Badass Women’s Week: Chicago

The Academy Award-winning movie musical, Chicago, tells the tale of Roxie Hart as she finds her way to fame through murder and infamy.

This may arguably be the most badass feminist flick in the bunch, because literally almost every main character is female. All the male leads are either greedy/sleazy (Billy Flynn), liars and adulterers (Fred Casley and whoever married Kitty Baxter), or stupid and passive (Amos).

The strong, confident characters are all female. Female murderers are obviously rarely portrayed as glamorous (Hello Charlize Theron in Monster I’m talking to you) and Chicago allows the cast to retain their sexual confidence and identity. They all have agency and a backstory, mostly wrapped up in one number (“Cell Block Tango”), and they even represent many races and socioeconomic levels. Roxie is on the poorer side, Thelma Kelly is a jazz celebrity, and Kitty Baxter is an heiress. And yet they are all  in the Cook County Jail together.

Some may argue it’s the male gaze of the camera that demands the short skirts and jazz splits but I do not agree. It’s all about confident women who dare be outside of the societal norm in this time period. They don’t care about gender norms in their pursuit of the life they want to live. Roxie Hart is the dominant partner in her relationship with Amos and she constantly dreams of rejecting her married lifestyle to go out and be a star on her own, which she ultimately realizes. This rejection of the “normal housewife role” is established immediately and she never goes back on her choice to be happier alone whilst also manipulating all the men around her.

The most badass female in the group is Matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah) who rules all the “chickies in her pen” while maintaining her status as the “biggest mother hen” over them all. She oversees the murder ward of the women’s prison while being a large, confident African-American woman in 1920s Chicago, which is pretty sweet. Also the role of Thelma Kelly is my favorite Catherine Zeta-Jones performance of all-time and her rendition of “All that Jazz” is borderline hypnotic.

The movie itself deserves it’s Oscar, which is a heated debate since it beat out legendary films like Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The Pianist. Still, it’s a visual spectacle. It maintains the essence of the Broadway source material while bringing it’s own cinematic spin. The musical numbers look and sound amazing and the choreography pairs incredibly well with the camera.

So why does this film take a spot in Badass Women’s Week? The film is brilliantly executed and is filled with sexually liberated women far ahead of their time who don’t let men take advantage of them (because they straight up murder their asses). The film portrays how different women come to grips with their own identities, even down to the little details, like Mama Morton wearing a tuxedo and not a gown to the final performance. These women live by their own rules and never quit in their ambition to be superstars while also maybe getting away with a murder or two.

Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10

Favorite Badass Female Line:

“No, I’m no one’s wife, but oh, I love my life. And all that jazz!”

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