“Just Another Girl on the I. R. T” portrays the life of a black teenage woman and her struggles through pregnancy. Unlike other films, such as “New Jack City”, Leslie Harris’ film presents a different perspective in which women play an active role. The film emphasizes that women are not the mere properties or possessions of male characters but show an “outrageous, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior” (Walker). At least during the first part of the movie, Chantel personifies this attitude perfectly.
Chantel is highly energetic in character, outrageous in her clothing choices and in the slang she uses.
On the subway, for instance, when a young black man tells her that he is an actor, she laughs at him in an excessive way. The man could be telling the truth, but she does not care. She is very smart, funny, cool, and even pretty, therefore she is immensely self-confident. Her attitude proves to be extremely daring and insolent.
Sometimes leading to openly rude or disrespectful. For example, this audacious behavior is portrayed when Chantel is working at the gourmet delicatessen. When asked a question, Chantel answers a rich white woman in an impudent manner.
She does what she wants to when she wants to, in a mixture of spontaneous outbursts of intelligence and immaturity. Chantel displays a courageous personality when she does not tell her parents about her pregnancy and goes alone to visit the gynecologist. At the end, even her friends are unaware of her hiding it.
This could also be interpreted as a sign of her lack of maturity and experience: she is very tough but, when confronted with a concrete problem, Banos she becomes afraid and denies it. Despite her apparent self-confidence at the beginning of the film, her dreams start to fall apart.
Her willful character is clearly visible from the fist scene. Being seventeen and amazingly smart, she wants to graduate a year early, go to college and become a doctor. Her goals are set. However, her lack of “refinement” and good manners gets her into trouble more than once. At school, the teacher cannot finish his History lesson because she wants to discuss AIDS instead. Because of this outburst, Chantel is sent to the principal He insists that she should behave more “like a young lady” and that she is not ready for college yet.
Chantel tells the camera, in a close-up monologue, that she is ready and that, as she has good grades, there is nothing the principal can do. This is yet another example of Chantel’s willful attitude. Her goal of becoming a doctor shows her will to gain knowledge. Even though she is smart, Chantel, like her friends, is ignorant about birth control. They have a discussion on a park bench in which ridiculous ways of avoiding pregnancy are discussed. This scene is potentially a reflection on the misguided beliefs that many teenagers have. Chantel’s monologues through the movie constitute a technique used to directly address the audience.
This adds fun and juvenile spirit to the film, in contrast with some powerful scenes, such as the birth one, add a dark aspect to the movie. It is ironic that someone with Chantel’s intelligence, charm, quick responses and willful power should end up participating in such unwise, self-destructive actions. In context, her reactions seem reasonable. This is how many people would react to fear and the disappearance of their dreams. This film clearly differentiates between womanism and feminism, and emphasizes the “as purple is to lavender” analogy.