At 11:15 p.m., as my leather seat squeaked into its recline, I settled in for Blockers. A film, directed by Kay Cannon, that’s an unabashed feminist-kink sex comedy.
The girls are a cross-section of 21st century diversity, as they’re white, East-Indian, and lesbian. Five years ago, this cast probably would have been all-white and all-straight. And in that regard Blockers is well meaning, even if sometimes the comedic hijinks lacks a bit of heft.
Instead, as Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena), and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) track their children from prom to lake house, then to hotel party, we’re treated to teen fashion jokes and a butt chugging gaff. In the process, I wasn’t sure if I was too old for Blockers or too young. The film, by Rolling Stone, has been called the Female Superbad….which probably points to a teenage audience that I’ve sadly departed (though I wasn’t a fan of Superbad even when I was in high school). Or, it’s as I suspect, made for parents who think kids find this funny (which would be a fair bit of irony).
In any case, I didn’t find Blockers to be anything more than a raunch-com with a heart until the second half of the film. There, Cannon handily balances the political, the kinky, and the empathetic role reversal.
And as of the moment, we’re living through an evolving film industry, more so than usual. Five years ago, most critics and audiences would have been surprised to find a social and cultural debate at the twisted center of a raunch-com. Yet, as Marcie (Sarayu Blue), Mitchell’s wife, berates the three parents for their double sexual standards I’m reminded of my high school days. Then, we thought we were progressive, as most that age think. And though it was only 10 years ago, it might as well have been a millennia. Because long ago, the idea of a woman possessing autonomy over her body was still considered extremist feminism. Sex for boys was different than sex for girls. Many shared that thought, unwittingly myself included. And while that knuckle dragging sentiment now crawls into the flickering shadows of cave walls, it’s still one that is prevalent today.
Hence, why Blockers seems to be so revolutionary even when the jokes aren’t landing. It’s a first wave of comedies that are meant to come, right now ebbing, but soon flowing. Yet, questions seem to come of why we’ve not seen anything like this before. And quite frankly, gendered social commentary hasn’t happened before—not because it can’t provide levity—but because the voices haven’t been allowed. Female filmmakers like Cannon provide a viewpoint that men often happily accept as a blindspot. Wittingly or unwittingly.
And while Cannon puts another flag on top of the social justice mountain, a peak that in a sisyphian way appears to be further with each step, she does provide a few memorable comedic bits in the process. As Cena and Barinholtz play sex Marco Polo with another pair of parents, played by Gary Cole and Gina Gershon. There are dick jokes, and then there are clasp a set of nuts in a vise dick jokes. Also, the forced crying motif from Mann, Barinholtz, and especially Cena, becomes better with each instance. It’s a bit that’s perfectly aware of what it’s lampooning in the raunch-com genre.
When Blockers is lulling, it’s a fruitless pander to the third grader who think butts jokes are funny. But when it moves from an overbearing parent comedy to a bawdy social commentary, it’s not only funny, but also a reminder of how we compare teenagers of now to the ones we were then.
Take a stroll through your social media and you’ll find a Facebook post or meme longing for days gone by, when we didn’t do that and every tv show was amazing and every song was a hit. When we were enlightened.
In the process, we conveniently forget the ignorance we held before, and the ignorance we still hold today. Blockers reminds us, albeit comically, that socially and culturally, we have a long way to go when judging boys and girl equally, sexually.