Movie Night: Easy A – UPDATED

Chico left town on Saturday night, so I decided to make a movie night of it and watch Easy A starring Emma Stone.

I had low expectations of this teen film.  Though Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 85% on the Tomatometer, I was still somewhat skeptical.

Aside  from the horrible quality of the Netflix Canada streaming, I have to admit that I was delighted!  I found myself thoroughly enjoying Emma Stone’s sassy, smart attitude, the clever re-interpretation of a classic, and the way it gets people thinking about a very serious, à propos topic.

Easy A
Emma Stone is Olive Penderghast

First, a quick summary.  Olive Penderghast is not popular at her California high school.  One Friday, when trying to get out of going camping with her best friend that weekend, she makes up a story about having a date.  On Monday (after a weekend of dancing around on her own in her bedroom), her lie spins out of control when her friend mistakenly thinks she lost her virginity to the non-existent date.

Tired of trying to convince her friend otherwise, Olive goes with the lie, which is overheard by the ringleader of the school’s fundamentalist Christian crowd.  It spreads like wildfire, and when Olive agrees to help out a fellow sufferer of unpopularity by pretending to have sex with him, rumors abound that she is having sex for money.  As the lies spiral out of control, Olive is defined by her schoolmates by a falsehood, and finds herself starting to believe it.

Emma Stone is (or arguably “was” before Jennifer Lawrence hit the scene), Hollywood’s “it” girl.  She first caught my notice when she starred in The Help in 2011.  What I liked so much about her in Easy A is that she comes across as intelligent, sassy and quick-tongued (almost à la Gilmore Girls but not that annoying), but she still shows so well the contrast between thinking she’s so knowledgable while being completely clueless.

The film is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, which, appropriately enough, Olive is studying in English class.  Like Hester Prynne, Olive is maligned as tales of her supposed promiscuity circulate around the school.  I thought the film successfully made the premise of a great work more accessible to a modern, young audience, much like other great teen versions of classics have done (10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless for example).

This film also brings to the fore an issue that is getting a lot of press lately.  The term “slut-shaming” came up in popular media only after Easy A came out.  It is used to describe the act of making a woman feel bad or guilty about her sexuality, and sometimes to describe the practice of blaming sexual assault on a woman’s clothing.  The term became popular after the SlutWalks which began in Toronto in 2011 following inappropriate comments from a Toronto police officer.

Rehtaeh Parsons
Rehtaeh Parsons’ heartbreaking story is in sad contrast to the happy conclusion of “Easy A.”

Recent events here in Canada, such as the suicides of teens Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, demonstrate that slut-shaming (or whatever you want to call it) and bullying like those experienced by Olive in Easy A are huge problems.  Easy A was not a film to address these issues; it predates either of those sad stories.  For that reason, it paints what has become a very serious concern in a rosier, comedic light.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s not like the filmmakers could predict what was to come.

Easy A concludes with an important point.  Though rumors, gossip and (sadly) nasty bullying are accepted as part and parcel of high school life, that does not make these practices okay.  Olive Penderghast sparked the fire herself and remained largely in control of her situation.  However, in most cases acts that give girls such notoriety are not imagined, and are often documented, shared, transmitted and never forgotten (see an earlier post I wrote about how the internet never forgets).

So what is the conclusion of Easy A?  Without giving away too much of the story, I can tell you that one of Olive’s last lines is about potentially losing her virginity.  She says she doesn’t know when it will be, but, “the really amazing thing is: it’s nobody’s God-damned business.”

That’s easy to say, but for people to actually mind their own business (especially teenagers) is another thing entirely.  While Easy A may appeal to a teenage demographic, and one can hope the message gets through, more needs to be done to combat bullying.

If it’s an issue that has affected your home, or if the stories about the two teens I linked to above have touched you, find out how you can get involved in your community, and in your own family, to stop bullying.  Here in Montreal you can find resources and information at MontrealFamilies.ca.

In conclusion, Easy A is a great film because it’s cute, funny, poignant, and most importantly it gets you thinking.

***

Update: On TV this evening I saw an ad for a bullying awareness website.  You can find it here: Bullying Canada.

Jane

The Brain In Jane works mainly in the rain. It's always raining somewhere. Find me on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

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