5 Ways The To Do List Is a Radically Feminist Film

A Guide to Decoding Its Girl-Power Clues

4. Undermining Gender Flips. It’s hard to imagine a gender flip of the “losin’ it” scenario, where the girl comes first and then suddenly becomes unable to satisfy her male partner. That’s just one of the several ways that The To Do List, despite its accessible, seemingly unambitious reversal of a traditionally male genre, demonstrates its skepticism toward the simple “gender flip” given certain undeniable differences between men and women, especially when it comes to sex. That Brandy isn’t just losing her virginity, but doing so as a young feminist trying to figure out how to apply the political to the personal (e.g., feminism through orgasms) is another example of how distinctive her sexual path is from, say, Jason Biggs’s. Compare Carey’s FUBU approach to a more female-centered but male-catered contrivance like Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft or Lord Zod’s right-hand woman in Man of Steel, where the construction of a token “strong woman” is to take a male template and stick a pair of boobs on it--no female POV necessary. Ultimately, then, the film serves as a commentary of how simple gender-flipping is a too-often inadequate way of telling women’s stories.

Bonnie Osborne
Bonnie Osborne


The To Do List Written and directed by Maggie Carer. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Scott Porter, Connie Britton and Clark Gregg. Rated R

5. Its feminist utopia. Despite taking place in Boise, Idaho, The To Do List exists in as close to a feminist paradise as one might find on this planet outside of a lesbian commune. Things aren’t perfect: Brandy’s Limbaugh-reading dad (Clark Gregg) is a (hilarious) prude, and her pool-manager boss Willy (Bill Hader) delights in calling attention to her flat chest. But Willy’s teasing is much more big brother-y than grounds for sexual harassment, and the rest of the film’s characters seem to live in a universe where respect for a woman and her desires is de rigueur and slut-shaming an unknown practice. Brandy’s best friends (Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele), her self-appointed Q and Moneypenny of Operation Anti-Purity, are equally supportive of their friend’s extracurricular activities. (Shawkat’s Fiona does call Brandy a “slut” midway through the film, but it’s clear from the context that she’s lobbing the first insult that comes to mind and doesn’t really mean it.) It’s not just Brandy, then, but all Boise citizens who create such a wholesomely sex-positive, Leave It to Brandy’s Beaver kind of backdrop for safe sexual experimentation. It doesn’t take a village to get a woman laid, but it certainly helps when they’re not throwing stones at her for it.

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