Film / Whip It

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2009 movie directed by Drew Barrymore, adapted from writer Shauna "Maggie Mayhem" Cross' 2007 novel Derby Girl.

The film stars Ellen Page as a 17-year old reluctant beauty pageant contestant named Bliss Cavendar in Bodeen, Texas, who discovers and falls in love with the Austin Roller Derby circuit. She goes to roller derby tryouts and gets selected for the Hurl Scouts, the worst team in the league. But with Bliss's amazing speed and coach Razor's playbook, they might just be able to challenge the Holy Rollers, the top team in the league, and maybe even win the championship.

Not to be confused with the song of the same name.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Quite a few characters who were antagonistic or borderline-antagonistic in the novel had the jerkass volume turned way, way down in the movie, particularly Brooke Cavendar.
  • Adapted Out: Bliss' life in Bodeen is a much smaller percentage of the film's running time; an understandable reduction considering the visual appeal of roller derby vs. the prosaic nature of Bliss' hometown.
  • AM/FM Characterization: Razor pulls up playing "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips in his car's stereo. Bliss spends the middle part of the film playing and listening to the music of her crush's band (played by Landon Pigg, the actual musician cast in the role of Oliver). Expanded in the book; a love of indie music is one of the marks of Bliss' identity.
  • Artistic License Sports:
    • A subtle one: All the members of the Hurl Scouts are wearing the same skate - the Riedell 265 Wicked. While the Wicked is a popular skate for roller derby, the nature of roller derby as a do-it-yourself amateur sport means that skaters' equipment is entirely left up to personal choice and the skater's budget, and a derby team will typically have a mix of skates from varying manufacturers.
    • Less subtly, a few jams of play show scores that shouldn't be possible - the very first jam shown ends after a single scoring pass with a score of 7-0, the maximum possible score with one scoring pass is 4-0 (5-0 with the jammer lap point, if the opposing jammer is stuck in the pack).
    • The fighting actually isn't. Texas Roller Derby is a "renegade" league, which permits fighting under certain circumstances.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: All of Razor's plays have fairly esoteric names.
  • Auto Erotica: Subverted. Bliss sees her dad's van rocking, and hears him yelling "YES! YES!", but it turns out he's watching a really exciting football game on a small TV in the van.
  • Badass Beard: Razor has one to indicate how he's the team's hardass coach.
  • Beauty Contest: Bliss's mother was a contestant when she was younger and makes both Bliss and her younger sister Shania compete.
  • Big Game: The championship match at the end.
  • Billy Elliot Plot: Female example. Bliss wants to do roller derby, but her mother wants her to participate in beauty pageants.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Corbi in both the novel and the movie.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bliss breaks up with her cheating boyfriend, and then loses the last jam of the game to Iron Maven, but she also finally wins Maven's respect on the track and reconciles with her family.
  • Bland-Name Product: "Without the Bluebonnet factory, this town wouldn't exist." It's a reference to Blue Bell Creameries, an ice cream manufacturer based in Brenham, Texas.note 
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Bliss's family has herself as the brunette, her little sister as the blonde and her mother as the redhead.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Smashley Simpson who talks lots of trash. She and her fiancee have a Slap-Slap-Kiss relationship naturally.
  • Bumbling Dad: Mr. Cavendar is laid back and rather meek in contrast to his fiery wife.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Johnny Rocket.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Bliss finds she fits in with the roller derby girls and makes peace with her mother.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Bluebonnet Ball is the very same evening as the championship roller derby match. In the novel this was arranged by the fire-marshal bust seen in the movie causing the date of the championship to be moved by a week.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: When her mother sees a roller derby bruise, Bliss says that she "fell at work."
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: Rosa Sparks is a black girl with her hair bleached blonde.
