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Aubrey Plaza and the Importance of Having Girls Come of Age in Film

Aubrey Plaza and the Importance of Having Girls Come of Age in Film

Aubrey Plaza has always been a dark comedic force in her role as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. She has continued to show her comedic range as a young intern in Safety Not Guaranteed and now as Brandy Klark in the upcoming The To Do List, a sexual coming of age comedy–a genre that is mostly overrun by the awkward fumblings of dudes. 

In a New York Times profile, Plaza discusses her career–one in which that she jokes that she’s created a way that she can “say whatever I want, and get away with it.” She also talks about her work on The To Do List, the directorial debut of Maggie Carey. The film was inspired from Carey’s teen life as a brainy girl whose diary was all about boys. Plaza’s first major starring role, as Brandy, who is an intelligent, accomplished, political and confident teen girl who becomes determined to lose her virginity before she heads off to college in the Fall. 

Set in 1993, Brandy experiences all the awkwardly hilarious sexual encounters of the male counterpart of the genre (American Pie, Porky’s) which was a first for Plaza. She said that working with Carey on these sexual scenes was good because Carey was “sensitive to things that maybe a male director wouldn’t be sensitive to.”

In the film, Brandy is matter of fact about both her politics (Hillary Clinton is her inspiration) and her sexuality–even if she’s not completely sure what she’s doing yet. Carey’s script and Plaza’s performance make Brandy, a smart, relatable and feminist teen, who doesn’t need true love in order to have sex–a concept perpetuated by media so constantly that it is certainly one of the many reasons why the sexual coming of age comedy is practically nonexistent when it comes to focusing on women. 

However, that does seem to beginning to change with films like Easy AFor A Good Time Call… or even the Anna Faris comedy What’s My Number (which does have its fair share of problems). While Easy A is the only one that fits squarely into the teen genre, we don’t get a lot of films like The Last American Virgin or Superbad that have female protagonists. And that seems to be something that Carey is looking to fix.

It wasn’t about love, she wasn’t looking to get married, she was just like, ‘He is hot.’ Women have those feelings as much as men. You don’t see it a lot
in this genre of movie, so that was important to me.

While this genre does play on sex for laughs, it still is a genre that teens will pack into a theater with a group of friends to go see on opening night. And if the exploring of the sexuality of half the audience isn’t represented or when women are relegated as a mere vessels for the pleasure of others — that’s yet again sending the message that we don’t want to talk about or even look at the complexities of female sexuality.

Lucky for us, The To Do List looks at it head on while simultaneously reinventing the genre. 

The To Do List hits theaters nationwide on July 26th.

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Women’s sexuality is often considered taboo in movies. It’s nice to see that a film the “teen” genre about women exploring their sexuality is coming out. I’m interested to see how it plays out in comparison to movies such as those mentioned in the post, like Superbad or American Pie.

I’m reminded of the film Antonia’s Line where the character Danielle decides she wants a baby. She finds a man, has sex, and gets pregnant with no intention of letting him know she was having a child. It was a fresh perspective on women controlling their own sexuality. I’m hoping The To Do List furthers this attitude, albeit probably not going as far as to have a child.

I’m also interested in seeing if the movie touches on slut shaming at all, such as they did in Easy A. I liked how that movie showed both male and female attitudes towards a woman being sexually confident. Will The To Do List accomplish something similar or will slut shaming not even be included in the film? I’m very curious to find out.


I look forward to seeing this movie! American Pie and Superbad are some of my favorite movies, so it will be so refreshing to see the same ideas from a woman's (or teenage girl's) standpoint. Being a teenager is hard enough, but add all the things the media pushes on young girls and it's a minefield of self-doubt and insecurities. Movies like Easy A and Whip It have done a great job of showing confident girls coming to terms with growing up, and hopefully this film does that as well. The idea of taking control of your own sexuality is a tough concept in teen chick flicks.
I took a Women in Film class this summer and I feel like a movie like this would fit right into the discussion of what is missing in Hollywood– something men have that women don't. Bridesmaids matched The Hangover, and in turn this could go strike for strike against those teen guy comedies. I hope it, like Bridesmaids, doesn't pull any punches, and gets the message across while still being funny.

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