Whip It On Blu-Ray
by Laura Tucker
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When we name our kids, it’s with a certain expectation of who we expect them to turn out to be. I named my son Michael, expecting to call him Mike, but that never fit. He was always a Michael or a Mike. We named our daughter Elizabeth with the expectation of calling her Liz, but again, that wasn’t quite right. She was a Lizzie. My son has since ditched Michael and just goes by his surname of Tucker to anyone other than family.
But with the name of Bliss Cavendar, there isn’t much you can change it into. In the film Whip It, Bliss’ (Ellen Page) birthright is set in stone. Her mom, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), has her future, and Bliss’ younger sister’s, all mapped out for her, starting with a childhood of pageants. Bliss’ father, Earl (Daniel Stern), isn’t having his expectations met. His needs were long hidden away, though, as he escapes to sports and beer, hiding it from his wife, telling her he’s working late.
Pageants aren’t the right fit for Bliss, though. The only thing that seems to fit is her name, and certainly not her blue-streaked hair. While the other girls speak of admiring God and their grandparents, Bliss speaks of admiring Amelia Earhart. The problem is she doesn’t quite know what does fit her. Certainly not living in the small town of Bodeen, Texas, or waitressing at the local diner which includes The Squealer as a special. The only thing that makes that job palpable to her is doing it with her best friend, Pash (Alia Shawkat).
Brooke, an ex-pageant queen herself, tries to meet halfway with Bliss and takes her shopping in Austin. Bliss picks out a pair of combat boots, but that’s not the worst part. Brooke speaks of the lovely vases in the display case as everyone snickers at her. They’re in a head shop, and those definitely aren’t vases. Bliss comes away from the head shop with the boots, and something even more important, a flyer for the roller derby. She and Pash sneak away the next night to Austin and the roller derby, and for the first time, Bliss finds something that holds her interest.
Bliss secretly tries out for the roller derby, and lands a spot on the Hurl Scouts team, along with Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) and Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore). Their biggest rival is the Holy Rollers, led by Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis). Bliss has the skating skills, but has a hard time finding the killer instinct. Once she latches onto that, Babe Ruthless is born. She has even more reason to to visit Austin when she starts dating Oliver (Landon Pigg). After a “blissful” night together, he takes off for a band gig, promising his heart to her. You can smell that one coming, can’t you? Young, innocent Bliss does not.
On the outside, Bliss has what she wants, a fun hobby, new friends, and a hot boyfriend, but to have that she has to lie to her parents, leaving her best friend to cover for her way too many times. She also has to lie to her new friends on the roller derby team, since she doesn’t meet the age requirements.
It’s a no-fault situation. Bliss isn’t wrong to want to carve out a life for herself, one that she enjoys and wants to do, and that better meets up with her abilities. Yet, her mom isn’t wrong to want something better for her child. We all do that. Brooke went through the pageant circuit without her mom’s help, and is still stuck in Bodeen, working as a mail carrier. She wants more than that for her daughters. Every mom out there does.
Perhaps what Whip It is showing is the cycle of parenting. I don’t know of any parent that doesn’t want better for his or her children, and I don’t know of any child that doesn’t want to carve out his or her own space, and not just follow what mom and dad have always dreamed of. Since our own lives are never perfect, we’ll always want more for our kids, and since we do a good job parenting, they’ll always want the best for themselves. As Bliss’ dad said, “I can take losing the money: I cannot take losing the chance for our kid to be happy.”
Laura Tucker is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.
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