Foxes (1980) opens with a shot of a bare foot hanging off of a bed. After panning up the body of a sleeping young woman, the camera travels throughout her room, charting the detritus of adolescent life; pink plastic curlers, makeup, half-eaten Twinkies, Clearasil, and pictures of John Travolta and KISS. Four girls are entwined in sleep. It is a peaceful scene, filled with both the immediacy and nostalgia of youth. It is a fleeting moment of calm and a testament to the intimacy of adolescent bonds. The moment is shattered by an alarm clock radio, a token of reality calling the girls back from dreams and illusion. Three of the girls wake up and grudgingly set their sights on the fourth girl, still in a deep sleep. “Oh Christ. We gotta wake up Annie,” one girl says, exasperated. They begin to discuss the girl: she had been out late last night, was she drinking or on Quaaludes? “She was sick all over some guy’s car,” a girl mentions. They set the radio next to her head, raising the volume. Still she sleeps. They grab a glass of water, sprinkling some on her face. She continues to sleep. Jeanie, played by Jodie Foster, throws the remaining water on her face. She awakens and sleepily addresses the girls gathered around her. This will be the last moment that she is in repose for Annie is a force, an agent of chaos. She is kinetic energy. Wherever there is screaming, giggling, crashing, or breaking, there is Annie.
Foxes is the story of four adolescent girls, dealing with all of life’s dysfunctions, while living in an intoxicating but unforgiving landscape, one that dwarfs them both physically and emotionally. Parents are dismissive and absent at best, jealous or abusive at worst. The girls find solace with one another, as they dream of finding a house for themselves, creating the home that they never had. Annie is played by Cherie Currie. Though not the protagonist of the film, she is the fixed point around which everyone and everything orbits. Throughout Foxes, Annie refuses to be contained. She rushes from dirtbag older men to drugs and beer, searching for that quiet, that stillness, that sense of contentment with herself. Despite, or maybe because of, her chaos, the girls become the main support in her life, as they all daydream of making a world all their own, where they are together and they are safe. Annie is simultaneously a warning and a lesson and an ode to reckless youth. She is a fictional character, but she is also Currie’s own youth in an all-girl teenage rock band and she is also a part of my youth.
When Currie was fifteen years old, she auditioned for and became the lead singer of The Runaways, a group that included a young Joan Jett. They sang about rebellion and desire, and being a teenager in an era when rock and roll reigned supreme. There was a simplicity to their songs, but also a vitality and immediacy. There was a thrill in hearing young women defy expectation, reveling in a hedonistic world that was usually only accessible to women as groupies. Currie had power. She would strut around the stage in a corset daring people to look at her, proclaiming her viciousness, discarding convention. It was a confrontation with her own sexualization. It was brazen. It put her in control. The band was only together for a short time, but the repercussions of the world that Currie was thrust into would affect her for years to come. There was rampant drug addiction, alcoholism, and stories of sexual assault. It was a brutal world that Currie was forced to navigate alone. But the energy, the sense of caustic abandon, that Currie brought to The Runaways was the energy that she would later bring to the character of Annie.
I think about Annie often because a part of me was her—the part that hurtled towards destruction without really wanting it or knowing why, the part that was feeling and reacting to the depths of an unarticulated rage inside of me by seeking to destroy it. In my early twenties, I was careening daily, hourly from one bad habit to another, drinking until I was senseless, feeling my life whirling into chaos, feeling as if I was powerless to stop it. I became a chore to the people around me, I became the person who had to be taken care of. My emotions and self-loathing were driving everything. I would repress all of it until I exploded—breaking things, lashing out at people, passing out, falling down, or wandering off in the middle of the night. My memory is spotty at best, but what is forgotten has been filled in with shame and guilt. Guilt that I had no right to be this way. I was a relatively well-adjusted young woman who had lived a life of comfort and stability up until this point. I was a healthy, fairly attractive twenty-year-old with no responsibilities, but I hated myself and so I went out. I went to parties, I went to bars, and I did whatever I could to forget myself for a moment. What started out as a little healthy rebellion careened out of control in a way that I couldn’t understand because I was never sober enough to question the events of the previous night or the thoughts running through my head. Always having been shy, I was now riddled with anxiety, and things became dark and messy and it all spiraled long before I could articulate what it was that was wrong. It descended into chaos before I realized that I could stop it and then finally I did.
So, when I think about Annie and Cherie Currie, I also think of my younger self. When I think about Annie, I can’t help but think about the walls that we put up in order to appear strong when, in truth, we are so painfully vulnerable. I think about how those walls, those inadequate coping mechanisms, alongside the fear of being seen and its twin loneliness, can come to dictate a life so completely. I think of carelessness, of the thrill and danger of rushing into chaos with the utter calm of a person intent on making their inner turmoil a physical presence. I think about how life can so quickly become dictated by rage and sadness, to the point that nothing else can get in. So Annie is special to me. Annie feels like me. When I see her head lolling about, when I see her murmuring inaudibly, her eyes hazy and unfocused, I see a former version of myself. I see a girl longing for stability, clarity, and the warmth and safety of her friends (a feeling I didn’t know for I had become so emotionally isolated). I feel the pain that she radiates, the pain forcing her to ricochet from one amusement to another in order to outrun herself. I want her to find peace because I know what it is to want that peace, even though you have no idea what it might look like, even though you appear to actively disdain it. I see a girl trying to define herself within the world, just as I too was wondering who I was or who I could be. I see the senseless recklessness of my own youth, but I also see my own survival, the triumph over my rage. I see how different I am from my former self, how much I’ve grown, but I also see how important it is to never hide from this former self. It will always be a part of me; that hurt, pain, and fear that was so scary to me also made me learn so much about myself and it should never be forgotten. Annie helps me remember this.