Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 3, 2022

Do Revenge is a fun high school drama that suffers from mixed messaging

By HELENA GIFFORD | September 25, 2022

camila-mendes-by-gage-skidmore

GAGE SKIDMORE / CC BY-SA 3.0

Camila Mendes stars as a tortured queen bee in Netflix’s Do Revenge.

Do Revenge, released on Netflix on Sept. 16., follows two girls who attend a prestigious prep school, Drea (Camila Mendes) and Eleanor (Maya Hawke), as they execute revenge plots on the students who’ve wronged them.

The movie’s protagonist is Drea, a queen bee scholarship student who enjoys a steady position at the top of the school social ladder and has her ambitions set on getting into Yale. She has it all – a handsome boyfriend, a big group of friends and a crowd of admirers. The movie opens with her being thrown a luxurious party for being recently featured in a Teen Vogue video.

Drea’s perfectly controlled reality falls apart around her when her boyfriend leaks a sex tape of her to everyone around the school. She confronts him about it in public, punching him when he denies leaking the video and the entire school turns against her.

That summer Drea meets Eleanor, a girl who plans to enroll in her school in the fall. Eleanor tells Drea a story about her own experience with rumors and abuse. When she was 13, she had a crush on a girl and confessed her feelings to her. The girl subsequently made up a story about being sexually assaulted by Eleanor, destroying her reputation and outing her at the same time. That girl would be attending the same school as Eleanor and Drea.

The girls bond over their shared experiences and decide to take revenge. Eleanor would avenge Drea by making the boyfriend’s life hell, and Drea would avenge Eleanor by torturing the girl who accused and outed her.

The movie has a fun and bright aesthetic. The uniforms of the students look like a cross between a country club golf player and a French schoolgirl, all in cheery lilac and mint pastels. The non-uniform outfits are all outrageous and quirky, with characters clothed in bright, shiny colors and plastic materials. Party scenes are more reminiscent of a Met Gala afterparty than high school social events, but with a little suspension of disbelief it’s highly entertaining to watch.

Certainly Do Revenge crafts a compelling story the whole way through. Without going into spoilers, the movie has many twists and turns that made it fun to watch. It might even be worth watching it a second time to pick up on any hidden details that I missed the first time through.

On a critical level, the film was lacking.

Do Revenge explores themes of feminism and sexual harassment with mixed success. Both Drea and Eleanor experienced traumatizing abuse where they were publicly displayed in a false or private manner without consent. The movie did briefly explore the way victims of sexual harassment can have unfair expectations placed upon them and are often easily dismissed.

However, the film doesn’t do much with the theme of sexual harassment and feminism beyond this. It becomes more about watching girls tear each other apart. It focuses on the thrill of getting revenge rather than the complex ways that different people deal with trauma.

The attempt toward a feminist tone is undercut as the majority of girls in the movie are simply swayed by a pretty face and easy-to-swallow excuses. There’s a moment where the abusive boyfriend is canceled after a scandal is revealed, but after a couple well-placed explanations every girl in the school is swooning over him again. There’s a lack of respect for teenage girls and their ability to think independently — not great in a movie where the target demographic is teenage girls.

The main characters are incredibly toxic. In itself, this is not problematic, but the resolution of the movie seems to imply that their toxic behavior is acceptable as long as they stick together through the power of love and friendship.

Despite its flaws I still found the movie to be a fun and compelling watch. If you’re looking for a trashy high school drama to unwind with, this might be for you. It gets crazy at times, and the messages don’t quite make sense when you pick them apart, but it’s entertaining. If you’re feeling some heartache and want to watch toxic people hurting each other for two hours, then I suggest you open up a tub of ice cream, paint your face with your most outrageous glittery makeup and enjoy Do Revenge.

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