10 Things I Learnt From… Spice World

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“They don’t just sing!” Apparently.

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Geri, as Maleficent, ponders life’s big questions.

Let’s get one thing straight: Spice World is a masterpiece. If you were a little girl (or little gay) in the 90’s, you loved the Spice Girls. If you try and claim you weren’t attracted to their garish dress sense, Quality Street-esque ‘there’s one for everyone’ personalities, insanely catchy pop music and even more insanely high shoes, you’re a damn liar and I have no time for you. I could literally talk all day about how the Spice Girls shaped my childhood. How they were my first obsession, how I realised I didn’t fancy any of them, and instead, wanted to be like them. And how, as a young, seven or eight year old boy, there was an acceptable level to which one was allowed to like the Spice Girls. You could own a CD but not the dolls. You could watch them on Top of the Pops but not record it for posterity and destroy the tape due to frequent rewinding. You could talk about them in the playground in-between bouts of Pokemon but certainly not dream to own six versions of the VHS of the movie, one for each alternative cover they released. And so we begin, friends, at that moment of peak ‘Spice’. Post-global domination, pre-Geri collectively breaking the hearts of the world. A time when someone thought to themselves, these girls can carry a movie (spoiler klaxon: they struggle) and ultimately, creating a film that was pretty much the death knell for music phenomena releasing anything other than a tour movie. 1 hour and 32 minutes of cinematic platinum that made me feel like that same screaming little boy who longed for a pair of platform shoes as well as my Adidas tracksuit. Collected here, the ten valuable lessons I learnt from Spice World.

If you can’t decide on one thing to do, do them all half-assed

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Richard E. Grant’s actual reaction to his agent’s phone call

So for those of you who haven’t seen this movie or indeed, have seen it and willingly blocked out for the sake of your sanity, let’s discuss the plot. The Spice Girls have an upcoming live gig and nerves abound. General stuff, right? Oh wait, they’re being followed by Alan Cumming who is making a documentary about them whilst battling off an evil tabloid editor who is out to ruin them. Oh, and meta klaxon folks, some filmmakers are pitching movie ideas to their management,… because, you know, we need some intelligent filmmaking for the poor parents who no doubt sat through his movie 18  times to have a giggle at. They also need to rehearse for their gig, help their pregnant friend, befriend extra-terrestrials, and have what feels like several crack-induced fantasy vignettes. This is all within the 60 minutes of the film where they’re not singing. It’s a fucking mess. You can feel the sense of desperation as they scrambled to put together a film and no doubt incorporated all the ideas that they came up with one afternoon after a heavy liquid lunch. Thus, as the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. And if that doesn’t work, just do it all anyway because it’s for kids and they’ll not give a shit. And I didn’t.

“Yeah, but can they act?”

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A ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ question within the movie that proves that yes, despite what you may think, every damn person involved with this film was in on the joke. The answer to that question? Oh, no, they can’t. Not one bit. But God love them, they try. Geri Halliwell’s acting career may have peaked in her Emmy-deserving Sex and the City cameo (No, seriously, enjoy) but her inner-most desire for an acting career is evident from every muggy look to camera, her Pat Butcher speech near the end of the movie, her genuine shock at meeting some aliens almost, damnit almost sells it to me, The Melanies are… the Melanies. It’s quite some talent to merely play yourself without a hint of depth of reality or nuance. Emma Bunton is Emma Bunton. She smiles at lot and she was probably just very happy to be there. Wait, what about Victoria?

Victoria is the MVP

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Remember when it used to be cool to hate Victoria Beckham because she had terrible hair and never smiled and seemed completely and utterly humourless regarding anything to do with her Spice past? Remember when we started to like her again because she isn’t desperately clinging to the tattered remains of her music legacy even though she still doesn’t smile? Yeah, Continuing to prove her worth of, at the very least, third best Spice Girl, she runs rings around the rest in terms of acting. Subtle? Not in the slightest but she doesn’t have to be. She just gets the ‘Posh’ persona and has a field day with it. If you are honestly going to crack a smile at any part of this film, it will be Vicky hamming it up and actually managing to deliver I’d say, a good 85% of her lines, on point. A feat unmatched by the rest even cumulatively. Even when she’s shouting at a little comatose boy, she’s an absolute joy.

Cameos can save anything

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Your plot is a mess, most of your leading ladies range from mediocre to downright terrible: what do you do? You find as many 90s celebrities are humanly possible to litter your cast to divert the attention away from… well, everything else. Does it work, I hear you cry? Not at all. Despite the abundance of plots, there’s only so many times you can rely on singing scenes to pad out the running time, so filmmakers decided to wheel out, I assume, everyone they found one afternoon at the BBC. Hugh Laurie, Meat Loaf, Roger Moore, Dominic West, Elvis Costello, Stephen Fry, Jools Holland, Bob Geldof, Dame Edna, Jonathan Ross, and most bizarrely perhaps, Bob Hoskins. Indeed the queen herself, Elton John, brings some much needed credibility to proceedings.

