It’s understandable that Lena Wilson would wonder why the gay crush storyline wasn’t a bigger part of the marketing for Blockers. That particular point was absent from most everything released prior to release and only really came out (so to speak) once the film had opened and people started to write about it and ask director Kay Cannon what it was that lead to its inclusion.
I haven’t seen the movie yet myself, but there did seem to be a substantial disconnect between what was sold and what people saw in theaters. When it screened at SXSW there were quite a few reviews, echoed later on when it was released, calling it sweet and heartfelt, a remarkably sensitive portrayal of teens and their parents who are having a hard time dealing with their maturing and increasingly-independent daughters.
Wilson rightly points out that the coming out storyline for one of the teen girls was completely absent from the campaign. I agree with that. Where I disagree with her is in her framing of the campaign as one designed to sell a “teen sex comedy.”
As I reviewed the campaign it was a bit surprising to me how little the kids seemed to be the focus of the marketing at all. Of course they’re there, but only as devices to spur action on the parents who follow them all over town in an attempt to keep them from having sex. The trailers give us brief looks into the relationships between the girls and their parents and we see the friends agreeing to #SexPact2018, but the focus is squarely on how the adults feel about all this.
Who the girls are or aren’t crushing on is barely covered at all. We get a look at their dates only sparingly, with no background or context given. The most complex picture we get is when one of them is explaining to her date that they *are* going to have sex later that night, something he seems remarkably oblivious to.
It’s true that Sam’s same sex crush isn’t called out, but the campaign doesn’t have much attention to devote to the teens at all, much less draw any nuanced picture of the dynamics – romantic or otherwise – in that friend group.
To a large extent that’s the result of the adult cast simply being the bigger perceived draw for audiences. Casting Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz means you’re aiming the movie at older, not younger, moviegoers. Not that those actors don’t have younger fans, but the message here is that the story is going to be more relatable to Gen X parents who have teenagers themselves and would like to laugh at something relatable, namely how the parent/child dynamic is different when the kids are 18 than it is when they’re 8.
The decision to take that approach with the framing of the movie to the audience seems to have been taken in large part because it was decided this would be Cena’s big break into starring roles. There were more than a few profiles of the wrestler-turned-actor where he, the cast of this movie and others discussed how funny he is, why he turned to comedy after unsuccessful attempts to be an action star and more.
I don’t agree that there was a missed opportunity to make Blockers part of the normalization of same-sex coming of age teen movies, especially arriving as it did around the same time as Love, Simon, for which that was the dominant media narrative. In order to do that, though, the studio would have needed to devote more than passing attention to the teens that were part of the story. It made the decision to not do that.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.