The Highlight Reel

“Motocrossed” and the disappointing gender norms of 2001

Nick Porisch

More stories from Nick Porisch

The Highlight Reel
May 10, 2023


In 1998, “Mulan” was released and became one of the greatest Disney movies of all time. It’s a powerful story of a daughter taking her father’s place in ancient China, and it all around rules.

“Motocrossed,” released in 2001, is not one of the greatest Disney movies of all time. It’s a Mulan-knockoff set in the world of Motocross in the American Southwest. It’s full of outdated gender norms, one-note characters and humorless dialogue.

I really wanted to like this movie. The premise was interesting — after her twin brother Andrew injures his leg, Andrea enters a professional motocross bracket in his place.

The premise promised wacky antics, sick motocross scenes and potentially some nice pro-feminist themes to tie it all together.

However, right away, the movie starts off on a weird note. Andrew and Andrea’s dad is motocross-obsessed and trains his son way too hard in the hopes of supporting Andrew’s racing career.

Meanwhile, Andrea is a cheerleader. She comes home with a first-place championship, which her father ignores and instructs her brother to ignore as well, so he can focus on his training.

We then find out Andrea’s father forbids her from racing because it’s too dangerous. Dads are always jerks in Disney Channel Original Movies, but this guy is thoroughly ignorant and sexist.

Turns out, Andrea is just as passionate about motocross as her brother. They race on the homemade course in their backyard — this family’s really into motocross — and, oh no!

Andrew injures his leg, putting him out of the running for his upcoming professional motocross tournament.

So, Andrea cuts her hair and decides she’ll disguise herself as Andrew to join the tournament, without her sexist father finding out and stopping her, of course.

Luckily, her dad is leaving for Europe to find a new racer to replace her brother, giving Andrea the opportunity to join the tournament with the help of her mom and her younger brother Jason, who is the mechanical whiz who maintains the family’s bikes — for some reason.

The whole situation is pretty forced, overcomplicated and reliant on the story being set in a vehemently sexist world in order to operate on any level.

Where the movie really fails, though, is that it makes no effort to comment on the rampant sexism present in its world and story.

Instead, the plot is mostly used as a set-up for weak jokes about the idea of a feminine person taking part in motocross. There’s gags about her painted nails, her oh-so-strange willingness to hug her friends and the fact that her coach is her mom.

For the record, none of them are well-written or good jokes. The whole thing comes across as dated at best, and downright bad at worst.

By the end of the movie, Andrea does win the race and earn the respect of (some) of her competitors, but only because she properly abides by the sexist rules imposed on her, rather than embracing her femininity or standing up against their treatment of her.

Beyond the weak writing, the movie does follow through on its premise. There’s tons of motocross action, a romantic b-plot about Andrea befriending the number one racer and plenty of that nostalgic, warm, early 2000s cinematography.

However, it doesn’t make up for the movie’s core faults.

“Johnny Tsunami” excelled because it approached simple, earnest themes with simple, effective storytelling tactics.

“Motocrossed” tries to apply the same surface-level storytelling techniques to the much more nuanced themes of gender identity and sexism in extreme sports, and the whole movie ends up falling flat.

Unfortunately, where it should be a commentary on these topics, it spends most of the movie just being a disappointing example of them.

Porisch can be found at [email protected].