into their identity, whether that’s sexuality, gender identity or both.

“Whip It” is worthy of a watch ten years after its release. It breaks the norms of coming of age films with a fresh, entertaining story of women’s roller derby.

Rating: 5 Out Of 5 Stars

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