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Film / The Hairy Bird

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The Hairy Bird (also known as Strike! and All I Wanna Do) is a 1998 teen comedy film written and directed by Sarah Kernochan, with a cast including Gaby Hoffmann, Lynn Redgrave, Kirsten Dunst, Monica Keena, Heather Matarazzo, and Rachael Leigh Cook.

In 1963, Odette Sinclair (Hoffmann) is sent by her parents to Miss Godard's Preparatory School for Girls, an elite New England boarding school run by Miss McVane (Redgrave), after planning to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Dennis.

Odette meets the dynamic young women of the DAR, Daughters of the American Ravioli — Verena (Dunst), Tinka (Keena), Theresa a.k.a. Tweety (Matarazzo), and Maureen a.k.a. Momo (Merritt Wever) — and they become friends. The girls get together to eat stolen canned food, mock upright hall monitor Abby (Cook), and share their most secret desires — and then pledge to help one another achieve them, no matter what the cost. One night they find out that the school is going co-ed, joining St. Ambrose Academy, due to lack of funding. Once it's proved that the boys can't be trusted, the girls mount an elaborate scheme to stop the boys’ invasion, hoping that they can save Miss Godard's from becoming "Miss Gonads".


The movie is based loosely on writer/director Kernochan's experiences at real-life Connecticut girls' school Rosemary Hall around that time.

This movie provides examples of:

