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TROOP ZERO and the Underdog Trope

Troop Zero is the story of a Birdie Scout troop in a middle-of-the-woods Georgia town in 1977. Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace), a determined little girl who loves to look up to the night sky, hears of an opportunity to send a recording of her voice out into space. Enraptured by the idea that her voice could be heard by the aliens, or better yet, her mother up in the stars, Christmas searches for anyone who can help her voice last forever.

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After fleeing from bullies with her effeminate best friend Joseph (Charlie Shotwell), Christmas stumbles upon the chance for a NASA scientist to record her voice and send it to space on a golden record. After his initial hesitation, and the discovery that you don’t have to be a girl to join a Birdie Scout troop, Joseph joins forces with Christmas to find anyone who will help them create a Birdie Scout troop. Once formed, their Birdie Scout troop can participate in the Jubilee Talent Show – where the winner’s voice will be recorded for the intergalactic recording.

Christmas and Joseph seek out the other misfits in their town of Wiggly, Georgia to join. The future missionary Anne-Claire, the personification of a volcano, as well as Hell-No and her silent, aggressive partner named Smash. Led by Christmas’s father’s assistant, Miss Rayleen (Viola Davis), the newly formed Birdie Scout troop seems to be the antithesis of what Birdie Scouts is supposed to be. But, with no rules to stop them, the troop is assigned the last number available in the state: Zero.

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Troop Zero holds the charm of the traditional underdog, misfit crew. While the idea isn’t stunningly original, it holds an inherent draw to root for the underdogs, and who doesn’t love an underdog? In terms of structure, everything that is traditionally present in an underdog movie stands tall; the underestimated leader, the supportive and quirky best friend, the loud and takes-nothing-from-no-one living volcano, along with her strong, silent, and irreverent sidekick, and the shy and shaky sweetheart. These are seen time and time again in fiction, but also in truth.

Outside of the characters, the beats of the story are also rather predictable. Although, it’s the motivation behind their actions that start to set the story apart. The best example is during the ever-classic food fight scene. The food fight is sparked by a jab from the member of the rival Birdie Scout troop, aimed at Joseph; “You’re not even a real girl!” This sparks outrage, but not from Joseph but from Hell-No, the character whose introduction ended with, “You know I’m not your friend.” Often, fights like these are started by a “you can’t” statement – “you can’t be like us”, or “you can’t win”. In this case, someone is questioning Joseph’s identity, which is clearly an odd one in 1977, and that straw breaks the camel’s back, with an egg cracked over a forehead.

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This is where the unique spirit of the film begins to emerge. With most underdog movies, the focus is on subverting expectations, especially in terms of women-driven stories. They’re about overcoming the odds, and breaking stereotypes. Troop Zero takes these stereotypes head on. Joseph is a boy, but is there a rule explicitly stating that boys cannot be Birdie Scouts… no? Then he’s in! No questions asked. And when someone pushes back against their decision to accept Joseph, they get a bowl of cake batter to the face.

Troop Zero accepts the differences among the characters, then instantly casts them aside. It’s refreshing to see an underdog movie with the attitude of, “there’s no reason why not!” instead of “there shouldn’t be a reason that we can’t.” This is what sets this underdog movie apart from the others. Instead of fighting the status quo head on, these characters grow on their own, with the wholesome and confident attitude of “you can’t technically stop us.”

Troop Zero is currently available on Amazon Prime


This article was written by a guest contributor
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Amanda Nicklas
Amanda started writing with video game reviews – every 12 year old boy’s dream! She has worked in TV development and children’s theater. She also writes and produces a podcast called Logdate. She finds a way to write about almost anything, and loves stories that inspire happiness and change. Follow her on Instagram | Twitter

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