By Michele Yeo
It’s been 25 years since we were introduced to Romy White and Michele Weinberger as they were preparing to head home to Arizona for their ten-year high school reunion. On the surface, the movie may seem like nothing more than colourful candy-coated comedic confection that’s endlessly quotable with a soundtrack that slaps, but if you look a bit deeper, beyond the iconic hair, makeup, costumes, catchphrases, and that epic three-way dance scene, you’ll find Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion is actually a bit of a Trojan Horse with regard to feminist ideals.
Here are five ways the 1997 cult classic is actually a clandestine feminist classic as well.
They Don’t Need Men
While Romy and Michele initially embark on a quest to find boyfriends ahead of their reunion, it’s more about the image of being coupled up than actually wanting or needing men. We never get the sense that these ladies are overly anxious about their singledom or need men to make them happy and fulfilled. On a night out at the club, when there are no suitable prospects from whom to choose, the women simply make their own fun with Romy suggesting, “Come on Michele, let’s just go dance with ourselves.” The women are so non-stressed about men that when, at one point, Romy suggests it would be easier if she were a lesbian, Michele offers, “do you want to try and have sex sometime just to see if we are?”
They Practice Self-Love
Long before the concept of self-love and self-care became de rigueur, Romy and Michele were practitioners. In one scene the women are getting ready for a night out when Romy exclaims, “I can’t believe how cute we look,” while Michele chimes in, “I know! This is like, the cutest we’ve ever looked,” and Romy adds, “I love that we can say that to each other and we know we’re not being conceited.” And it doesn’t come off as conceited. While the women embark on a self-improvement crash course ahead of the reunion, they come to realize they are enough just as they are. The women are so at peace with who they are, they never truly appreciated how unpopular they were at Sagebrush High with Michele saying, “I never knew that we weren’t that great in high school. I mean, we had so much fun together, I thought high school was a blast. And until you told me our lives weren’t good enough, I thought everything since high school was a blast.”
They DGAF What Others Think
While Romy and Michele are initially worried that they aren’t accomplished enough, don’t look good enough, don’t measure up enough to attend their ten-year reunion, they eventually get to a place of radical self-acceptance and give zero fucks about what their former classmates think of them with Romy laying into perpetual bully Christie with, “You know what I finally realized? I don’t care if you like us because we don’t like you. You’re a bad person with an ugly heart and we don’t give a flying fuck about what you think.” The women come to a place of radical self-acceptance. “I think we should just go back out there as ourselves and have fun like we always do,” encourages Michele, “to hell with everyone else.” Even their sartorial choices say they don’t give a fuck, with the women choosing to wear whatever makes them happy and feel good over fitting in with others or following trends. Ultimately it’s what gets them their own clothing store in the end.
Romy and Michele Are True Ride or Dies
Though they weren’t without conflict, Romy and Michele were true ride or die besties. The women consistently had each other’s back, were each other’s biggest cheerleaders, and never let anyone come between them. Even when they’re in the midst of a fight, Michele jumps to Romy’s defense when the Post-Its lie is exposed and mean girl Christie is making fun of Romy. They also never choose a man over each other as evidenced when, at the reunion, Sandy Frink asks Michele to dance and she responds, “only if Romy can dance with us.” The result, of course, is the iconic three-way interpretive dance number set to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
The palpable chemistry between Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino was key to this friendship and it’s chemistry that, a quarter of a century later, is still there as we saw when the women took to the stage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards earlier this year. The actors say they’re not opposed to a Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion reunion (how meta!) and discussed the possibility recently on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
The presence of Janeane Garofalo alone automatically makes Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion a low-key feminst classic. Don’t ask us how or why, we will not be elaborating at this time. It’s just science, okay?