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I Can’t Shut Up About the Red-Beret Girl From Matilda

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photo: Netflix

I Can’t Shut Up About: Deep dives into my online obsession of the week.

What was the most notable gift you got this holiday season? Was it a bag of poop from Goop? Was it this teaser for MILF Manor, the reality-TV equivalent of coal in your stocking? For me, it was the Matilda musical, which came to Netflix on December 24 and has not left my brain since.

As implied by the formal title — Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical — it’s a movie adaptation of the 2011 stage musical by the same name, which was an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s original book released in 1988. If you were hoping for a musical version of the 1996 Matilda movie with Danny DeVito, the “Little Bitty Pretty One” scene, and that cursed-looking Lissy doll, this is not the Matilda you seek. However, if you’re looking for an hour and 56 minutes of precocious children, catchy songs, and Emma Thompson yelling, then I’ve got great news.

You’ve likely already seen part of one of the standout scenes in the movie­, when all the kids are like “Oi, mist-ah, me thinks it’s time to fight back!” a.k.a. “Revolting Children.” Before its streaming release, Netflix posted a 46-second clip of the scene on TikTok and subsequently introduced the internet to its new “It” girl, who is front and center in the now-viral video. Meet the Red-Beret Girl, whose name in the movie is — and I cannot stress this enough — Hortensia.

That TikTok has been viewed over 5 million times, which, frankly, seems low. It has inspired dance tutorials, a JoJo Siwa remake, and edits that put the scene over other songs like “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott. The latter was retweeted by Missy Elliott herself. (Red-Beret Girl, like Beyoncé, is always on beat.) The song is chaotic, with its lyrics so dense they are nearly unintelligible. As choreographer Ellen Kane explained to Vanity Fair, “Revolting Children” is in 7/8 time, rather than the more standard four count, which makes the rhythm feel off-kilter. Throughout the musical number, there are nearly 300 kids flipping, jumping off banisters, and doing complex choreography, all of which in any other context would give you motion sickness. (Some TikToks of the scene now come with a warning: “The actions in this video are performed by professionals or supervised by professionals. Do not attempt.”) And yet it works.

The double meaning of “revolting” is so clever it makes you feel smart for simply understanding it. (You can thank comedian and musician Tim Minchin, who wrote the songs for the musical.) As director Matthew Marcus has explained in interviews, the opening bit in the hallway is one uncut shot, making the performance even more impressive. And then there is the legend, the icon, the queen herself, the Red-Beret Girl played by Meesha Garbett.

Garbett told Rolling Stone she doesn’t know if she’d call herself a professional dancer, which is an insult to me, personally. Like Kane and Marcus, Garbett was surprised by the reaction to the TikTok. She told Rolling Stone she was particularly excited by JoJo Siwa’s re-creation of the dance. “I had so many of her bows when I was young,” said Garbett, who is currently 14. Garbett’s performance is captivating, fun, and, even amid children doing parkour off lockers, impossible to look away from.

At the risk of encouraging a resurgence of the flash-mob era, watching a huge group of people doing their little dancey-dance just feels good. Studies have found a connection between kinesthesia and empathy, which explains in part why we enjoy watching people dance. There has also been research that suggests watching others dance makes your brain feel like you’re dancing. (This probably explains why some delusional part of my mind sees that TikTok and is like, Maybe I could do that.) On top of that, the scene is performed by kids! Children! Infants, practically! It engages my maternal instincts. Look at how great my little babies are doing!

I look forward to Halloween, when dancing hordes of my biological daughters (Red-Beret Girls and M3GAN dolls) take over the streets, the internet, and, inevitably, the world.

I Can’t Shut Up About the Red-Beret Girl From Matilda