  • The '60s: The movie is set in 1963.
  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council:
    Abby: Odette Sinclair, the Committee has decided not to recommend expulsion and to give you another chance. However, you are grounded for the remainder of the school year.
    Odette: I would like to rebut.
    Susie: You're not allowed a rebuttal.
    Odette: It's a filibuster. I have the floor.
    Abby: We don't allow that, either.
    Odette: What is this, a junta?
  • A-Cup Angst: Tweety stuffs her bra before the school dance.
  • Adults Are Useless: The elderly security guard is asleep instead of making sure students aren’t going off campus to play hooky. He and his cohorts are ineffectual at quelling a student uprising. Averted with Miss McVane.
  • Advertisement:
  • All Men Are Perverts: Mr. Dewey, and many of the St. Ambrose boys.
  • Alpha Bitch: Abby Sawyer, a tattletalling hall monitor and Verena's nemesis.
  • Anguished Outburst:
    • Miss McVane: Twenty-eight years of work, just so I can kiss some headmaster’s ass!
    • Tweety: Verena's gone, St. Ambrose is taking over, and next year I'm going to have to face Todd Winslow every day at breakfast. I WANT TO RETCH AND DIE.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Tinka: The board of trustees has sold this school down the river. They want us to go coed with the St. Ambrose Academy, which is notorious for their drunken behavior, loose morals, and lousy singing.
  • Beatnik: The Flat Critters, a group of local boys in a photography club who get their namesake from their hobby of photographing roadkill. The Flat Critters consist of Snake, Skunk, Groundhog, Possum, and Beagle.
  • Befriending the Enemy: Verena befriends St. Ambrose boy Bradley "Frosty" Frost in an attempt to put him in a compromising position.
  • The Bet:
    Schumacher: We have about 80 dollars in the kitty. It goes to whoever's date has the largest set of nay-nays. You must furnish proof. Our roving photographer will find you.
  • Blithe Spirit: Frosty has no intention of remaining at St. Ambrose, describing the school as an Assimilation Academy where he doesn’t fit in.
  • Boarding School: Miss Godard’s Preparatory School for Girls.
  • Book Ends: Per the epilogue, the film's young leads end up with careers and interests that are ironic considering how the characters are presented at the beginning. Odie, a smoker, becomes a Congresswoman and fights the tobacco industry. Tweety, a bulimic, becomes a psychologist who educates about eating disorders. Momo, a scientist, is developing the first male oral contraceptive. Verena, besides starting a successful magazine, is no longer opposed to the opposite gender. The boy-crazy Tinka becomes a famous actress and later comes out as gay. Abby, the straight-laced goody-goody, turns to a life of crime.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: The D.A.R. fractures when the girls become divided over the planned merger between Miss Godard's and St. Ambrose.
  • Brick Joke: Abby tells off her mother with "Up your ziggy with a wah-wah brush!"
  • Brutal Honesty: Miss McVane, who is a well of sarcastic one-liners, talks about the prospect of Miss Godard's merger with St. Ambrose because of financial problems.
    Miss McVane: Won't be the first time women have had to marry for money.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Abby, to her mother Page. When Page demands Abby break up the student uprising, Abby snarks back in response.
  • Catchphrase:
    • “No more little white gloves!” The D.A.R.’s motto becomes a rallying cry for the striking students of Miss Godard’s.
  • Censored Title: The film's original title The Hairy Bird, which alludes to male genitalia, was deemed too offensive for Miramax Films, so the film was distributed in the U.S. under All I Wanna Do. In Canada and the U.K., the film was released as Strike! Australia was the only territory where the film was released under its original title.
  • Character Development: Odie, whose primary goal at the beginning of the film was to become an ex-virgin, ends up leading a revolution. Also Verena, Tweety, Tinka, Miss McVane, and Abby.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tweety's ipecac syrup.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Tinka when the D.A.R. members go around in a circle stating their future goals.
    Verena: I'm going to start my own magazine like "Vogue." I'm going to call it "Moi."
    Tweety: I'm going to be a psychiatrist.
    Tinka: I'm going to be on the cover of "Moi" magazine as a famous actress-folksinger-slut, and Momo will be my doctor, and Tweety will be my shrink.
  • Coming-Out Story: It is revealed in the epilogue that Tinka has come out of the closet in a televised Barbara Walters special.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*:
    Miss McVane: You're very smart, Von Stefan, but mainly in the derrière.
  • Credits Gag: The opening credits state, "A Film By Everyone Who Worked On It."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Verena. Also Odie, Tinka, Momo, and Miss McVane.
    [Verena comes to class late.]
    Mr. Dewey: Verena, why are you so late? You've missed an entire period.
    Verena: [gasps] You mean I'm pregnant?
  • Didn't See That Coming: Verena doesn’t account for falling for one of the St. Ambrose boys she’s supposed to frame.
  • Does Not Like Men: Verena openly disdains boys and sex, and is the most vocal in her opposition to a coed merger. It is suggested that her attitude is in part due to her parents' divorce and a strained relationship with her father. Subverted by the end when Verena softens her views on men.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even brown noser Abby is against a Godard and Ambrose merger.
  • Everybody Smokes: Even though smoking is said to be prohibited on school grounds, it's shown that even the headmistress, Miss McVane, smokes.
  • Extraverted Nerd: Conrad Bateman, Verena's dorky assigned date.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: Even though Verena can be rebellious, she sees Miss Godard’s as a sanctuary from her strained home life, as her parents have just divorced. This makes Verena all the more fired up to prevent Miss Godard's from merging with a boys' school.
  • Foreshadowing:
