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“Blockers” breaks with problematic tropes

“Blockers” breaks with problematic tropes


Miles Robbins, John Cena and Geraldine Viswanathan on the set of “Blockers.” (Universal Pictures)



Delilah Bourque
| For The Pitt News

April 8, 2018

When I had the opportunity two weeks ago to see “Blockers” on campus before the release date, I dragged my friends out with me, ready to be disgusted.

We all shared similar sentiments about how the movie looked generally pretty bad. In the age of #MeToo, the Women’s March and other rising feminist movements, I felt angry Hollywood would produce a movie diminishing the sexual agency of girls only a few years younger than myself. I was prepared to sit in a dark room and eat some popcorn while feeling annoyed for two hours.

Yet “Blockers” is a surprisingly feminist movie that uses often raunchy comedy to explore the stereotype that parents must prevent their daughters from having sex. These stereotypes that are the basis of a generally funny, sometimes touching movie are harmful to real-life girls. Parents infantilize their daughters through overt policing of their sexualities, even into adulthood — a double standard considering it is rarely the same for sons.

“Blockers” centers on three parents — Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter, played by Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz, respectively — who discover their daughters Julie, Sam and Kayla made a pact with one another to lose their virginities on prom night. Lisa and Mitchell drag a reluctant Hunter along with them to stop the girls and hilarity ensues.

The movie takes a few feminist turns, considering that the plot is based on the idea that parents should have control over their daughter’s sex lives. When Mitchell’s wife, Marcie, discovers the trio’s plan, she goes on a long monologue about how Mitchell shouldn’t be policing their daughter’s sex life. Hunter’s reluctance is due to the very same reason, and he is only on board with the plan when he thinks Sam, who he believes is a lesbian, will be pressured into doing something she does not want to do.

All three parents have good intentions — they don’t want their daughters getting hurt. And while everything ends up happily enough in comedies like “Blockers,” the real-world story doesn’t always end with parental acceptance of the choices for real-life girls — and can sadly have lifelong consequences.

When the trope of an overprotective parent — often the girl’s father — “protecting” their daughter from boys’ impure intentions is applied in real life, teen pregnancies and STDs can go untreated because sexually active teenage girls fear telling their parents. This affects both the health of the daughter and any baby born to a teen mother who is reluctant to be honest about her sexual activity with her parents.

According to data from a 2009 study in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, when parents take an interest in talking to their teenage daughters about healthy sexual relationships, teen pregnancy rates go down. Statistics from the Journal of Adolescent Health also show school systems that implement comprehensive sex-ed — as opposed to abstinence-only — have lower teen pregnancy rates.

There is a long-held stereotype of how fathers should act when their teenage daughters are just beginning to date, a stereotype held up by countless pieces of media — there was even an ABC Family comedy, “Eight Simple Rules,” based on the idea that a father had “rules” for boys who wanted to date his daughter. The rules included: “Safe sex is a myth. Anything you try will be hazardous to your health,” and “Dates must be in crowded public places. You want romance? Read a book.”

Isn’t this kind of ridiculous? There is such a thing as safe sex — and it’s entirely possible for teenagers to have it, provided they’re taught what safe sex is.

This kind of behavior continues well into adulthood, both in media and real life. Countless movies and television shows depict an adult woman bringing her boyfriend home to meet her parents, normally for a holiday or a family event, and her overprotective father forcing the boyfriend to sleep in a different room than his daughter. In “Meet The Parents,” for example, Greg Focker is forced to stay in the basement when he and his girlfriend, Pam, go to her family home for her sister’s wedding. Greg forgets he isn’t supposed to flush the downstairs toilet and inadvertently floods the backyard where the wedding is supposed to take place with septic back-up — an issue that could have been avoided had he and Pam been staying her upstairs bedroom.

Both characters in this movie are consenting adults, who have most likely already had sex with one another, and are in a long-term, serious relationship. The only reason they’re asked to stay in separate rooms is because of a perceived protection of the daughter’s innocence.

Why is it that parents feel the need to protect their daughters from their own choices? These aren’t thirteen- or fourteen-year-old girls — oftentimes, they’re legal adults. Older men aren’t preying upon them — they’re having consensual sex with people their own age.

Some, including the well-meaning characters of “Blockers,” might argue that parents of teenage girls are just trying to protect them from a decision they’ll regret. But of course, parents don’t prevent their daughters from going to college, or driving, because they might do something they’ll regret. Having a regrettable or awkward sexual experience — provided that it is safe and consensual — is an important part of life.

Parents don’t deserve to have dominion over their daughters’ sex lives — girls often suffer at the hands of reductive stereotypes about having sex. And while “Blockers” may help to start a conversation about these problematic attitudes, we have to take the next step: work to fight them in our own lives.

Write to Delilah at dgb22@pitt.edu.

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