What is a white girl, if not a daft ninny to be mocked and used as nothing more than an orifice? It’s an examination of a stereotype that’s become more prevalent in a post-White Chicks era. And with her directorial and screenwriting debut, Elizabeth Wood paints a lurid elucidation of this archetype through a young party girl gentrifier in NYC, a label that calls into play so many aspects of the white female mystique.
Leah (Morgan Saylor, something of an Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon doppelganger), a 20ish college student on summer break, begins her vacation by moving into a new apartment in Ridgewood–“Where the fuck is that?”, a co-worker asks ridiculing. Along with her best friend and roommate, Katie (India Menuez), Leah becomes increasingly attracted to the use of drugs, made readily available to her by the guys who hang out on the corner across the street from her place, the ringleader being an attractive charmer named Blue (Brian Marc). At first a casual user of your garden variety fare (read: weed), Leah’s predilection toward cocaine a.k.a. “white girl” escalates after striking up a rapport with Blue, in spite of his insistence that he doesn’t “fuck around” with people who are addicted to it.
Her first electric interaction with him occurs while having a housewarming party, of sorts, with some fellow students in the mix who scoff at Leah and Katie’s latest residence, declaring they could never live outside the dorms in a neighborhood like this (which is ridiculous because it’s Ridgewood). In a personality-based move that describes her need to prove herself and her bravery to those around her–a sort of white girl constant as a result of never being taken seriously–Leah decides to approach Blue to see if he has weed when she discovers she’s out of the social panacea. With the others presumably watching her from safely above, Blue stares Leah down ominously in response to her question and ultimately cautions, “Hey shorty. Don’t do drugs.”
The warning proves a valid one as Leah goes increasingly off the rails with regard to self-control. After encountering Blue again at the bodega near her apartment, he reveals his softer side when he explains that his friends call him Blue because “I’m always sad–until I met you.” Her ceaseless search for affection and physical validation (shown the moment we see her sucking off her boss, Kelly [Justin Bartha], at the internship she vaguely works at) is appealed to, and she instantly lets Blue into her heart… followed by her apartment and pussy.
But her white girl ways–pluckiness, unfamiliarity with not getting what she wants, etc.–can’t fully extend to Blue’s world; after all, he’s still a Hispanic drug dealer. When she invites him and his friends, Nene (Ralph Rodriguez) and Kilo (Anthony Ramos), to a party Kelly is throwing in Chinatown, he initially refuses. Cajoling him to come with her so he can sell his coke supply, he insists, “I don’t fuck with the city.” Leah’s coquetry, of course, wins out–a fact that harkens back to Sharon Tate as Jennifer in Valley of the Dolls lamenting, “All I know how to do is take off my clothes.” Leah, too, can’t help but use her most powerful weapon–her looks and youth–to get what (and get away with what) she wants while meeting little resistance in the process.
Upon sampling a taste for how willing white people are to shell out for more and more coke throughout the night, Blue suddenly becomes enthusiastic about procuring a larger bulk of the product from known loose cannon and kingpin of the neighborhood drug scene, Lloyd (Adrian Martinez). When he expresses this notion to Kilo, who has now struck up a relationship with Katie after the party, and Nene, they both bail, chastising Blue for his foolishness propelled by greed. Leah sticks around for the drive over to Lloyd’s, having sex with him in the back of the car in one of many casually sensationalist carnal scenes that pepper the film.
When Leah gets out of the car while Blue is inside attempting to present his business strategy, she encounters a shady man (later revealed to be a snitch) wearing a hat that says “Muerte” on it. He demands, “What are you doing here?” She returns snarkily, “What are you doing here?” He laughs, “This ain’t the place for you, ma.” This simple exchange most clearly illustrates the general view on white girls: they hazily and carelessly find themselves in places they shouldn’t be, and then expect someone to bail them out when it all goes south. In the end, their sunshiny brightness turns out not to be worth all the unintentional trouble they cause.
Indeed, Blue essentially ends up getting arrested for possession as a result of letting Leah’s inherent white girl optimism spread through him with regard to his moneymaking future. Had he never gotten the notion to make higher profit margins as a result of the Chinatown party, he most likely would have stayed away from any unnecessary interactions with Lloyd.
Most striking about Wood’s narrative is how tacitly the white girl plays into what is expected of her, particularly sexually, and in terms of frequently fucking up without acknowledging the consequences or how it might affect others around her. For most people, the plight of the white girl is not considered compelling because it’s not classified as “real,” so much as self-imposed based on an unconscious, guilt-driven need to create problems for oneself that aren’t really there. Feeling this vitriol from all walks of life, the white girl feeds into it by unwittingly cultivating a predisposition for self-destruction so as to numb herself to the agonies of enduring the stereotype that insists: you have nothing to offer other than your body and an insatiable sense of and desire for fun–usually meaning drugs, inevitably leading to poor decisions regarding sexual encounters.
The double meaning of the title, both referencing Leah herself and cocaine–her main love–is both a defiant badge of honor and a scarlet A branded upon the exposed tits of the woman who can’t resist taking her top off when she collects $24,000 in one night from selling Blue’s product in order to provide for his legal bill and pay back Lloyd for the mass amount of product he gave to Blue. And yet, she even manages to fuck this up by getting so drunkenly coked out that she leaves Kelly and another of his magazine minions, Alexa (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), the opportunity to con her out of the money by leaving her passed out in the bathroom–or at least that’s the impression one gets from the sheepish grins on their faces when Leah tells them she doesn’t have it anymore.
As Leah goes deeper and deeper into the drug abyss, spurred by her need to get Blue out of prison at any cost, it will become a challenge for most viewers to have any sympathy for her. After all, she’s doing it all to herself–(white) girls just wanna have fun, right?
The jarring final scene is a study in white girl contrasts: one minute they’re dancing naked and the next they’re atoning for their sins after realizing they’ve lost just a little bit more of their soul last night.