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CHARLIE'S ANGELS

KICKING BUTT, INVERTING FEMINIST TROPES & BEING INDEPENDENT FOR 20 YEARS

RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW
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By Chris dos Santos
25th October 2020

'Charlie's Angels' is one of the most defining movies of the 2000s. It's remembered for its iconic quotes, butt-kicking action and independent women. But why is this reboot so fondly remembered alongside other big 2000s franchises like 'X-Men: 20th Anniversary', 'The Lord Of The Rings' and 'Spider-Man'? Grab a coconut and flip your god-damn hair, because we are breaking down these feminist icons.

Question, Tell Me What You Think About Me
The 20-year rule: the young adults, people aged between 20 - 35, are now grown up and starting to make content. Their references are the things they grew up with, so we see a lot of nostalgic callbacks to film and television. Take The Duffer Brothers with 'Stranger Things', Andy Muschietti with 'It', or even further back with 'Grease' and the influx of 90s sitcom-to-cinema adaptations from 'The Addams Family' to 'The Flintstones'. We are seeing this in a big way now with Disney and their billion-dollar live-action remakes. Parents of today don't want to sit through crap, and are more likely to take their kids to something they vaguely remember and can get nostalgic about rather than take a gamble on something that's unfamiliar. Studios began to take note of this in the 2000s, but the 2010s is when this trend really took off; studios knew investing money into 'Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle' not only meant it would win over the family demographic but basically everyone, bringing on board every child who watched the original growing up, whether they now have kids or not.

This worked, with both 'Angels' adaptations making the top 10 films of their respective years. If we go back to 2000 and look at the top fifty films of the year, we can see those "name-brand titles" starting to creep in, and if you go forward year by year, you see fewer and fewer original titles in the top 10. 2016 was the last year to have an original film crack the top 10, with all subsequent years being film adaptations. We'll touch on the 2019 'Charlie's Angels' later, but it's also a victim of both the 20-year rule and box office trends. However, the 2000s 'Angels' was its on its own 20-year cycle with the original TV series ending in 1981.

I depend on me, I depend on me
For 'Charlie's Angels' to exist and be as successful as it was in the 2000 environment is something of a landmark. Even in 2020, any kind of female-led entertainment is rare. We are making breakthroughs with 'Booksmart', 'Birds of Prey' and 'Bridesmaids' (hey alliteration), but the conversation is still very much "wow, look, a great film with a large female cast", and not just "wow, a great new film". We don't look at male-led films and talk about an impressive all-male cast. In 2000, no one questioned 'Charlie's Angels' - Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz weren't asked about how this film was important for women, they were just promoting a film like everyone else. And yes, times have changed, and we are made more than ever to question the media we consume as well as seek out entertainment that aligns with our values.
'CHARLIE'S ANGELS' TRAILER

The 2000s 'Angels' wasn't made with a feminist angle like the '19 one. It was created with the idea of making a female 'Mission: Impossible', but the intention wasn't the same as modern female action films. Natalie, Dylan and Alex were just here to kick ass. This is part of why the 2000s 'Angels' works so much stronger, and inadvertently is more empowering, because it's not trying to elevate one gender, the Angels just got out and did what they had to do. We don't have male characters telling them "But you're girls!" or not taking them seriously; they are spies for a reason. The TV show 'Schitt's Creek' is often talked about as depicting positive LGBTQ+ representation, and it does this by removing homophobia and just letting people live their lives. 2000's 'Charlie's Angels' is similar by letting the Angels simply kick ass and not question their gender. It removes any kind of discrimination and, in turn, is more empowering.

Try to control me, boy, you get dismissed
I sense the irony when the film's lead single is 'Independent Women', but it's not written into the text - it's there because the film shows us that there is no need for the characters to say it. And that's why so many people still connect with these Angels; for a lot of young girls (and let's be real, a lot of gay guys), the film asks why can't you kick ass and look sexy while doing it? Media directed at women - and especially girls - is so much more heavily criticised; we often see reviews of 'Transformers: The Last Knight' and 'Fast and Furious' along the lines of "it's dumb but it's for boys". When a female film is "dumb", the reviews often say things like, "young girls are impressionable and we should be teaching them how to behave". This, of course, is absolutely disgusting. Go back and read any review for any 'Twilight' film, and I guarantee it won't take you long to find something along these lines (I'm loving this reclaiming of 'Twilight' happening right now and how everyone is like yes, it's hot trash but it's my hot trash). Men and young boys aren't the only ones allowed to "switch their mind off and just enjoy trash".

2000's 'Charlie's Angels' was really the first time females weren't shamed for enjoying something stupid, and these movies are very, very stupid. The male gaze is all over these movies and while there is a lot, it's part of the reason these films where so successful, but I want to this to be a positive throwback piece and don't want to give that more time or attention. With 'Charlie's Angels', Barrymore produced all three films through her production company Flower Films, and Liu and Diaz did have a decent amount of say over certain things. From interviews, it does seem that they all just earnestly wanted to look hot, kick butt and have a blast - and I think they were highly successful with that.

