Easy A is a comedy about a teenage girl (Olive Penderghast) who lies to her best friend about having sex (because her friend wouldn’t stop hassling her) and becomes the school slut overnight, thanks to gossip travelling the social networking grapevine. She decides to have fun with her new notoriety and dress up as a slut, her new wardrobe consisting largely of bustiers with red “A”s sewn on them. (They’re studying The Scarlet Letter in class.)
Then a gay male friend begs her to be his girlfriend to help him blend in until he can finish high school (he’s not ok with being out yet), and so the two of them pretend to be drunk and have loud sex at a party where everyone can hear them. From there, she takes to allowing other boys to lie about having sex with her in exchange for gift cards, mostly because she’s a nice girl who has a hard time saying no to people after hearing their sob stories. At the same time, her parents, her English teacher, and the school counsellor are concerned for her and her friend Rhi joins up with the Christian club to denounce her harlot ways. It was fun for a while, but then it all falls apart, Olive decides to end her career as a fake slut with a bang, and it all kinds of works out.
Olive is not what I would call a *strong* female character. She’s no Amazon warrior, and she isn’t really strong-minded enough to tell her friend the truth at the beginning: the boyfriend was invented to get out of going camping with Rhi’s nudist family. Basically she’s a nice girl, smart, fun, with common sense and a definite sassy streak, but a little too accommodating when people try to take advantage of her. More like medium-strong than strong-strong. A girl-next-door, pretty safe by Hollywood standards.
But did I say she was fun? And if she’d been strong-minded enough to tell Rhi the truth at the beginning, there would be no film.
The other female characters include a prudish teen, a “slutty” teen, a cool mom, and an open-minded guidance counsellor. There is a lot of talk about sex in this film, but very little action. If talking about sex is ok, the film passes the Bechdel/Wallace test many times. And while Olive wears sexy bustiers, somehow they manage to look kind of cute on her, rather than sleazy-sexy. It’s “fun” sex, not “sexy” sex – safe for teens, I guess.
All of the women, and almost everyone else, is white. Maybe this is typical of Ojai, California? Olive has a black younger brother, whose sole purpose appears to be to make her family look more open-minded, as far as I can tell. The one brown boy I remember is one of the losers who pays to get fake-laid. But there’s a fun joke with a black man at the end.
One of the other things I liked about this film is that people have known each other since kindergarten. There’s a sense of community I don’t see much in films, and it buffers the gossip somewhat.
I went to high school in the John Hughes era, in a country with a much lower age of consent, and the newspapers were constantly feeding us statistics telling us half of us had done it already, so I really don’t identify with the culture at Olive’s high school where if a girl has sex, she’s a slut. I think at my school, if it was with a serious partner, it was fine. To me the film seemed more like science fiction than reality (what if . . . ?). But I can see how, if teens are not comfortable with their own sexuality yet (as Rhi was not), they might gossip incessantly about other teens’ sex lives as a way of coping. And this film might give people a chance to talk more about attitudes towards sex.
This movie is getting strong reviews all over the place, so I suspect it will become a classic. Even with all the references to ’80s teen flicks.