  • Darkest Hour: Bliss' skates are taken away, Pash has told her all the wrong things she's done over the last few months, she ran away from home and was forced to admit to her team that she lied about her age, losing her skating status... and then she discovers that Oliver's been cheating on her. When next we see her, Bliss is curled up on the floor at home in front of her fridge, stress-eating a bowl of leftover casserole.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Pash and Razor.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Bliss showing up to a pageant with her hair dyed blue pretty much tells us everything we need to know about her character.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas
  • Food Fight: Iron Maven flicks a french fry at Bliss. Bliss retaliates with some banana creme pie. Maven dumps a chocolate milkshake on Bliss' head. It escalates from there.
  • Friendly Enemy: Rival captains Eva Destruction and Iron Maven are relatively friendly to their opponents, and it seems a lot of the roller derby teams hang out together after the games. Even when they get into a food fight, they're laughing their asses off the entire time. This is Truth in Television. Most roller derby leagues train as a league and friendships stay constant even as teams shuffle their lineups. Few if any rollergirls are only friends with their teammates, and one's derby wife can be on a different team or in a different league entirely.
  • From Bad to Worse: Pash gets arrested for underage drinking. Bliss' parents find out the truth about her roller derby double life and take away her skates. Pash stops speaking to Bliss. Maven blackmails Bliss into quitting roller derby due to Bliss being underage. And to top all that off, Bliss discovers that Oliver has cheated on her and has given away her Stryper t-shirt to a groupie.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the alternative store in Austin, Brooke spies some bongs and comments, "Ooh, pretty vases!" The staff think this is hilarious, then one of them quips that, "They're great for tulips, really." One wonders how many of the censors realised a "Dutch tulip" is a fancy way of rolling a joint...
  • The Glasses Come Off: Both zig-zagged and justified. At the beginning of the movie, Bliss wears contact lenses to beauty pageants and debutante balls (at her mother's behest), then switches to glasses when in street clothes. Later, when Bliss joins the roller derby team, she switches to contacts full time.
  • Greasy Spoon: The Oink Joint. Home of the Squealer.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Johnny Rocket and Razor having a pitifully bad dance-off at the hot tub party.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Over the first half of the end credits.
  • Informed Ability: Completely averted with Ellen Page's portrayal of Bliss - Page actually got quite good at roller derby during the filming of the movie.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Pash stresses about getting accepted into an Ivy League school and ends up getting into Columbia. She does mention earlier in the film that she's a straight A student, justifying the trope.
  • Jumped at the Call: Bliss is quite willing to go the extra mile to achieve her goals.
  • Large Ham: "Hot Tub" Johnny Rocket, the announcer at the roller derby track.
  • Male Gaze: Quite a bit of it at that. There are a few shots of legs and asses for Fanservice purposes.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: "Let's go apeshit."
  • My Beloved Smother: Take a guess.
  • Not So Above It All: In spite of herself, Brooke finds herself drawn into her daughter's championship bout.
  • Not So Different: While her ambitions (athletics vs. beauty) are different from her mother's, Bliss has inherited more of her mother's drive than her father's easygoing, conflict-averse nature.
  • Older Than They Look: Iron Maven dares Bliss to guess her age. Bliss gives her a generous 'twenty seven'. She's actually thirty-six.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Except for Daniel Stern and Marcia Gay Harden, NO ONE can hold a Texas accent, and most of the cast don't even bother.
  • Pet the Dog: Bliss gives her custom-made dress to Amber for the Bluebonnet Ball when she leaves for the championship match.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Bliss all the way, although what's most remarkable about her is her speed, not her strength—she gets knocked down plenty.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: After Bliss' skates are confiscated by her parents, who have just found out in the worst way possible that she's been lying to them about where she's going and what she's doing during her "SAT class," Bliss is disowned by Pash in a cutting "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Primal Scene: Bliss makes Pash imagine one of these in order to induce vomiting.
    Bliss: Pash, have you ever thought...about your parents making love? Your dad's naked body...
    Pash: WHAT?
    Pash: [vomits]
  • Punny Name: Seems to be a staple for the roller derby girls. You have Babe Ruthless, Rosa Sparks, Smashley Simpson, Iron Maven, and Eva Destruction. A case of Truth in Television. Punny names are a staple of organized roller derby.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Hurl Scouts. Implied to be the case with the other derby teams, as well. Also Truth in Television: A roller derby team can have on it a stay-at-home mom, a banking vice-president, a physicist and many, many other kinds of women who are bound together by their common interest in the sport.
