Girl Gangs

Sophia Satchell Baeza

Matching outfits (preferably labelled jackets), loads of frenemies, a catchy name and a handbag-load of attitude are basically all you need to be in a girl gang. With the imminent release of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, we thought we’d chart our favourite kick-ass girl groups, from riot grrrls to biker gangs, B movie sleaze vixens to feminist freedom fighters, and a healthy dose of sociopathic high school cliques. All these women have one thing in common: rage. I think Mary in (the awesome feminist splatter movie) I Was A Teenage Serial Killer (1993) sums it up when she says: “No one wants to listen to my story, and then I get this anger that I’m not allowed to express because it’s not right for a woman to have any rage. You can have your f*cking James Dean image and be a hero to society, and I have just as much pain, if not more”. Go, sisters!!

She-Devils on Wheels (Hershell Gordon-Lewis, 1968) 

The Man-Eaters are a badass motorcycle gang hell-bent on finding hot dudes, wielding chainsaws and generally Perverting The Course Of Justice.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 1965) 

Three melon-mamarried go-go dancers come across a couple in the desert while racing sportscars. Varla (a PVC clad Tura Satana) kills the boyfriend with only her bare hands. Then they hatch a scheme to steal money from a pervy old man at a gas station. For more pseudo-feminism in falsies, check out Meyers later Supervixens (1975) about a troupe of voluptuous nymphomaniacs. Apparently Meyer’s particular ‘tastes’ began when Ernest Hemingway encouraged him to lose his virginity in a French brothel. I don’t wanna get all Freud on your ass, but I totally detect an Oedipus complex.

Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004) 

The Plastics – a Heathers for the noughties in a sepia-tinted time when Lindsey Lohan wasn’t falling out of cabs without knickers on, are a pink, carb-counting high school girl gang, headed by the evil Regina George (Rachel McAdams): “Don't be fooled because she may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing slut faced ho-bag, but in reality, she's so much more than that”.

Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1988) 

Much like Withnail and I, you could do worse than memorise a good chunk of the one-liners in this super-dark high school comedy about the plaid-wearing, croquet-playing Heathers gang, to pull out at any opportune moment. Like a first date.

The Craft (Andrew Fleming, 1996) 

Gothy teen witches in a Catholic prep school throw around evil spells in alternately awesome and terrible ‘90s threads.

Switchblade Sisters (Jack Hill, 1975) 

The Dagger Debs wear loads of leather and beat the crap out of everyone.

Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (Dan Hoskins, 1989) 

There are several things you need to know about this film: it stars Billy Bob Thornton, the girl gang are called the Cycle Sluts, it is not a work of art, and there is more double denim contained therein than the entirety of Justin Timberlake’s career. Exactly the kind of fare you’d expect from Troma.

Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) 

I don’t care what bad things you say about Grease (and from the thirty somethings unconvincingly playing teenagers, John Travolta’s hammy over-acting and all those dodgy wigs, there are quite a lot). But Rizzo, head of the Pink Ladies, proud owner of a fair couple of hickeys and purveyor of a been-around-the-block high school ennui - is great.

The Group (Sidney Lumet, 1966) 

It’s obligatory for me at this point to say that The Group is like SATC and Girls, but forty years earlier. In reality, this only shows that women have been having nervous breakdowns about their careers, finances and prospective partners then uploading said neuroses onto their GIF-based tumblr blogs, since at least after World War II.

The Runaways (Floria Sigismondi, 2010) 

A film that starts with a period needs no further explanation.

Foxes (Adrian Lyne, 1980) 

Just thinking about this film makes me want to cry. From Jodie Foster’s perfect Annie Hall-outfits to real-life Runaways band member Cherrie Currie (played in the above biopic by Dakota Fanning) as an out-of-it wild-child – Foxes really makes you want to join their gang.

Gulabi Gang (Nishtha Jain, 2012) 

Jain’s documentary follows the glorious Gulabi Gang (‘gulabi’ means pink), a group of Indian women vigilantes in pink saris who protest violence against women and domestic abuse, often travelling long distances or picking up sticks and taking the violence on themselves. Yeah!

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (Lou Adler, 1981) 

Corinne Day (Diane Lane) is bored. So she does up her hair, changes her name to Third Degree, and kick-starts a band and a movement: “We’re The Stains and we don’t put out!”

Jawbreaker (Darren Stein, 1999) 

In many ways this is utter bollocks, and a derivative ('90s) Heathers. But Rose McGowan is ball-bustingly awesome as a super-evil high school bitch, and there’s a cameo by her then boyfriend Marilyn Manson: a definite guilty pleasure.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang (Annette Haywood-Carter, 1996) 

Four high school girls join together after being sexually harassed by their teacher. Expect lots of topless ‘female bonding’ rituals featuring Angelina Jolie to a soundtrack by Mazzy Star and The Cramps.

Now and Then (Lesli Linka Glatter, 1995) 

Christina Ricci, Thora Birch and Melanie Griffiths in the same girl gang? *World implode*. Four women reminisce about their childhood in the 1970s. Another film that scores really high in the Double Denim stakes. I should be making a tally by now.

We Are The Lambeth Boys (Karel Reisz, 1959) 

This Free Cinema gem might seem from the title to be about boys (as it looks at a group of Teddy boys in a youth hostel in Oval, South London). But watch closer and you’ll see some super rad Teddy Girls; also known as ‘Judies’, they are a sadly underdocumented subcultural girl group and here you get to see them mouthing off and being generally awesome and gobby.

Swing Girls (Suwingu Gâruzu, 2004) 

A group of bored school girls in Northern Japan work out the best way to skip maths class: take up the saxophone and start a rad all-girl Swing group!

The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979) 

The absolutely terrifying (and hot) girl gang The Lizzies kick ass in this tale of gang warfare in Coney Island.

Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl (Kerri Koch, 2006) 

The awesome Riot Grrrl movement sought to shake up the male-dominated world of grunge in the ‘90s, and redefine culture (whether music, art or zine-making) on their own terms. This documentary includes interviews with (The Queen) Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Alison Wolfe of Bratmobile, Corin Tucker of Heavens To Betsy, and Fugazi’s Ian McKaye. Last words to Kathleen Hanna: "We need each other. Discouraging words, belittling other girls in front of boys, laughing looks...have no place here. Dialogue does. Let's make girl love real, OK?". Amen, Hanna.

Follow Sophia on Twitter: @SophiaSB1

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