Spice World: Millennial Post-Modern Masterpiece or Nonsensical Pop Propaganda?


Let’s go back to a simpler time, the late 90s. The teen Rom-Com ruled the box office, every white, Hollywood starlet had an on-screen tryst with a bumbling Hugh Grant and tattoo chokers were fashionable for the first time. In 1997 the Spice Girls were the female One Direction with sold out international tours and young girls clambering over themselves for just a glimpse of true girl power (or possibly a solid platform shoe) instead of really pretty boys. Any millennial will remember watching whether by choice or by force. At first glance, Spice World is a hurricane of nonsense with a nineties pop soundtrack, however over time it begs the question: This must have been on purpose, right? Normally when a movie is so scatter-brained it has, like, nine writers (cc: Catwoman). I am convinced that there is a method to this madness of a quasi-kids movie.

Like a condemned house, the structure of Spice World is shaky at best. The plot is a mish-mash of ideas crumpled together, much like a manufactured girl band put together by record execs in the late nineties. Though what else could you expect considering that the script was in the masterful hands of Kim Fuller who six years later brought us S Club 7 movie, Seeing Double and the American Idol movie, From Justin to Kelly.

Spice World is a subversive popstar movie, somewhere in the zeitgeist between Never Say Never, in its pandering to children (kind of), its core audience, and Spinal Tap, as it often verges on parody such as the storyline with the Rupert Murdoch-esque villain.

In the same vein as A Hard Day’s Night, Spice World is light-hearted and the nonsense just serves as more evidence that the purpose of Spice World is purely spectacle. The main plot is the Spice getting ready for their first performance at Royal Albert Hall, a milestone in their career, and their random Asian friend, Nicola, is getting ready to have a baby without her off-screen boyfriend, which she can do alone because Girl Power.

The vignettes that are sporadically placed within the narrative, with seemingly no purpose or meaning, add a Russian doll complexity to the film. The F plot of that guy from cheers and his cohort trying to convince the Spice Girls to be in a movie, inside the movie, is at times confusing. However, Alan Cumming’s Q plot documentary is fascinating in its inability to accomplish anything. His character wants to “capture the magic” and “raw emotion” and achieves nothing, which could speak to a post-modern audience that spends too much time talking about what they want and ruining the metaphorical B-roll, or it was a terrible running gag, most likely the latter.

The Spice Girls don’t want to show you the real them, they use the stereotype forced on them for comedy’s sake and attempt to subvert them through character development such as Posh Spice wearing trousers in a few scenes instead of always “the little Gucci dress” and driving the Spice Bus. See! Subversion… The whole SPICE-y crew have story credit so they had a heavy hand in the development process and it shows in their portrayals and the flow of the story.

Spice World also does a great job of subverting our understanding of the media by exaggerating the villain, leaving no room for ambiguity. Bringing Enquirer articles to life with alien encounters, I’m sure Geri was never the same after being groped by a cape wearing alien. Yet is gives a hint of the cooped up nature of stardom, it shows the girls mostly working, even during jokes they are on the job.

Four years the predecessor to Zoolander, the movie works overtime on cameos squeezing as many favours from British talent, acting wise and other in between the multiple storylines that are occurring simultaneously on-screen. From Rocky Horror cult favourites Richard O’Brien and Meatloaf to the other charitable Irish rocker, Bob Geldof, the list of celebs popping their heads in for a quick laugh is endless. Also, I’m pretty sure that Nile Rodgers is in the background of ‘Spice up Your Life’ however I have no evidence to back this up.

While I feel more confident that cocaine was on the mind of the production team than post-modernism, this isn’t a straight forward popstar movie. It isn’t pandering to children, in fact it’s not quite clear who this movie is for. It is at heart an ode to a classic and yet is so frantic that you wouldn’t be able to catch the homage because there are 75 storylines. I think that Spice World lives in the millennial nineties ‘so bad its good’, as a recovering teenage girl growing up during the golden years of Top of the Pops and Smash Hits, this movie in all of its batshit craziness is a classic and it’s not the “get to know me” concert movie that we get now. Spice World is pure nonsensical fantasy and a fresh breathe of Indica.