Saturday, 26 April 2014

Derby Girl VS Whip It: Nothing like a book/film comparison on a Sunday morning.

I am the proud owner of both the derby film Whip It and the book it was based on, Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. Last weekend I watched Whip It with Stephen while I was partway through my re-re-re-read of the novel. There aren't a lot of differences in the plot line, but still a fair bit I wanted to comment on all the same.


1. Derby Girl is a Young Adults novel. The movie is a coming-of-age tale in a grown up world.
One review I read of Derby Girl mentions how much of a YA novel this is, and how some people won't be able to relate to it. It's probably hard for me to diss this idea as I really love YA fiction. On the other hand, if you were ever a teenager, if you ever liked derby and if you ever did things like dying your hair blue, you will relate to this novel.

2. Pash is a lot less of a crappy friend in the film.
Whip It's Pash is amazing. I would love to be her friend. Why? She drives Bliss to bouts, covers a shift so Bliss can go on a date, is fun to be around and is almost-always her number one fan. And also this line (which is in both film and book): "I didn't have a roller skating Barbie phase. I had a 'fat kid sits inside and reads' phase."

3. Malice/Maggie is amazing.
Malice in Wonderland in Derby Girl is about 20 and lives in college. She has her own place and even buys the lie that Bliss has had her skates stolen without asking questions. Bliss goes as far to suggest that Malice in her derby fairy godmother. Not a bad title really.

In the film I love Maggie Mayhem (Malice's renamed character, who has the same name as Shauna Cross's derby alter ego). Why? So many reasons. She is the first person to suggest that Bliss tries derby. She is incredibly nice to everyone - even Iron Maven. Towards the end of the film we discover that Maggie never comes to the after parties because she has a son - and she seems like the coolest mum ever.

4. The film's roller girls are more than friends-in-name-only.
 Of course the novel isn't going to capture the essence of being in a team - if anything it reminds me of when Stephen comes home and tells me what everyone from footy did during the game but I have no idea who he is talking about. Well, except in name only. Bliss's friends in the novel are very one-dimensional, with a few expections: Iron Maiden and Malice in Wonderland.

The film explored characters briefly but enough to get an essence of who they are. Spring and I love Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore's character) who features only in the bouts and after-party scenes. Each of the roller girls have a particular style and their characters (or at least their alter egos) are fleshed out enough to make us believe that a) they are actual friends of Bliss and b) they are each very unique. Just like roller derby.

5. The book explores more about the life Bliss leads, including her complicated relationship with her parents.
 If anything, the book probably dwells on this too much. Okay, we get it, Bliss's parents are strange and are still in a discovery mode about their own lives. Ed, for example, doesn't make any decisions about his family, while Brooke is trying to live vicariously through her daughters. These aren't unfamiliar narratives, but still interesting. Best line from the movie: when Bliss returns home and apologizes to her dad for being horrible he says "Already forgotten kiddo." Gets me every single time.

6. Oliver is still a jerk.
I actually hate Oliver.
Not just because he cheats on Bliss, but because she can't ever really be herself around him. She has to lie a lot (especially in the novel),  and when he goes back to get his guitar during the first time they meet, he never comes back - surely it isn't too hard to find Bliss helping Pash throw up - after all, it was in the bathroom next door to the music nook. In the novel Bliss is so upset about Oliver that she doesn't even use his name, using ______ instead.
All too real-to-life was when Bliss goes to her school library on those old rubbishy computers and find photos of Oliver and the chick wearing her Stryper t-shirt. I think we have all had moments like that - when it all gets too hard, you run away and eat shepherd's pie on the floor of you kitchen. Or similar. Brooke kindly says "Whoever her is, he doesn't deserve you," which is incredibly sweet considering that Bliss has spent the last few days being a whiny teenager.

7. Derby sounds a lot easier in Derby Girl than Whip It.
Although Bliss tells us that at the fresh meat intake she is not really skilled, except at speed skating, this is the only time we hear anything to contradict this. From what I can gather, the time frame for both the movie and the book is only a few months. How does Bliss go from barely being able to do anything on skates to suddenly becoming a jammer? All the same, this is fiction and poetic license is allowed (I suppose).

8. Bliss has interesting hobbies, including shoplifting from Wal-Mart.
Novel Bliss shoplifts for fun from Wal-Mart with Pash. She suggests this hobby only began because the chain store rejected her application, possibly due to her blue hair. All the same, I'm glad movie Bliss is a bit more redeemable in this respect. She does pay for her own shoes after all.

9. Both versions of Bliss are still highly awkward and almost cringe-worthy in how easy it is to relate to them.
Sometimes Bless says the lamest things. least favoruite line: during a bout when they are being thrashed by the other team, Bliss says "Let's go ape shit," in an incredibly serious way. Out of character slightly, it just didn't seem to work in screen for me.
What is great about Bliss is that she's fully aware of how awkward she really is. How many teenagers know that or would ever admit to it? Very few. That's why I love Bliss.

10. Derby changes a girl's life, the end.
In the end, the these two tales tell the same thing: derby changes lives. One of the most beautiful things about Bliss is that she had labelled herself as a misfit, until she found derby. She says in the book: these are our people when first discovering The Dollhouse and derby. And once Bliss has fully integrated into derby life, she starts thinking outside her Bodeen existence - a tangible and real plan based on her knowledge gleaned from young adulthood.

Go Babe Ruthless!