Spoilers ahead. “Male nudity is very funny. It's an intrinsically funny piece of anatomy,” Natalie Morales joked over Zoom. She’s referring to a scene in Plan B, her directorial debut premiering on Hulu May 28, in which teen best friends Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles) find themselves face to face with a drug dealer’s violently pierced foreskin as part of their fraught journey to obtain Plan B pills.
Morales is right — the sudden male full frontal nudity is a hilarious and unexpected moment that flips the script on the raunchy teen comedy. How many times have we, the audience, been confronted with gratuitous boobs during an adolescent man’s coming of age tale? But for Morales, that scene, and indeed the movie as a whole, also serves as a reminder that for women, the stakes are always a little bit higher. Stranded at nightfall in the middle of nowhere, Sunny and Lupe are only interacting with this shady character out of desperation. The price for this man’s Plan B stash? Oral sex.
“I grew up loving movies like Superbad and American Pie. But I had never seen two women be the leads of [that kind of movie] — not to mention two women of color. I had never seen myself represented that way,” Morales told Refinery29 about her desire to make the film. “But also in all of these teen quest movies, [the plot] is always like, ‘Let's get to the cool party’ or ‘Let's get the alcohol,’ or ‘Let's get my dad's car back in time.’ In this one, it was like, ‘Let's get basic healthcare.’”
Written by Prathi Srinivasan and Joshua Levy, Plan B begins with a very literal bang. Seventeen-year-old Sunny, tired of feeling like the only virgin in the room, decides to throw a party and have sex with her crush, Hunter (Michael Provost). But when he leaves with her nemesis, she decides to settle for the most readily available option: extremely devout Christian Kyle (Mason Cook). The two have a very awkward first sexual encounter in her bathroom. Slightly embarrassed, Sunny keeps the incident to herself — until the next morning, when she goes to pee and a condom full of sperm falls out of her, and into the toilet. It got stuck. When Sunny and Lupe try to get the Plan B pill from a local pharmacy, the pharmacist invokes South Dakota’s conscience clause, which allows providers to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives if it conflicts with their religious or ethical beliefs. Out of options and out of time, the two decide to borrow Sunny’s mom’s van and drive to Rapid City, home to the closest Planned Parenthood. It’s not exactly a last minute stoned trip to White Castle.
The movie fits into a burgeoning genre of road trip movies centering young American women forced to travel in order to obtain reproductive healthcare services. Some, like Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always or Nia DaCosta’s Little Woods, are squarely dramatic. Others, like Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s Unpregnant or indeed Plan B, are definitely comedies. But all of them share a common thread: For too many women, access to safe and potentially life-saving services remains dangerously elusive.
In fact, Morales was surprised to find out through making this film that many people believe the Plan B pill to be an abortant rather than a contraceptive. “They don't know the difference because they were never taught that in schools,” she said.
In that sense, movies centering women — even ones like Plan B that feature a situational sex gag involving a squatty potty — often face a double burden: To entertain, yes, but also to educate. “When you live in a world where [contraception] is not super accessible and you don't have the education and you don't have anybody to talk to, things are really hard,” Morales said. “Especially in this country, where there are conscience clauses in many states that allow pharmacists to refuse contraceptive medication or any medication that goes against their beliefs. If you live in a small town where that’s the only pharmacy, or where everybody has the same beliefs, then you're out of luck.”
That said, Plan B is the opposite of preachy or didactic. Verma and Moroles have eye-popping friend chemistry, and Morales’ vision delivers a fresh, fun ride with incredible comedic performances, lightning quips, accidental drug trips, and yes, full frontal male nudity. And if all that also happens to make you think about the lack of contraceptive access in this country? Welcome to the messy reality of being a woman.
“It's a very real high stakes struggle, but it also is my life, and your life,” Morales said. “Every day of existing as a woman is terrifying and hilarious and unfair and funny and raunchy.