Suffragette Cinema

a feminist look at films and the media surrounding them

Checking off The To Do List

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The To Do List came out in July 2013 and follows recent high school graduate, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza), during the summer before her freshman year in college. Brandy, with the assistance of her two sexually experienced friends, creates a ‘to do list’ of sexual acts she wants to perform before the summer ends and she begins college.

The To Do List is funny, sarcastic, and raunchy and it is unique in that it follows a teenage girl in her sexual awakening- something that is not seen often in the movie industry today. I have separated a few of my favorite themes through the movie in the segments below.

The 1990s theme
The movie includes scrunchies, big hair, overalls, and other 90’s inspired comedic effects, while, simultaneously, hinting at nostalgia for the past in terms of feminist movements. For instance, Brandy’s hero is Hilary Clinton, she mentions her throughout the film, has a photo of her in her bedroom, and in a scene where she is practicing masturbation (after finding out that women are 40% more likely to orgasm if they masturbate Brandy adds this to her infamous ‘To Do List’) wearing a Pro- Choice/Pro- Clinton T- shirt. Clinton was a huge part of the 90s Pop Feminism movement which, according to the Village Voice,  “would soon blossom and cross- pollinate via Lilith Fair, Alanis Morisette, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vagina Monologues, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, hell even the Spice  Girls.”

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Sex Positivity
I think my favorite component of The To Do List is the fact that it is so sex positive. Throughout the movie, the female lead characters including Brandy’s mother, sister, and two best friends, are all known to be sexually active and to have been since they were in high school- and those facts are either unquestioned or when questioned, are shut down. Brandy is never shamed for creating her list or for when she completes a sexual act. In fact, it is praised. The film additionally creates a safe zone for the awkwardness that comes with sex and adds in a twist of humor, for instance Cameron (Johnny Simmons) struggling to get into Brandy’s underclothes, asking “are these shorts or a skirt?” or Brandy substituting butter at the movie theater for lube. The To Do List normalizes sex and sends out the message that it is mean to be explored, it is meant to be enjoyed by females, and there is no shame in engaging in it so long as it is consensual. In one scene, for instance, as a going away present, Mrs. Klark (Connie Britton) gives her daughter, Brandy, a bottle of lube and tells her to make sure she uses a lot of it.

 

Gender Roles
The To Do List is unique in that it flips traditional gender roles and examines a sex comedy not through the male gaze as we typically see in movies, but through that of a woman. It is a coming of age story and as Connie Britton, who plays the mother of Brandy, states, “Really, in a way, this is actually a very feminist movie. The idea that it’s a sexual awakening of a young girl- we’ve seen coming-of-age stories told from the perspective of the young boy, but we don’t get to see the point-of-view of the young girl.” In the movie, we get to see Brandy take control of her own sex life and as stated in one movie blog, Pop- Culture- Pundit, “Brandy is not a woman upon whom sex is thrust, but who thrusts herself upon sex.”

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Overall, I believe The To Do List is a light-hearted film that matches up with the raunchiness found in American Pie with a delicious feminist flavoring.

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6 thoughts on “Checking off The To Do List

  1. This sounds like a good movie to watch! I’ll definitely be giving it a look.

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  2. A well thought out critique! I saw this movie not too long ago and I also couldn’t help but think of American Pie while watching it. I think it’s really important that you brought up that the main character is never shamed for her list. Women are constantly being taught that being sexually active, often or otherwise, is something to be looked down upon while men get the luxury of being praised for how many girls they can bang and never talk to again. Really great post!

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    • Thank you so much for your feedback! And exactly, there is such a double standard created in terms of sex and virginity beteween men and women, and I was really excited to see this movie flip and break down those expectations. Hopefully we’ll see more of that in the future. 🙂

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  3. Great post! I definitely want to see this movie now.

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