Back in 2009, Drew Barrymore added directing to her already outstanding CV with Whip It (which she also co-starred in and produced!), a film about a high school girl who joins the world of roller derby. It’s a fun, fast and fearless film centred on indie music-loving misfit Bliss Cavender, who ditches beauty pageants and heels in favour of roller skates and bruises.
Having grown up in sleepy Bodeen, Texas, Bliss longs to escape her humdrum life. Her mum, a former beauty queen, has been entering her into tedious pageants pretty much since birth; when Bliss meets members of the Holy Rollers in nearby Austin, she decides to try out and finally do something for herself. Enter Babe Ruthless, Bliss’ alter ego (she may be short but she’s a force to be reckoned with).
What is so appealing about Whip It is that the cast is almost entirely female and the guys in the film serve to support the women, not the other way around. It also celebrates each character’s individuality, just as we should our own. It is an empowering film that avoids the clichés of the sports film and teen film genres, and reminds us girls that we can be our own heroes. When we discover something that we are really passionate about, we shouldn’t have to make any compromises; we should simply remain true to ourselves.
The film is based on the novel Derby Girl, by real-life Derby Girl, Shauna Cross, aka Maggie Mayhem. This aspect is what first attracted Bliss to this exciting and brave new world – the ability to escape and become someone else. And kick some serious ass at the same time.
Roller derby has increased in popularity in the UK in recent years. The London Rollergirls was the first league to bring about this new revival of women’s fast-track roller derby. Formed in April 2006, the league has regular meets in and around the capital.
If you live a bit further afield but fancy giving it a go, you’ll be pleased to know that there are currently 35 roller derby leagues in the UK, from Penzance to Aberdeen. If you’re interested in getting involved, go to http://www.ukderbynews.co.uk to find your nearest team. I used to skate with the Rapscallion Rollers in Penzance and I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s so much fun!