Throw your hands up at me
Something I find interesting about the 'Charlie's Angels' franchise is the question of who its fans are. the TV show only received a moderate amount of viewers; in interviews, Diaz and Liu say they never saw the show but just played 'Charlie's Angels' as kids. In pop culture, society only takes in the gun pose or the catchphrases. There isn't a big group of people who yell about things being changed like 'Star Trek'. Even though people still love and watch 2000s film to this day, when the 2019 film was announced it was met with a resounding "meh", and when it was released it became one the year's biggest bombs (as a fan of the '19 'Angels', that hurt to write). There is something really fascinating to me with nostalgic media targeting women; no matter how big the fan base or quality of film, it often fails. No matter how bad a 'Transformers' film is, none of them have lost money. 'Jem and the Holograms', which has better reviews than three of the 'Transformers' reviews, was a huge box office bomb. Even things like 'Dora and the Lost City of Gold' - or hell, even films like 'Kath & Kimderella' or 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie' are looked upon unkindly or didn't meet studio expectations. The only successful female-led films seem to be the Disney TV shows such as 'The Lizzie McGuire Movie' and 'Hannah Montana The Movie', which were both released during their respective shows runs ('Hannah Montana' is still the highest-grossing film to open Super Bowl weekend). When something is nostalgic for primarily women and bad, fans tend to look away from rather than see it, unlike those with typically male fans.
For 'Charlie's Angels' to exist and be as successful as it was in the 2000 environment is something of a landmark. Even in 2020, any kind of female-led entertainment is rare.

All the women, who are independent
The reason 2000's 'Angels' still remains culturally relevant is that there is simply nothing like it. Very few films are as unapologetic with their aesthetics, so it's hard to compare it and its sequel to anything else. 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' and the 'xXx' franchise come close, but nothing is quite as wild as 'Charlie's Angels' and especially it's sequel 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle' (stay tuned in three years for that retrospective). What's also unique is its universal love; it's a lot of young girls' first exposure to women kicking ass, and remains highly nostalgic for them. There's something really earnest about the 'Angels', the love they have for each other and their work is really engaging to watch. You then add the Barrymore "moonwalking" and you have an outlandish fun time, that's both okay to make fun of but also inspires.

Charlie, how your Angels get down like that
As noted, the 'Angels' franchise is a weird one, and rather than look at it as a big beast, it's easier to break it down into three separate sections: creation, success and failure.

Creation: The '76 'Angels' series was created as 'Jiggle Television", where TV shows were created to use women for their sexuality and see them "jiggle" - shows like 'Wonder Woman' and 'Baywatch' fall into this category too. Still, the show did actually create some form of empowerment for women at the time but also came with criticism. The show was syndicated after its run, and a lot of young children would catch episodes over the 80s and 90s, thus it became nostalgic and more and more culturally relevant.

Success: The next version of the 'Angels' is the 2000s film, which is easily the most successful and profitable. From doll lines, toy cars and the PlayStation 2 game, these Angels where everywhere - plus the film and its sequel both came in twelfth at the box office.

Failure: After 'Full Throttle', two more where films were in production, but quickly cancelled the following the year. While there was a 'Futurama' parody in 2007 with Lui reprising her role, the next version of 'Angels' wouldn't come till 2011 with a reboot series. It was met with terrible reviews and bad ratings - only seven of the eight filmed episodes aired in the U.S. and it made absolutely no impact (I'm sure this is the first time many of you are hearing about this series). After years of working out what to do next with the Angels, 2019 would be their next outing with a new line-up of girls: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska, with director Elizabeth Banks also playing Bosley. The film suffered, with the soundtrack being shoved down people's throats more than the film, and while audiences who saw it seemed to enjoy it - especially Stewart - it was a box office bomb. Like other 2019 ventures 'Men in Black: International', 'Terminator: Dark Fate' and 'Dark Phoenix', the film was another franchise that audiences didn't want more from. As for the future of the Angels, all sequels have been cancelled to 2019 film, which was set to be the start of a new franchise. 'The Drew Barrymore Show', held a reunion with the 2000s girls, and that has gone viral. Maybe one day we will get a reunion movie or even a big reboot - but for now, it's time for the Angels to rest.

Girl, I didn't know you could get down like that
'Spider-Man' underwear, Soul Train, Moonwalking, dominatrix, German dancing, the list could go on forever - 2000's Angels is busting at the seams with iconic cinematic moments. Destiny's Child's 'Independent Women', simply put, is one of the most successful movie tie-in songs of all time; it's such a powerful piece of musical literature that it basically killed the tie-in song. It's empowering and hilarious, and there's nothing quite like it. Grab a coconut, strike your best gun pose, and re-watch this classic film.

Now that's kicking your ass.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 1h 38m
CAST: Cameron Diaz
Drew Barrymore
Lucy Liu
Bill Murray
Sam Rockwell
Kelly Lynch
Tim Curry
Crispin Glover
Matt Leblanc
Ll Cool J
DIRECTOR: McG
PRODUCERS: Nancy Juvonen
Drew Barrymore
Leonard Goldberg
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