One might not necessarily think of The Crucible as the most feminist story, but a new modern retelling of the classic portrays the tale in a whole new light. Blame, which just premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival schedule, follows two diametrically-opposed young women presented as familiar teen archetypes (the loner vs. the popular girl) that transform into more truthful versions of teen girls as the film progresses. This stereotype reversal is refreshing, to say the least, and it plays into Blame director Quinn Shephard's hope that movies portrays teen girls differently going forward.
"I’ve always been aware of these oversexualized stereotypes of young women that we have," the 22-year-old Shephard tells me during a recent phone interview. "We have all of these school-girl kind of images in our mind." Diffusing these sexualized images with a serio-comic energy was important to the way she brought her female characters to the screen, she explains. "I wanted to give the movie so much of that that you would start to be really aware of that […] that you’re almost getting fed so much familiar imagery that it becomes absurd."
You'd be forgiven in thinking that Blame sounds, at first, like a typical teen film. After all, the characters feel familiar, fitting into traditional archetypes you've watched time and time again. Shephard knows this, but she consciously used these archetypes to her advantage. "I’m someone who sees a lot of high school movies," she says. "You want to poke fun at it, which I think is a really conscious decision in Blame."
Shephard's specific knowledge of teen films ultimately worked to her advantage when she was writing Blame. "I wanted to lure the audience in with really familiar high school clichés and then really subvert them and turn them on their heads and make you understand these girls — the bad girls, the outcasts — in such a different and new way you haven't necessarily seen before," she explains.
As a young woman writing about young women, Shephard's insight into the mind of a teenage girl is invaluable, and she's aware of how rare a perspective like hers in the film industry is. "I think, honestly, what we need to do is we need to have more scripts about young women written by young women and less scripts about young women written by, like, 50-year-old men in Hollywood," she says.
"I mean, we need more diversity. We need to have stories about teens of all different ethnicities and genders and sexualities. I think I just want to see more honesty," she continues. "I think that it’s also about less fetishization of the teenage girl. If you’re going to do it, be self-aware about it and make fun of it my work intends to have a lot [of that]."
If Shephard's Blame is indicative of anything, it's that there's hope to be had about the tides turning on how we view teen girls in films.