Josie and the Pussycats came out in 2001, which probably doesn’t sound like a long time ago to you, but most definitely is. For reference, here are a few things that hadn’t happened yet when the film dropped: The Apprentice, Kim Kardashian, smartphones, Facebook, 9/11, Britney’s breakdown, and the death of Napster. So yeah, it’s been a minute. Or 16 years if you’re into being exact. Despite the film’s age, its subversive, nonconformist, anti-capitalist message has never felt more relevant than it does right now. Sure, not every aspect of the film has aged well (see: Tara Reid’s career), but looking back on it now, Josie and the Pussycats feels strangely prescient. Read on for why it’s worth a rewatch ASAP.
The whole subliminal advertising thing: While Josie and the Pussycats is ostensibly just a musical comedy film about three small-town girls with big dreams, at its core, it’s also a biting satire of consumer capitalism. The rub is this: In the Josie and the Pussycats world, big record companies are conspiring with the government to brainwash kids by placing subaural messages that encourage them to consume, conform, and obey underneath popular tracks. Oh, and as soon as the musicians figure out what they’re doing, they kill them off (“why do you think so many rock stars die in plane crashes?”). The film uses the conspicuous placement of brands like McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Target to implicate the audience in all of this, which for some reason was too nuanced a device for viewers in 2001, causing many to dismiss the film as hypocritical. 16 years later, advertising has only become more pervasive and more targeted, thanks in large part to the internet and social media, which allow companies to track our likes and dislikes down to our most recent Google search in order to better market to us. And while having our favorite rock stars, actors, and television personalities attempt to hawk us products on the regular via corporate sponsored Instagram posts isn’t exactly subliminal advertising, it certainly hints at the kind of corporatization of celebrity that the film predicted. Though hopefully, shilling for Sugar Bear Hair or whatever isn’t a life or death matter.
The fashion: Apparently, noughties fashion is poised to make a serious comeback. And while I’m still not sure how I feel about reliving my Juicy Couture-and-tanning-beds phase, if you’re looking for early-2000s outfit inspo, there are worse places to start than with Josie and the Pussycats. From those low-riding, bootcut pants to the trio’s seemingly endless cache of Going Out Tops, the movie did early aughts fashion with a dash of ’70s rock star style, which definitely helped make all the sequins and asymmetrical hemlines a bit more palatable. There are also several attempts at monochromatic looks — popular today with the Kardashian/Jenner clan — including one in which Rachel Leigh Cook does head-to-toe teal leopard print topped off with faux fur and matching ears. There’s no point in trying to decide whether you “love” or “hate” it; this lewk is beyond such simplistic classifications. And speaking of ears, today’s pussyhat trend could not have existed without the proliferation of novelty cat ears (and, fine, Donald Trump’s disgusting mouth, but we’ll get to that later).
The evil villain who’s actually sad and insecure underneath: You may remember the scene at the end of the movie when Parker Posey’s aggressively fashion-forward villain Fiona is revealed for who she really is: a lisping wannabe who never got over high school, and whose attempts to control the minds of America’s youth are really just a ploy to convince people that she’s cool. While this is obviously an overly simplified caricature of evil, the whole thing really isn’t that far off from the backstory of one Donald Trump, a brash Queens-bred striver, insecure about his thinning hair and small hands, desperate to convince the denizens of Manhattan and Hollywood that he belongs and willing to lie to the American people in his demented quest to do so. But while Fiona has a befeathered choker and Alan Cumming as her minion, all Trump has is his toupee and his tweets.
The girl power ethos: Josie and the Pussycats came not long after the heyday of the Spice Girls and the fictional band’s vibe was very similar to their British predecessors. It was all about friendship, girl power, and believing in yourself. And while girl power may have briefly taken a back seat to Mean Girls, it’s now back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, just as Spice Girls-era feminism was quickly commodified to sell belly shirts and platform shoes, so too is ours, except now it’s all about pantsuits and $710 slogan tees. Regardless, the film’s values of sticking together, staying humble, and fighting back against the bad guys will never grow old.
The soundtrack: If it’s been a few years since you dusted off your Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack (don’t lie, you still have it somewhere), you’re gonna wanna give it a listen, because those energetic power-pop ballads are even better than you remember. But did you know that the crew behind it is basically a who’s who of contemporary pop music? Overseen by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds (the man responsible for launching the careers of Toni Braxton, TLC, Outkast, and more), the list of songwriters includes Matthew Sweet, Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, and Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, while Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo fame performed vocals. And just like that, you no longer have to feel ashamed of listening to “Spin Around” on repeat.