  • Reality Ensues: Babe Ruthless hitting the rail after a fierce hit leaves her stunned on the track for a few moments afterward.
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: Bliss, at age 17, claims to be 22 years old. Ellen Page actually was that age at the time.
  • Refusal of the Call: After seeing the Hurl Scouts play the Holy Rollers at the exhibition match, Bliss suggests to Pash that they both try out for roller derby. Pash doesn't want to, and spends the majority of the movie cheering on Bliss from the audience.
  • Roller Derby
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Bliss and Pash. Bliss is very new to the sport and so likely has not found someone she feels strongly enough about to be her derby wife, her team act more as surrogate mothers to their very young teammate.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Oliver acts like the very definition of this trope, since his scenes mainly consist of him digging Bliss, and Bliss digging him right back. The trope is deconstructed a bit, however, as he only acts this way in order to get into Bliss' pants. And she falls for it.
  • Second Place Is for Losers:
    • Played straight with Razor, but subverted with the rest of the Hurl Scouts (that is, until Razor gives another team one of his plays—then the Hurl Scouts start getting their act together).
    • Subverted again at the end, when the Hurl Scouts—Razor included—celebrate the fact that, holy crap, they actually jumped all the way from last place to the finals.
  • Shotgun Wedding:
    Earl Cavendar: I like smart girls, that's why I married your momma. Well, that, and I knocked her up.
  • Shout-Out: After Bliss and Oliver's Night Out, Bliss is walking back up to her house, wearing Oliver's Green Jacket, a Black Skirt, and Black Boots (with Long-ish Brown Hair). See?
  • Shown Their Work: At several times during the shown matches, a jammer is shown waving their arms up and down by repeatedly placing their hands on their hips. This is never explained within the film, but is the means by which a lead jammer can end a jam and prevent any further scoring.
  • Status Quo Is God: Although they eventually make to the finals, they still lose despite giving it their best, but, "there's always next year!"...
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: A wedge gets drawn between Bliss and Pash after the latter gets arrested at a game, fretting that this will ruin her chances of getting into an Ivy League college. Bliss eventually apologises for everything - and Pash reveals she did get accepted to two Ivies after all.
  • Team Mom: Maggie Mayhem. She's also a literal example, as she has a young son of her own.
  • That Poor Cat: A cat yowls as Pash and Bliss leave the roller derby.
  • Tights Under Shorts: This is a staple of Roller Derby "Boutfits." (in the film and in real life: All WFTDA Division 1 and most Division 2 leagues now use uniform tops, but permit skaters wide latitude in deciding what they wear from the waist down)
  • Time Marches On: You can make a drinking game of the rules of roller derby that have changed between the 2007 setting of the film and the present day, and get quite sloshed by the end of it. The sheer number of elbows and punches thrown (both fouls, the latter an automatic expulsion), by themselves make for an extremely inebriated two hours.
  • Token Minority: Rosa Sparks is the lone black girl on the team, unless the (white) New Zealander Bloody Holly counts as well. There are also two minor characters who are deaf.
  • Tomboy: All of the derby ladies, though Maggie and Eva seem to have a Girly Streak.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows that Bliss' parents eventually discover her roller derby career, and two seconds later it spoils their eventual reconciliation.
  • True Blue Femininity: Bliss's mother - who wants her daughter to be more feminine - is frequently dressed in blue outfits. Even her work clothes are blue. Bliss's blue hair at the first pageant is not an example however.
  • Two-Person Pool Party:
    • Bliss and Oliver sneak into a local pool and have one.
    • Eva Destruction and Rosa Sparks also get cuddly in a hot tub in one scene.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted; actually, the Hurl Scouts lose all the time until they decide to get serious after the Fight Attendants run one of Razor's plays, leaving them all on the floor.
  • Worthy Opponent: By the end of the movie, Iron Maven sees Bliss this way.

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