‘Spring Breakers’ or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty Pop

Dr Peter Han Area 49 Lead Scientist Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty PopWARNING: MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!

Writer/director Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is Girl Power gone wild. A brilliant, funny and surprisingly emotional sex, drugs and Rap-fueled saga of extreme feminism as fantastically stylized as Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch in which bikini-clad, party-crazed co-eds don Munich-style ski masks and sport machine-pistols to wage a bloody turf war against murderous drug dealers — and emerge victorious.

spring breakers bikini selena gomez Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty Pop

Faith (Selena Gomez), the story’s warm gooey moral center, who in a more conventional film would have been the main character, and her three bad-girl-friends: Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), travel to Florida to lose their minds amongst the teeming masses of frenzied partiers driven mad by the lust for life, their Spring Break fund courtesy of a ballsy restaurant robbery.

Armed with hammers and toy guns and hidden behind their masks, Candy and Brit take all the cash they can from the terrorized customers and register alike while Cotty slowly circles the restaurant in the getaway car. Faith takes no part in the robbery nor knew about it before hand but is not entirely innocent herself since she learns exactly where the cash came from and could care less, her only concern being that the party never ends.

spring breakers ver6 Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty PopBut the party does end, at least temporarily, when the girls are jailed for excessive Spring-Breaking. All their money blown, they rot in a dirty cell until bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a part-time M.C. and full-time hood with a massive grin of shiny grillwork and a thick gangsta drawl.

When the girls emerge from the county’s dim dungeon and step back into the bright light of Spring Break, the film takes on an added dimension of danger and excitement thanks to Alien, an indelible and amazingly complex character who, in his quieter moments with the girls, ratchets back the thug and reveals an openness and sensitivity that is stunning to behold.

spring breakers ashley benson character poster Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty Pop

Despite his honest approach and considerable charm, Alien is unable to woo Faith who, sensing danger ahead, bolts for the bus back home. The three remaining girls embrace the gangsta life wholeheartedly and join Alien in a slew of violent armed robberies which draws the ire of the local crime lord and Alien‘s former best friend. Once Cotty exit’s the scene after being winged in a drive-by the story surges into overdrive towards the inevitable bullet-spraying climax.

The film’s most memorable and revealing moment occurs in Alien’s bedroom — a veritable shrine to the thug life filled with cash, drugs and weapons — when Candy and Brit unexpectedly turn on him, waving two loaded guns in his face. During this wonderfully strange and savage bonding-ritual of sorts, Alien, to the glee of the girls, enthusiastically fellatios both their barrels in a remarkable demonstration of trust. The subtext is unmistakably clear: They’re his bitches, but only because they choose to be.

vanessa hudgens spring breakers Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty Pop

The first time we see Candy and Brit — the “scary ones” according to members of Faith‘s religious circle — they’re sitting in class doing exactly what their traditionally more aggressive male counterparts have always done in movies about young people having sex, as they communicate to each other, pictorially and otherwise, their desperate desire for the male member. Candy and Brit’s ideas of female sexuality and self-worth have been shaped as much by Hugh Hefner as by Gloria Steinem. Watching these young women party-hard with the boys it’s almost impossible to imagine that any of them, even good girl Faith, would consider the now iconic Playboy Bunny costume misogynistic or degrading to women as many feminists once did.

Rachel Korine Spring Breakers Movie Poster Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty PopFor most of the film all four young women are perpetually clad in brightly colored  bikinis, the unofficial “uniform” of strippers, Rap video hoes and Spring Break coeds, women often perceived as the ultimate victims of male hegemony and female objectification. Past generations of women in the workplace dressed like men (big shoulder pads, drab colors) to mask their bodies and obscure their femininity. What is the bikini but the ultimate repudiation of that?

These young women have risen above a culture of sexual objectification by embracing, not rejecting, their own sexuality, thus turning exploitation into empowerment. This new reality is rendered wonderfully in a series of tense moments during which Cotty, alone in a hotel room with a group of drunken guys, teases and taunts them all mercilessly while flagrantly flaunting her half-naked, beer-drenched body. It’s a thrilling and dangerously erotic tightrope-walk that explores, in dramatic terms, the raw power of a young woman’s sexuality and the hold it has over men.

selena gomez spring breakers Spring Breakers or: How Feminism Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Booty Pop

And it’s no small irony that Britney Spears, an artist who in her heyday was often accused of using sexuality to fuel record sales, is their own modern day version of Woody Guthrie, a singer who voices the fears and aspirations of the voiceless multitude. In the film’s most surreal moment, Alien sits at a white grand piano and soulfully croons Spears’ “Everytime” as Candy, Brit and Cotty ballet about, wielding guns in pink ski masks and black sweatpants with “DTF” emblazoned across their backsides.

The girls’ last victim is the local crime lord. Candy and Brit find him laidback in the tub of his master bath, directing a couple of naked “big booty hoes” to touch each other in the shower — a fabulous riff on a classic Rap video motif made even more obvious by casting a real life rapper (Gucci Mane) in the role.

In the beginning of the film the girls’ actions are motivated by a desperate need to escape their monotonous and mundane existence and experience something different, something more. And in the end after they’ve killed all their enemies and kissed their fallen prince goodbye, Candy and Brit hit the open road like Thelma and Louise before them. But the key difference between this and that generation is that these girls have already made good their escape. They’re no longer running away from something, but towards it. The question is, what? Yes, they are still sex objects.

And a whole lot more.

Dr. Peter Han