Mature-rated teen comedies often feature raunchy quests like getting alcohol for a party or losing your virginity. But Cuban American actor and director Natalie Morales wanted to make a movie that looks and feels more like the complicated reality she sees off screen. And her feature comedy “Plan B,” which premieres Friday on Hulu, delivers exactly that — two teenage girls of color having to overcome funny, sad and genuinely absurd moments on a road trip to get the morning-after pill.
“There are a lot of messages in this movie, but mostly it wasn’t made with the intent to hit you over the head with anything,” Morales said, “other than perhaps seeing yourself represented or seeing your daughters represented or seeing someone that’s like you — and feeling understood.”
Sunny (played by Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (played by Victoria Moroles) are best friends who help each other cope with teenage anxieties, such as fitting in, high school, love and sex.
They also share a bond as the daughters of immigrant parents —Sunny is Indian American and Lupe is Mexican American — which gives a fresh touch of diversity to a movie genre that has been largely dominated by white teenage boys.
The friends set off on a romp through South Dakota to get emergency contraception after a condom malfunctions during Sunny’s first sexual encounter and a pharmacist refuses to give her the morning-after pill.
Parents and teenagers in South Dakota could relate to Sunny’s predicament. The Food and Drug Administration made the morning-after pill available without prescription to women ages 15 and older in 2013. But some states, like South Dakota, have conscience clauses that allow pharmacists to legally refuse prescriptions based on religious or moral beliefs.
While politics has complicated access to basic reproductive health care, data from 2017 to 2019 show that white women use the morning-after pill more than twice as much as Latinas and Black women. The survey also found that the percentage of white women using contraception (69.2 percent) is higher than that of Black women (61.4 percent) and Latinas (60.5 percent).
Morales said the movie focuses on showing viewers how sex education on and off screen can be both awkward and inadequate.
“I’ve learned that through the process of promoting this movie and talking about it that a lot of people are under the impression that the Plan B pill is an abortion pill, when it’s not,” she said. “And a lot of people don’t know that you can’t get pregnant immediately after having unprotected sex. That’s not how it biologically works.”
The movie has some awkward but funny moments, such as when Sunny turns her pink stuffed elephant away from her bed during an intimate moment in the company of her anatomy textbook. During a sex education class, an out-of-touch instructor shows an abstinence video that compares a woman’s active sex life with a used, broken-down car.
Morales said taking the story of teenage girls to the big screen and showing how their lives can be funny, sad and scary will help viewers appreciate the complexity of reality. At the same time, it can also help them understand that their stories can be much bigger than the things that marginalize them or make them different.
“It’s essential and it’s also not difficult to make TV and movies look like the world around us,” Morales said. “I hope that stories about us are a bigger swath than just the trauma.”
Morales, who identifies as Latinx, Latina, Cuban, Cuban American and queer, says the labels that define her can mean a lot of things — and nothing — because, like everyone else, she is also just human.
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