In the new teen sex comedy Blockers, the focus is placed squarely on the teenage girl’s perspective rather than on that of the boys. This refreshing perspective attracted first-time director Kay Cannon to the script.
In Blockers, three parents discover that their daughters are planning to lose their virginity on prom night. Alarmed, the parents decide to disrupt the prom. At the same time, we follow the teen daughters as they experiment with drugs and alcohol.
Kay, who has a Masters in Education from Lewis University, and a keen eye for comedic talent, often features a strong, gifted female protagonist who overcomes adversity in her scripts.
We had the opportunity to talk to Kay about her directorial debut in Blockers, and more. ~Ari Derin
What was it about the Blockers script that appealed to you?
The first thing that I loved so much about it was that it was really funny. Beyond that, I could relate [to the script] on different levels. I like to think of young women and men having agency over their own sexuality and I wanted to tell that story. I don’t think we have ever told it in this way before. The other thing is, I am a parent. I am a parent of a daughter, and that more than anything made me stop and think about how I am going to be a good parent when my daughter is old enough. No matter how progressive I am, I am still going to worry about making sure she is okay. I connected to all of those themes in the script.
Can you speak to how your own experience as a teenager influenced directing Blockers?
I had a great group of girlfriends. From kindergarten to high school, we would sit around, especially during lunch and we would be very frank and open with each other and talk about everything. In my family, I was raised Catholic and we did not have a sex talk at all, and it was abstinence and so I talked with my girlfriends. I learned everything though them, so that was something that I really brought to the movie. The dialogue between the young women felt real.
As an actress, you’ve chosen to play optimistic characters, such as your role in The Little Tin Man. You also write about optimistic characters. Although you didn’t write Blockers, it’s just as optimistic as it is comedic. Do you see yourself as an optimist?
Oh, for sure. Maybe even to a fault. I’ve been married before, and perhaps I stayed in that situation too long because of optimism. I have always leaned in the direction of believing things are good, and that you can make things good, or that you can turn something bad, good. I enjoy living my life that way. I think optimism is a necessity.
In your opinion, what is more difficult or different for a woman pursuing a relationship with a man than for a man trying to pursue a relationship with a woman?
I don’t know. I think that is a hard question to answer. I feel like what I was trying to say with the movie was that it is not that different. I think that there is a double standard, and that if we approach it as though it is so vastly different from one gender to another, that it is a real disservice to women. The point is that we are trying to be able to have a voice. It is less about a courtship [with] the woman giving in. It is more about becoming equal partners with each other. I think the woman of today is really making decisions for herself and asking the guy out in a way that should not feel unusual.
What effect on audiences do you hope Blockers will achieve?
When I went to see Blockers, the collective laughter was really amazing. I think that laughter is healing, and seeing people laugh was so great. I hope to have touched on themes that are a little tricky these days, whether it is about Sam being confused about her sexuality or the double standard between boys and girls, or losing virginity or sex in general. I feel like that generational gap between young women and their fathers has gotten a little bit more narrow since the movie. I hope to bridge that gap.
Strong, talented female protagonists who overcome adversity seem to be a common theme in your work. Examples of this include your well-known Pitch Perfect series as well as the Netflix series, Girlboss. How does Blockers portray women differently compared to other films of the same genre?
It’s usually from the perspective of the guy, and so in this movie, it is pretty much from the perspective of the girl. This is very different. I feel like I have shown what real girls are like now, not how they have been written, primarily by men or perceived primarily from the male gaze. This is a movie told from the female gaze, if you will, and it is very different. The women in this movie are not the objects of desire, they are the ones talking about who they are going to date and what their perspective is. [Also, the girls] are really supportive of each other. It is not about girls tearing each other’s throats out and backstabbing. It is highlighting them as supportive friends.
Reviews on the film included the words “intelligent” and “empathetic.” What are your thoughts on that?
I think it probably surprised a lot of people when they went to go see the movie, that they would be moved. I heard a lot of people say that they laughed really hard, but that they also cried and that they were shocked that they cried and that they had all these feelings. What we tried to do, every day, was try to make every character be at the top of their intelligence and be very thoughtful about the work, and what young women are going through these days, and thoughtful about why parents would try to stop them doing what they are doing. I think we worked really hard to make sure the audience understood each character’s motives.
Blockers is available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital download on July 3, 2018. If you have seen Blockers and would like to rate/review it, click here.