Teenage Femininity in “The Fits” Movie by Anna Rose Holmer


Every teenage girl feels social pressure during their school years in terms of finding their true identity. Adolescent years are crucial in the process of character establishment where a few judgmental remarks may influence the further course of personality formation. Following the desired hobbies or dressing comfortably may be a courageous step for some teenage girls, which the director Anna Rose Holmer depicts in her film The Fits. The movie is an excellent representation of women’s strength and determination that has an empowering main character and a motivational plot. Therefore, through the perspective of The Fits a concept of exploring female adolescent personality will be examined.

Overview of the Film

The movie is a debut picture of Holmer, which immediately gained many positive reviews from multiple credible critics of the nation. It falls under the drama genre and can be more specifically defined as an estrogen-soaked dance drama. It is crucial to note that the cast of The Fits is entirely African-American. The film’s protagonist is a 10-year-old girl who is training to be a boxer. The majority of events occur in the recreational center, which formulates an inclusive atmosphere and brings more focus to the principal problem. Inspired by an older brother, Toni, the main character decides to join the dance troop and try herself in a new environment. Through multiple attempts to adapt to femininity, a girl cannot resist her tomboyish nature. Unable to choose, Toni shifts between boxing and dancing, symbolizing the presence of multiple spirits between which she is pacing.

There are many aspects that may define a film as feminist or the one speaking for women’s rights. In recent decades the cinematography industry has been opening up its doors to female directors and voicing the issues of women empowerment and strength. Nevertheless, even in the rapidly digitalized world, girls feel increased pressure at times of their teenage development. The Fits excellently represents the struggle of a strong-willed character to identify herself and fit in. As stated by the Rolling Stones reviewer, the movie is “an uplifting journey into self-awareness” (Travers, par. 3). Indeed, through the example of her dancing teammates, the protagonist tries to explore what she is like.

Assessment of the Film on Feministic Aspects

If we are to assess the movie according to the Bechdel test, it will pass the examination. The Bechdel test is a tool for measuring the representation of women in the film. The picture is thought to be feminist if it has at least two female characters with names, who talk to each other about something other than men (Sutherland and Feltey, 2). The Fits mostly portrays teenage girl characters; therefore, the movie may be considered feminist.

As an entirely feminist-focused film, reflecting a challenge of social acceptance and a duel between two natures, The Fits cannot be a better illustration of a personality discovery. The history of films centered on women is a continual rewriting of the movement’s history adapted to the modern cannons (Hennefeld, 77). Toni’s fear of being rejected by her peers due to her tomboy nature reflects how femininity is thought to be the traditional concept for a young girl. The standardized idea of a woman that is being established through the protagonist’s surroundings is a representation of undying stereotypes about females.

A particular episode, where the main character is influenced by the dance of the teammates, and tries to adopt the feminine nature, showcases how the social surrounding may be the cause of unwilling external change. Toni paints her nails gold and pierces her ears only to become more accepted and “attractive” as of the mainstream trends. However, the new changes did not grow on an adolescent as she proceeds to chip off the nail polish, and her ears get infected as a symbol that these appearance alterations undermine the protagonist’s true identity.

Portraying Female Characters with masculinity

Characters with mental toughness and an athletic body are often portrayed in films as masculine, often lesbian women. Muscular female characters are seen to be power-over in their interactions with other characters (Sutherland and Feltey, 5). Physically powerful Toni rejects the framework of femininity and is portrayed by the directors as a powerful protagonist who is diversified in her hobbies without the need to alter her appearance.

Moreover, strong female figures who do not demonstrate feminine features such as increased sensitivity are usually portrayed in nontraditional roles and often end up in loneliness and self-isolation (Sutherland and Feltey, 5). Such a concept is valid for The Fits, as Toni is an isolated person without any particular friends, except her brother. She continually trains and advances her physical strength, focusing on the achievements in sports, which is unconventional for the traditional film cannons.

Why is the Film Important?

The modern film industry becomes more flooded with feminism-oriented movies; however, few of them reflect the challenges of a teenager on their way to discovering their personality. Toni, the protagonist, is an excellent role model for every adolescent who is on the path to realizing their identity. The Fits represents a vocal statement of challenging stereotypes femininity cannons and the possibility of standing up for what is true to a person. For years, the adults and the authorities silenced teenage girls in their attempts to combat sexism (Lovell, 73). However, the times have changed, and the directors confront such crucial topics among youths through film, which is highly relevant to them.

The movie is also a vital educational source for young women, as it may teach them about liberation and ways to acquire a public position regarding feminism. Toni’s fashion style, which refuses skirts and dresses, is one example of tackling gender-specific stereotypes and a way of expressing herself through clothes. Even in the 21st-century, girls may face sexist criticism from peers and adults for advocating for gender-neutral style, which is especially evident in suburban areas (Lovell 79). Therefore, The Fits is a prominent example for young women to stand up for their identity, the way the protagonist remained true to herself, despite social pressure.


The Fits is an unconventional view of the daily struggle of every teenager. A debut picture of the director Anna Rose Holmer is a successful movie that raises many crucial issues of feminism, femininity, and identity seeking. The film adheres to one of the primary tests for measuring women representation in cinematography – the Betchel test. Toni’s story is vocalizing the ruining of all stereotypical feminine behaviors that are rooted in the mentality of the nation.

Moreover, the protagonist’s realization of her true identity through several failings of adapting conventional appearance features is an excellent addition to the portrayal of female masculinity in the movie industry. Overall, The Fits is an essential resource for female adolescents who seek for their personality in the holistic sexist community. It demonstrates how women can be powerful and confident in unconventional visual appearances. Therefore, the film, in many aspects, teaches feminism and praises identity-seeking, despite contradicting social norms.

Works Cited

Hennefeld, Maggie. “Film History.” Feminist Media Histories, vol. 4, no. 2, 2018, pp. 77–83, Web.

Lovell, Kera. “Girls Are Equal Too: Education, Body Politics, and the Making of Teenage Feminism.” Gender Issues, vol. 33, no. 2, 2016, pp. 71–95.

Sutherland, Jean-Anne, and Kathryn M. Feltey. “Here’s Looking at Her: An Intersectional Analysis of Women, Power and Feminism in Film.” Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 26, no. 6, 2016, pp. 618–631.

Travers, Peter. “‘The Fits’ Movie Review.” Rolling Stone, 2016, Web.

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