Spice Girls: How Girl Power Changed Britain

Rating 7.7
Streamer All4
Seasons 1
Episodes 3 x 50 mins

So tell me what you want what you really really want, I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want, I wanna, I wanna, I want a brand new documentary on the world’s most successful girl band, smothered in nineties nostalgia, with a sharp feminist focus. 

We’ve all heard of first, second and third wave feminism, but could it be that the fourth wave was in fact instigated by five young women, who reshaped the female identity as we know it with a bit of zigga zigging and some dodgy hair dye? Probably not, but it makes for good TV, which is exactly what Channel 4 documentary Spice Girls: How Girl Power Changed Britain is. 

The title is the giveaway here; the film tells the story of “Girl Power”, and The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholsonreckons they do a “convincing job” of viewing this concept “within the cultural context of its own time”, while applying a searing “2021 perspective”. So, it’s indulgent, intelligent and with a host of unearthed footage and interviews, it is genuinely informative. Tick, tick, tick.

Nicholson loves the documentary, calling it “fabulous and intimate”, with “have-your-cake-and-eat-it feasts of nostalgia”, particularly in the archive footage which gives the viewer the same delicious sense of satisfaction as an indulgent treat. And through some feat of magic, it appeals to the sentimentality of any generation, whether you were born 10 years prior or 10 post the girlband’s explosive success. 

However, it’s not all miniskirts and flip phones – James Jackson describes in The Times the way the film portrays the nineties nostalgia as “layered with dismay at the era’s laddism”, a sharp knife which slices through the documentary, giving it a political edge which sets it aside from the shedload of dull music documentaries clogging up the TV guide each week.

The only drawback, according to The Independent’s Elizabeth Aubrey, is the way in which “the documentary would benefit from more varied interview voices”, namely voices from the horse’s mouth, The Spice Girls themselves. It’s a fair criticism, but with enough archive footage to shake a diamante microphone at, this three-part documentary is likely to leave you humming the tunes and feeling nostalgic for a nineties that seems long gone.

First shown: September 2021

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