    Miss McVane: [to Odie] Dear, I can think of no better cure for your conspicuous misery than to make some friends. Don't reject them. They're not "just girls." They're you. If you get to know them, you'll be discovering yourself. And that is, believe it or not, a greater adventure than the opposite sex.
  • Girl of the Week: Played for laughs when Frosty's partners for the coed function are constantly rotated between Abby, Verena, and Susie.
    Frosty: This is great! Every 15 minutes I get a new date.
  • Goshdang It To Heck: "Up your ziggy with a wah-wah brush!" and "None of your floppin' buggies!"
  • Hate at First Sight: Odie doesn't gel with her roommates Verena and Tinka, who tease her about her boyfriend Dennis and go through her belongings. This changes when Odie impresses the two with her wit and the D.A.R. attempts to forge a weekend pass for Odie.
  • Hidden Depths: Though Tinka is presented as the slutty one, she is also very protective of her friends and defends Tweety from Verena's mocking. Afer Tweety is humiliated by the St. Ambrose boys, Tinka angrily searches for the culprits.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Ipecac syrup. Momo gives the ipecac to St. Ambrose boys to induce them to vomit, under the guise it will help the boys' hangovers.
  • Homemade Inventions: Momo concocts 1000-proof alcohol using equipment from her chemistry class.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: When Verena questions Odie why she's so fixated on losing her virginity, Odie replies that she's a teen and that's what teenagers think about. Verena also accuses her fellow D.A.R. members of being in support of a merger simply because of their boy-craziness.
    Verena: You all want to sell out the school because you’re horny!
  • How Did That Get in There?: The plot against Mr. Dewey.
  • Improvised Weapon: The girls of Miss Godard's use field hockey and lacrosse sticks to fend off security guards. Just before the guards can break into the school, the school equestrians ride in on horseback and keep the guards back.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Verena explains the D.A.R.’s manifesto at an early point in the film.
    Verena: In the D.A.R., we all share our most secret dreams of what we want to be. You see, most of the girls here at Miss Godard's, they've got all the opportunities to become something: a good upbringing, a great education, they're loaded. But in ten years they'll all be married with three kids and two cars and a Colonial and a collie—they're finished. That's why it's called a finishing school. But we—the D.A.R.—have other plans for ourselves.
    • Later, Verena has a conversation with Frosty where they find common ground.
    Frosty: I don't fit in. St. Ambrose guys are all marching off the same cliff. You know, the seat on the Stock Exchange, the wife, the 3.2 children—
    Verena: Yeah, the Colonial, the collie...
    Frosty: Right.
  • It Amused Me: When singing the school's Latin motto, Verena and Tinka insert vulgarities into the song.
  • It's Probably Nothing: Abby hears a loud thump in her dorm's hallway, but ignores it as she makes her way back to the dance.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mr. Dewey, who preys on his female students, is framed by the girls as a cross-dresser with pornographic magazines, resulting in his termination from the school. Todd Winslow and his cronies get beat up by the Flat Critters and have their clothes stolen. A Flat Critter takes the St. Ambrose photographer's camera with the humiliating photos of Tweety and smashes it.
  • Lipstick-and-Load Montage: Godard girls preparing for the dance with St. Ambrose boys.
  • Love at First Sight: Snake, after catching sight of Tinka walking by on a street.
    Snake: Guys...I'm in love.
  • Lured Into a Trap: Tweety is lured into a kiss with class stud Todd Winslow, only for Todd to expose a topless Tweety in order for his friends to get a photograph.
  • Meddling Parents: Mr. and Mrs. Sawyer sit on the Board of Trustees and are the most vocal supporters of Miss Godard's merger with St. Ambrose. Their true motive for the merger is revealed to be financial in nature, as Mr. Sawyer, who is in real estate, wants the land the campus is on for his sub-division.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: A few of the boys from St. Ambrose become these after the Flat Critters ambush them. Also the Flat Critters steal Mr. Dewey's clothes and lock him in a room before he can make a move on Odie.
  • Never My Fault: When Mr. Dewey catches Dennis and Odie during their rendezvous, Dennis insists he is the one at fault because he planned the whole thing. Mr. Dewey ignores Dennis and insists Odie is to blame.
    Mr. Dewey: She lured you here. Put you in a state of desire. Oh, you're not to blame for answering your impulses.
  • New Transfer Student: Odette "Odie" Sinclair.
  • Not My Lucky Day: On the day of the school's coed festivities, Abby has her date stolen by Verena, her stockings rip multiple times, and she’s thrown into the Hokey Pokey circle by drunk St. Ambrose boys.
  • One-Gender School: Miss Godard's is an all-girls school and St. Ambrose is an all-boys school.
  • Parental Neglect: Verena, whose parents are divorced, and they dropped her at boarding school, which made her think they don't want anything to do with her.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Tinka's mom, while talking to her, is not even paying attention to what Tinka's doing, and doesn't even notice her running off with Snake at the end. Abby's parents don't seem attentive towards their daughter either, and are more concerned with pushing the merger forward as members of the Board of Trustees.
  • Place Worse Than Death:
    Odie: I loathe and deplore this place.
    Verena: I don't see how you can say that when you're from Detroit.
  • Plucky Girl: All the female characters pretty much.
  • Porn Stash: Or what Miss McVane and Mrs. Dewey think is Mr. Dewey's porn stash, is actually from Verena's father's stash.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: The D.A.R. is resurrected upon Verena's expulsion.
  • Really Gets Around: Tinka is the promiscuous one, having had four pregnancy scares. Deconstructed as Tinka is well-aware that this reputation leaves her subject to double standards.
