*Content Warning: brief mentions of sexual abuse & drug use


Foxfire’s film adaptation (dir. Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996) improves upon Joyce Carol Oates’ eponymous novel. The film pares down the story’s sophomoric misandry — leaving dewy, lesbian utopia in its stead.

Legs Sadovsky (Angelina Jolie), also known as First Command, is the leader of Foxfire’s girl-gang. With her arrival in a Portland, Oregon suburb (which replaced the novel’s upstate New York setting with West Coast grunge), Legs becomes a chariot of lesbian sensibility — exposing the sheltered girls she befriends to a way of life that exceeds patriarchy. By way of example and declaration, she teaches Maddy (Hedy Burress), Goldie (Jenny Shimizu), Rita (Jenny Lewis), and Violet (Sarah Rosenberg) to be more moved by their reflections (women, subjugated people) than their opposites (oppressors).

The vacant, forested house the girls reform into a home facilitates their feminist awakenings. It’s within this chosen shelter that they mark each other’s skin with vibrant flame tattoos, looking upon their nakedness without shame or intimidation. The girls had never been so carefree.

Foxfire’s lesbian idyll recalls Michel Foucault’s commentary on mirrors:

“The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror […]  I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent […]”

Before they created the Foxfire gang, the girls faced a range of unmitigated social negations, including belittlement, poverty, isolation, drug addiction, sexist harassment, and sexual abuse. If they hadn’t made a place of their own, they may never have known respite from these oppressions. Their friendship was their salve, though in the end, they mutinied their captain.

*Foxfire can be streamed on Hulu and Prime Video; it might pair well with Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation (2018; also on Hulu and Prime Video)


Further Reading:

TEXT / VIDEO: ‘FOXFIRE (2012): Pussy Riot’ by Mark Wilshin (a review of Laurent Cantet’s 2012 adaptation of Foxfire)

TEXT / VIDEO: ‘No Man’s Land: How to Build a Feminist Utopia’ by Gabby Bess

TEXT: ‘What Living On A Queer Commune In Rural Oregon Is Like’ by Vanessa Friedman

TEXT / PHOTOS: ‘In Pictures: The Feminist and Lesbian “Women’s Lands” of 1980s America’ by Belle Hutton