Today marks the 20th anniversary of the cinematic masterpiece that is Spice World, a cornerstone of my childhood. The Spice Girls’ first and only feature film premiered on Dec. 15, 1997, in the UK — but us Americans had to wait more than a month to see the iconic girl group grace the silver screen. Me, though? I had to wait even longer to watch.
And the pain I suffered during that time has shaped the person I am today: a bitter 26-year-old man with an unhealthy Girl Power obsession and an impassioned tale about betrayal, lies, and Scary Spice’s boobs. (Jk jk, but also, like, not really.)
I was five going on six years old when the Spice Girls’ debut single, “Wannabe,” hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1997. Not to be a total brag, but I’ve had mature musical taste from a very young age. For instance, in fourth grade, I had to choose between Jessica Simpson’s bubblegum pop debut album, Sweet Kisses, and Madonna’s progressive, somewhat sexually charged LP Music during a trip to Borders with my mom (more on her later). Guess what I chose. Her Madgesty, duh.
So, naturally, when the Spice Girls came out with their crop tops, platform sneakers, intoxicatingly catchy songs, and a message of Girl Power that penetrated my feminist kindergarten-aged soul, I was beyond hooked. The majority of my days at school were not spent practicing my ABCs, but instead arguing with my friends (who were, of course, all girls) about who would be who when we inevitably played Spice Girls at recess. Though I thought my red hair made me a shoe-in for Ginger, my gal pals (they were more like frenemies, let’s be real) forced me to be the sixth and non-existent member, “Boy Spice.” Like, what the actual f--k?
When I wasn’t at school, I was daydreaming about the moment my mother might buy me the Spice Girls CD. (Never happened.) And a day didn’t go by when I didn’t beg her for a Spice Girls lollipop during our regular stops at 7-11. I think there was one time she gave in to my daily badgering and, let me tell you, Baby Spice’s pigtails printed on a sucker never tasted so good. But, regardless of my nightly prayers and incessant pleas to my mom, I never got one of the Spice Girls Barbies that I so desperately wanted (read: needed).
Clearly, I wasn’t able to fully live out my Spice Girls fantasy as a young gay lad. Given my mom’s offensive dismissal of my love for all things Spice, I knew I was in for the fight of my life when Spice World hit theaters in the second half of first grade. The mothers of my aforementioned frenemies had all agreed to take their daughters to the movies the weekend it premiered. I was invited by my girls Morgan and Aubrey, but my mom told me I couldn’t go because she didn’t think the film would be appropriate for my nearly seven-year-old eyes.
Now, I went to Catholic school and we learned that seven was the “age of reason,” and I thought it was unreasonable AF for my mom to deprive me of experiencing such an important life event, aka the Spice Girls’ acting debut! I was distraught. I cried so many tears they could’ve filled both floors of the Spice Girls’ double-decker tour bus. Despite the sight of her emotionally broken son, my mother remained stone cold in her conviction. I wouldn’t see Spice World. And I felt dead inside.
Months passed. I eventually got my hands on a Spice Girls cassette tape (that I bought with my only source of income, the few dollars I saved from my grandma’s Christmas card) during a particularly lucky garage sale treasure hunt. That got me through some really hard times.
Baby, Scary, Sporty, Ginger, and Posh at the Spice World premiere in 1997. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Before I knew it, it was summer. I still hadn’t seen Spice World, but I had somehow managed to move on. However, when I caught wind that the movie had come out on VHS and was available to rent at Blockbuster, the painful memory of my mom’s heart-shattering “No” came rushing back. But, instead of instigating another all-out war with her, I decided that I would use my negotiating skills (to the best of my abilities as a soon-to-be second grader) the next time we paid a visit to Blockbuster.
When the day finally came and we stepped inside the store, “Say You’ll Be There” was playing on the radio. “This is a sign,” I thought to myself. Immediately, I ran to the wall lined with copies of Spice World, grabbed a tape and launched into my elevator pitch, which went something like this: “Mom, please. I promise there’s nothing inappropriate that Jesus wouldn’t like. Baby Spice is, like, really innocent. And Morgan and Aubrey have seen it. And their moms said it wasn’t that bad. Please, please, puh-lease. Don’t you love me?!”
OK, so my “negotiating skills” still had a long way to go. But I wore my mom down to the point where she asked the Blockbuster associate Angela (I will never forget her name) what she thought about a seven-year-old watching Spice World. Teen angel/personal savior Angela said exactly what my mom (and I) needed to hear: “Oh, it’s so fun. It’s actually really silly. It’s more like a family movie. I bet you’ll love it just as much as your son.”
Bingo! And we were off. With shaky, excited hands, I popped Spice World into our VCR the minute we got home. I watched as my mom gave side-eye to the ladies’ skimpy ensembles and Ginger’s joke about the Pope. But, miraculously, she let it play. Until…
Until the freaking alien squeezed Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown’s left breast (which Angela failed to mention in her description of a “family movie”). Y’all remember that scene. Before I could blink, the TV was turned off, Spice World was ripped out of the VCR, and my mom and I were on our way back to Blockbuster so Angela could hear the wrath of Glo. TBH, I don’t remember what she said to Angela — maybe I blacked it out — but I know it wasn’t pretty.
I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party, but what a traumatic time for me. First, to be relegated to “Spice Boy,” then disallowed to watch Spice World, only to eventually endure the torture of never finishing it due to a horny alien, my mom’s irrationally conservative parenting style (which, thank God, has changed), and Angela’s lying-a-- mouth.
Believe it or not, I’ve forgiven the alien, Glo, and even Angela. I say a prayer for each of them every year when I watch Spice World alone in peace on Dec. 15. And this year will be no different. Well, except for the fact that I’ll have my Ginger Spice Barbie (which I purchased myself, thank you very much, off eBay) with me this time.
Viva forever, Spice World. 🇬🇧✌️❤️