xxy reviews: neighbours 2 sorority rising the rise of fratboy feminism

xxy reviews: neighbours 2 sorority rising the rise of fratboy feminism

As someone who is always yearning for subversive and compelling female-led stories, I was not expecting to have this thirst quenched by a Seth Rogen movie featuring fratboy feminism. However, Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising is an excellent film that I was surprised to find as satisfyingly funny as it is feminist. Yes, a movie about partying frats and sororities, written and directed by men, is the most feminist movie I have seen in a long time. Dare I say ever. While of course not perfect, it made me hopeful for future films and encouraged me to keep going to movies with female leads. This is because monetary force is often one of the fastest, most effective paths to social change.

The issue of female ‘space’ in media and culture is manifested in the representation of women both on screen and behind, fictional or not. This can be broken down to the treatment of social gender issues. The representation of age diversity, sexual orientation, race and physical appearance of women, portrayal of different personality types, lifestyles and relationships. And, perhaps most importantly, inclusion of diverse women in the production process and workforce generally.


While the ‘space’ issue goes pretty deep in terms of funding, casting and marketing, being on the outside of the business means I can only evaluate what is visible on the surface. That encompasses directors, writers, producers and actors. This is why in the fight for female empowerment, TV has been kicking the movie industry’s ass with the likes of Mindy Kaling, Shonda Rhimes, Amy Schumer and many more. The most prolific ‘female-driven’ films this year are probably The Huntsmen: Winter’s War, Bad Moms, Ghostbusters, and Zootopia. It is a disappointingly short list considering we have had Wonder Woman, Dory, Black Widow and Harley Quinn lurking on the scene. Neighbours 2, the sequel to a movie about the American college experience, starring ultimate ‘bro’ Seth Rogen and the almost anime-level pretty-boy Zac Efron, seems like the odd one out. But in my opinion, in terms of content and character, it surpasses all of them.

The plot

Initially, the premise of a sorority struggling to hold its own seems like a simple enough, even obvious, transition from the first movie. However, the simplicity of the concept helps establish enough ‘space’ for the feminist tones of the movie as the girls of Kappa Nu fight for the same rights as their male counterparts. From portraying women who are strong but also make mistakes, to women who are not defined by the validation of men or anyone else. Furthermore, the act of women being friendly and supportive of each other (this element in particular was like a drop of rain during a drought). Likewise accepting all types of women (including them being just as crazy, funny and daring as men). The active rebelling against institutionalised or socialised sexism, as well as the cooperative rectification or debunking of sexist stereotypes through conversations was led by both genders.

And all this while being outstandingly, side-splittingly funny? Just watching the film once etched numerous lines and scenes into my mind. From Efron’s character reacting to “bros before hoes” with, “Don’t call them hoes. That’s not cool anymore”, to the girls making him realise the sexism in thinking menstruation jokes are disgusting while considering dick jokes to be hilarious. From the Kappa Nus partying dressed up as male and female historical figures and then telling girls wearing mini-skirts and heels, “You can wear whatever you want, dude”.

Returning to the final issue of creating ‘space’ for women in the production process, I was so thrilled by the feminist dynamics that I rushed to find out more about the people behind this glorious piece of entertainment. I was almost absolutely sure that the project would have sprung from the minds of numerous talented ladies. Not so much. In fact – if Wikipedia and IMDb are to be believed – there isn’t a single woman (perhaps ranked high enough or apparently involved enough) to be named amongst the list of directors, producers, writers, editors, musicians or cinematographers. Now, of course, the making of a movie includes literally hundreds of people, among whom (statistically) there must have been a number of women. Nevertheless, the lack of female ‘space’ manifested by not seeing a single woman as a department head was disconcerting (not to take anything away from the brilliant and funny actresses in the film).

The verdict

In the end, my instant love for this movie took over and I decided to be optimistic for once. So I reminded myself that there is no such thing as perfection, especially in the arts. There is only the strive for betterment. Whether you choose to enjoy this movie purely as a comedy or to study its contribution to social conversations, the film is at its core about exactly that – individual and social betterment, implemented by the institution of partying.

Written by Ishrat Ahmed, 


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