This piece contains spoilers for the movie “Blockers.”
There is a moment, about halfway through the movie “Blockers,” where a discussion of internalized misogyny happens on-screen in the least clumsy way I’ve ever seen a discussion of internalized misogyny go down.
Two mothers are going head-to-head about whether or not they should “allow” their teenage daughters to lose their virginities on prom night. Marcie (played brilliantly by Sarayu Blue) is berating Lisa (played by Leslie Mann) for trying to interfere in her daughter’s sex life.
“I can’t believe you’re on their side,” Marcie yells, gesturing at the two men in the room (John Cena and Ike Barinholtz) who have stepped aside so that these two women can duke it out. “How do you expect society to treat women as equals if their own parents won’t?”
I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
Here, in the middle of this raunchy movie about teenage girls making a prom night sex pact, I’m listening to a full-blown feminist argument happen between two women. Marcie, a woman of color, is taking Lisa, a white woman, down a couple of pegs — and the entire audience around me is applauding.
There are, to my pleasant surprise, many moments like this in the movie “Blockers,” which hits theaters today. Although written by two men, Brian and Jim Kehoe, the film offers up moment after moment displaying young girls exploring their sexualities in empowering ways, pushing their behind-the-times parents to catch up.
This is due in large part to director Kay Cannon, the brilliant mind behind “Pitch Perfect,” who makes Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam (Gideon Adlon) confident narrators of their stories — something that very few sex-filled stories of women losing their virginity do.
And the best part about this is that the premise of the story, on the surface, seems to indicate yet another reductive tale about parents policing the sexuality of their young daughters. After snooping on her daughter’s computer, Lisa gets wise to a plot between her daughter Julie and Julie’s friends Sam and Kayla to lose their virginities on prom night.
Lisa then involves Mitchell (Cena) and a resistant Hunter (Barinholtz) in a conspiracy to stop their daughters from having sex.
But as the plot unfolds, you realize that the storyline is actually holding a mirror up to itself. It exists to show the issues in patrolling female sexuality, and the characters actively participate in the dismantling of this idea.
Marcie yells about how when men lose their virginities, it’s celebrated, but when women do, it’s considered a big loss.
Kayla tells her father, Mitchell, that she isn’t some damsel who needs saving.
Julie actively pushes back against her mother, who believes she applied to UCLA just to follow her boyfriend there.
And then there’s Sam, who comes to terms with her queerness over the course of the movie.
Scene after scene, the narratives that have always surrounded young women in film are torn down — and it feels pretty good.
The beauty of “Blockers,” though, is that all of this theory exists in a raunchy teen movie. We go from a scene where Mitchell is butt-chugging beer (seriously) to a scene where his daughter Kayla is telling her prom date that she wants to wait until they know each other better to have sex, but she’s okay with oral sex.
In the words of Hunter, “This is not a big deal. They are teenage girls. They have sex.”
And that’s the truth. Female sexuality deserves the same Hollywood treatment as male sexuality has been given for decades. We deserve a female “American Pie” and a female “Superbad.“
For a lot of young women, sex isn’t something they actively fret over. It’s an experience they want to have, just like the boys in their lives.