Friendship Never Ends: Saddled with a Pregnant Friend

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The friend you pretend to like but exclude from your successful band

Nicola. Her from Torchwood. The best friend of all the Spice Girls. They just never liked her enough to ever invite her into the band and seem to treat her like an inconvenience throughout. In what seems like a way to humanise the girls or show that they have a life outside they band, the movie creates their heavily pregnant friend, Nicola, who is dumped at the start of the movie whilst heavily, heavily pregnant. The girls treat this turn of events with about as much concern as they would had Nicola suffered mild indigestion because who needs men, Girl Power. Or something. At a loss to how to keep their friendship with Nicola alive at the height of fame, they take her to a celeb party and promptly ignore her. To apologise, they take her clubbing and promptly ignore her. Now I’ve not yet been a pregnant woman, but I’m going to guess someone due to give birth imminently doesn’t want to go to a sweaty night club in the 90s, surrounded by men with condoms in their pockets, Adidas on their feet and Brylcreem in their hair. Nevertheless, the Spice Girls attend her delivery then fuck off to the Albert Hall for their big gig. Nicola was probably left sobbing at the hospital.

Arses: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the D

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*insert comment about Geri’s post-‘Look At Me’ discography here*,  via Tumblr

Real talk: liking the Spice Girls full stop should have given me the gay awakening I needed in my childhood but alas not. I thought it was completely normal to be envious of the aforementioned platform shoe craze in which I could never partake and secretly bought a can of Spice Girls Impulse fragrance like it was the most normal thing in the world. Indeed it was a few years yet before I realised I was gay (in a completely, separate and embarrassing awakening which I will share sometime… maybe) but even if I didn’t know what gay was, I knew damn well I should have been more horrified by a parade of naked male arses during a misjudged Gary Glitter song cover than I actually was. Borderline inappropriate for the target audience and ridiculous, it remained etched in my brain for many years along with a  generation of young gay men and sexually frustrated mums barely managing to stay awake at the cinema.

Would this work with only four?“: Spice Girls, the prophets

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Thankfully, Mel C’s Sherrie Hewson inspired hair was not forever

No, girls it wouldn’t. You’ll release a poor final album, would all get divisive hair-dos, launch solo careers and release music with questionable degrees of quality then tarnish your legacy with a sub-par reunion single. Yes, Spice World raises the topic of the future with alarming accuracy as several lines contemplate the future of the band. “Is it all going to be over soon?”, they query. It certainly was. In hindsight it’s actually fun to see the girls preach about girl power and togetherness when it would all fall apart so spectacularly so soon after. It’s even funnier to see how Geri was written to annoy the living shit out of her bandmates with terrible anecdotes and irrelevant facts. Maybe it was the manta ray story that was the beginning of the end. And as for”Do you think I’m always going to be seen as Baby Spice?”, I needn’t answer. Bunton will be 80 and hobbling on a walker and still be called ‘Baby’…

FEMINISM IS A THING

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I didn’t.

Who needs Tumblr when you have the Spice Girls waving the feminism flag to a whole generation of susceptible youth? Girl Power. More than a marketing shtick way ahead of its time and still incredibly relevant. Spice Girls taught me about feminism before I even knew what it was. “If you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends!” Not an orgy invitation, no. A warning. Yes, it’s cheesy, yes, it’s trite but there’s no denying Spice World’s feminist leanings. The whole crux of the movie, and the brand in general, is one focusing on the friendship of five girls, all different, and all committed to each other. A PG Sex and the City. Without all the sex. A younger Golden Girls. Without all the sex. There is ne’er a love interest to be found to be found in Spice World. The girls are focused on themselves, their band, their career and their pregnant friend. Bechdel Test? Flying colours.

“What Do You Think about Manta Ray?” Celebrity Culture in a Nutshell

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Baby Spice: Cultural commentator

Now I know what your about to say. No one looks to Spice World for a post-modern reading on 21st Century celebrity culture BUT IT’S RIGHT THERE. How can you ignore the damning commentary of the British press through the subtle moniker that is Kevin McMaxford? The newspaper editor who stops at nothing to set up the girls and tear them down in the public eye due to their incredible success? How can you avoid the depiction of public backlash and tall poppy syndrome as every, innocuous comment is dissected like a misguided tweet from Susan Boyle’s PR team (Let #susanalbumparty be etched on my tombstone). And let us not ignore the critical takedown of the vacuous lifestyle of shallow celebritydom, masterfully shown by Jennifer Saunders seemingly in character as Edina Monsoon but dressed as Jennifer Saunders, discussing prolific designer ‘Manta Ray’. Marvellous designer apparently.

The Necessity of the Action Montage

A Tardis bus. A bomb. A race against time to the Albert Hall with Victoria our star. A movie climax that dreams are made of. A scene that needs to be seen to be believed and to this day, the most impressive stunt work committed to screen and yet to be bested. Lara Croft… Liam Neeson… Eat your heart out.

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via Tumblr

Victoria is the hero we deserve.

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