COLUMN: ‘Do Revenge’ could save the ‘girl movie’ genre


Rob Le Cates

Luke Taylor is a senior journalism major and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Luke Taylor, Editor-in-Chief

I am a firm believer that “teen girl movies” are an essential viewing genre for all demographics.

We all know the hits: “Mean Girls” and “Legally Blonde” are at the top of the field for good reason, though the “Bring It On” series is a personal favorite. Those with more edgy film tastes might like “Heathers” and the musical fans always have “Grease” or “Hairspray.”

These films are at their best when championing feminist messages with a touch of revenge fantasy against any man who stands in the way. Romance is also a key element, as well as comedy.

Any movie that seems designed for a teen girl’s sleepover belongs in the category, but some of my favorite memories include watching them with my dad and now with my college friends.

However, the genre seems to have peaked in the ‘90s and ‘00s and somewhat gone by the wayside since. The best recent example is “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” which does have many of the key elements, but is missing much of the feminist throughline and falls flat on repeat viewing.

“Do Revenge,” a recent Netflix film, may be here to save the genre.

Starring Camila Mendes of “Riverdale” and Maya Hawke of “Stranger Things,” it carries the star power to bring in the audience, and it delivers the perfect amount of drama and a rare grasp of Gen Z slang.

Drea (Mendes) had her perfectly crafted reputation destroyed when her popular boyfriend leaked her sex tape. Eleanor (Hawke), new to the school, has been an outcast since she was outed as queer and framed as a predator at a summer camp.

As they enter senior year, the two form an unlikely bond and decide they’re going to, well, do revenge. Eleanor will infiltrate the popular crew, while Drea will befriend the girl who outed Eleanor, and they’ll use their insider knowledge to wreak havoc.

As I explained it to friends, it’s like double “Mean Girls,” but gayer.

Much of the plot plays out as expected, but there are still enough delicious and over-the-top twists and turns to keep it original.

I have to admit that I have seen five entire seasons of “Riverdale” and thus seen a lot of Mendes’ work. It was a pleasure to see her actually being allowed to play the popular mean girl she can only hint at as Veronica.

Hawke was equally enjoyable to watch as a less quirky character than she plays in “Stranger Things,” and the chemistry between the two leads carried a lot of scenes which could’ve otherwise been obnoxious.

Both leads were given equal time to have romantic entanglements, though they were much less of a focus than in many teen girl movies; still, it was nice to see Eleanor actually flirting back and forth with another girl.

Someone on the writing staff is either an actual young person or is pretty active on TikTok, because I was pleasantly surprised to see Gen Z humor and slang that didn’t feel entirely forced.

Calling things “cringe” and “problematic,” mashing words together and using therapy and activist language in entirely inappropriate situations- it all just felt too real.

Eleanor’s lizard is named “Oscar Winner Olivia Colman.” I laughed every time it came up.

It was also fantastic to see the ‘90s tropes updated to a modern high school.

The cliques include “Instagram Witches” who are super into astrology and theater kids who tried to put on a mostly-white “Hamilton” production. One of the main villains achieves social power by advertising himself as “woke” and facetiously calls upon his peers to “be allies.”

Don’t worry, though; there’s still a makeover scene.

All of this plays out in the most bougie looking high school where everyone wears pastel teal and purple uniforms straight out of a fashion magazine. They’re all unrealistically well-dressed, but more on the side of caution than “Euphoria.”

The soundtrack is also perfectly aimed at the audience, featuring artists from Billie Eilish to Rosalìa to Third Eye Blind. It felt very TikTok, but only the best parts.

Eleanor delivers a potential movie thesis when she quotes her therapist’s idea that “hurt people hurt people” and rebuts with “I just don’t think that applies to teenage girls. I think sometimes they’re just evil.”

That’s the point of “Mean Girls,” though. “Do Revenge” takes it a step further, examining how the patriarchy allows teen boys to escape that trap and allowing the girls to team up, time and again.

In the end, though, it’s not all that deep. There’s drama, a good script, fun music and nice visuals.

Watch it with your besties (or your dad) and decide which quotes are going to become part of your vocabulary.

The school headmistress says, “You’re never more alive than when you’re 17 years old.” Revel in that feeling, just for a bit.

Luke Taylor is a senior journalism major. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 581-2812.