    Tinka: Because I'm a tramp! Okay? I'm a slut! I'm easy! That's my reputation! They'd assume I led you on. Now dry up and blow away!
  • Rite of Passage: Odie must complete a task to become a member of the D.A.R. The task is assisting the D.A.R. in their plot to get the predatory Mr. Dewey fired.
  • Rousing Speech:
    Verena: Right. Just imagine, we'll have to wash our hair every night. We'll have to sleep on rollers til our scalps bleed. Then we'll have to get up at six every morning for the comb out. Your lungs will be lined with hairspray. Then you need all this equipment to push up the tits and blitz the zits and spray the pits! Then you stagger into class and you look perfect but you're exhausted, you're too tired to even think but that's okay the teachers they won't call on you anyway, also you don't want to be smarter than the boys. They don't like that, so to wake yourself up you drink some coffee at lunch but don't eat the food. You'll be on a permanent diet!
  • Save Our Students: Variation of this in the face of opposition from the school's Board of Trustees. The girls of Miss Godard's attempt to save their school from being merged with St. Ambrose Academy, an all-boys school whose students' grades are significantly lower than those of Miss Godard's.
  • Secret Room: The D.A.R. convenes in an attic room above the school's kitchen. The room is accessed by a secret passageway, apparently only known by the D.A.R., that runs along the main building. The room gives the girls access to many boxes of canned ravioli, which inspires the name of their secret society.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: When pressed about her goals by the D.A.R., Odette says her foremost goal is to lose her virginity. Subverted when she realizes she isn’t into Dennis as much as she thought and reneges on her plan.
  • Situational Sexuality:
    • The stereotype about all-girls schools being full of lesbians is parodied with Odette's opening voice-over about being sent to Miss Godard's by her parents.
    Odie: They think I'll be safe surrounded by high walls and lesbians. This is the end of the world. One look tells you, this place eats the hairy bird.
    • Lampshaded by Verena.
    Verena: Alas, I lust for no one. [to Odie] Not even you.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: The Flat Critters are quirky hipster townies who are nevertheless able to pass themselves off as St. Ambrose students at the dance. They do not suffer the same fate as the drunk St. Ambrose boys and are the only ones left standing during the concert.
  • Spit Take:
    Verena: Would you like to come up to my room later?
    [spit take by Frosty]
    Frosty: Uh—you're allowed to have boys in your dorm?
  • Straw Feminist:
    Odette: You hypocrite. I thought you hated boys.
    Verena: I know, but I've been thinking, perhaps they are like dogs. If we don't take them in, they run wild and are a danger to society.
  • Stalking Is Love: Snake pursues Tinka even though she isn’t interested, going as far as to appear outside her window on a cherry-picker truck to profess his love for her. Only after Tinka discovers that Snake and his fellow Flat Critters beat up Todd Winslow does she change her mind about him.
  • Stern Teacher: Miss McVane. Though she can be a disciplinarian, she is very much against the school merger and gives Verena these parting words, "Don't stop the fight. Wherever you go, Verena, don't give up."
  • Token Minority: Lampshaded when Miss Godard girls are paired up individually with St. Ambrose boys. The only black student at St. Ambrose is paired with a Japanese girl, the only student of color at Miss Godard's.
  • Trojan Gauntlet: Dennis was supposed to bring condoms to his rendezvous with Odie, but instead, he brings a can of contraceptive foam, explaining, "This is something new. The girl puts it in." A hilarious sequence involves the characters physically grappling with the can of foam.
  • True Companions: The D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Ravioli). Members swear to help each other attain their dreams beyond the patriarchal goals of marriage and children. They congregate in the school's attic where they have access to canned ravioli.
  • Unishment: Verena targets Frosty because his connections (his grandfather is head of the Board of Trustees) could spell further disrepute for St. Ambrose. Frosty being caught drunk and fraternizing with a Miss Godard's student in her dorm room would surely end in his expulsion. However, it’s revealed expulsion is exactly what Frosty wants.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: First sent to Miss Godard's when her parents learned of her plans to lose her virginity to her boyfriend Dennis, Odie vows to finish what she started by planning a rendezvous with Dennis at the school.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Bradley "Frosty" Frost.
  • Vomit Chain Reaction: At the concert, after the dance.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue:
    • Verena started MOI Magazine which has over a million women readers.
    • Odette became a Congresswoman, declaring war on the tobacco industry.
    • Tinka, an actress, came out of the closet during a 1997 Barbara Walters interview.
    • Theresa, an adolescent psychologist, wrote the bestseller "Fatal Purge".
    • Maureen, a scientist, is developing the first male oral contraceptive.
    • Abigail, a radical activist, is still serving a prison sentence for her part in a 1970 bank holdup.
    • Miss Godard's remains an all-girls institution to this day.
  • Women Are Wiser: Verena and Momo manage to show the St. Ambrose students in a bad light. The eventual strike by Miss Godard students is successful.
  • Yellow Sash of Power: Abby proudly wears the badge of stars she was awarded for being elected to the Self-Government Committee nine times. Later subverted when she rips off the badge.
  • You Are Grounded!: After Odette fakes a note from her mom to go out on the town with her friends, Miss McVane talks with her mom on the phone and figures out it was a ruse. Odette is sent before the student council for a hearing and punishment, which is to be "grounded" for the rest of the year.

Alternative Title(s): All I Wanna Do