Sunday, February 28, 2010

Roller Derby Queen

The family story goes that when I was born my dad said I would be a roller derby queen. He also wanted to name me Zwingliana if I was a girl and Heinrich if I was a boy. (He was working on his PhD in Swiss Reformation History, though how that relates to roller derby, I'm not sure...) It always seemed like an eccentric early-70's reference until the recent surge of roller derby popularity that has swept the nation. Considering I was an active member of the drag king community at the turn of the century and the burlesque movement in early Decade One, it would have been a logical successive turn, had I only been a bit younger.

Drew Barrymore, however, is about my age and is undaunted by fears of being too old or seeming too trendy to make a movie about the Austin roller derby scene and she plunges right into this subculture in her debut feature Whip It. I'm truly glad to see her taking the creative helm in her own project, and it's decent entertainment. I never once thought, "when is this going to be over" or "wow, this is really crap." It isn't a work of genius either, but as Barrymore herself has attested, this is just a first attempt at directing, only the beginning.

I appreciated Whip It's depiction of perpetual teenager Ellen Page's Bliss Cavendar and her desire to break away from the beauty pageants her mom has subjected her to for years. She's freakier than that and she's smart and she's stuck in a small town. She needs an outlet and finds her answer when she joins the Hurl Scouts and adopts the moniker Babe Ruthless. It's a relief to see a teenage girl like this, someone I can relate to, someone who was more like me as a high-schooler. I imagine that's true for a lot of us.

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