Fast forward to now, and I have seen the promised land. Wait. Perhaps "promised land" is too strong a phrase. The movie was far from perfect, but as far as teen comedies go, its potential feminism is almost unparalleled. (Almost, because, damn, I love me some "Mean Girls.")
Here's the basic run down: Olive, a quirky, assertive, and yet unnoticed high schooler, played by Emma Stone, makes up a story for her best friend, Rihannon, about losing her virginity. In the process, her fake story is overheard by a gossipy "Jesus freak" who spreads the rumor. Her lie becomes the talk of the school and a reputation is created. Olive, somewhat enticed by her new found notoriety, decides to play into the "slut" persona. In fact, inspired by her class assignment reading of "The Scarlet Letter," she sews a red A on all of her clothes.
Her gay friend, Brandon, who has been incessantly physically and socially bullied asks her to fake having sex with him to give him some peace. Their plan works and other boys begin giving Olive gift cards to have her say they did sexual things together in order to look cooler.
Olive continues to play into the slut persona, at first much to her amusement. However, with the passing of time she realizes the web of lies she has weaved is actually causing her more problems than she had anticipated. And with a series of twists, that would include spoilers if I go into them, Olive decides to reveal the truth to everyone.
So that's the basic run down. It is, in and of its self, a pretty unique story arch in the realm of teen comedies, as it is all about a young woman's sexuality on her own terms. Here's what else I liked about it:
- It directly addresses slut shaming, especially in the context of high school. Olive is a teen beyond her years, and she is almost like an anthropologist examining the high school culture. We, as the audience, are pulled into seeing it from Olive's point of view. The fact that she has been labeled a slut, is subsequently ridiculous to us.
- It drives home the point that "sluttiness" is all in the eye of the beholder. It can have very little to do with the actual person involved. In this case, Olive was not actually having any kind of sex. But her persona and the lie were all that people needed.
- It showed us the sexual double standard. Olive tells Brandon that before they pretend to have sex, he needs to be prepared for the consequences. But when they emerge from the bedroom Brandon is greeted with high fives and excited questions from the other boys. Olive is gawked at, mocked, shamed, and ostracized.
- It tells us that, sometimes, it should be sisters before misters. (That's my feminist answer to "bros before hoes.") In the process of her slut shaming, Olive loses her best friend who ends up participating in the Olive hating. Olive admits that this was one of the worst things that came out of her playing the part of the slut. But we can't help but wonder why it should matter to Rihannon if Olive is being sexual. In the end, Olive owns her part in their split (she told a lie) and we are left hoping that Rihannon realizes that she, like the rest of the school, has too harshly judged Olive. Not because Olive actually wasn't having sex, but because it shouldn't matter.
- The message isn't that being a "slut" is bad. The message is that other people being overly involved in your business is bad. Olive's mom reveals that in her youth she was actually very slutty. But we aren't told that she regrets it or that it was bad or shameful. Instead, one of the lasting messages Olive gives all of her gawkers is that is doesn't matter if she loses her virginity in 5 minutes or a year, it's no one's damn business.
- The movie very passionately displays how homosexual students face extreme bullying. The only point in the movie that I almost...almost felt a lump in my throat was when Brandon was begging Olive to help him. That pain and fear is a very real, very problematic aspect of high school for so many students.
- The movie also very passionately displays the horrific misconception that because a girl has sex with several people, boys have a right to her body. Or that men can't rape sex workers simply because they are sex workers. I'll just leave it at that.
Like I said, however, the movie isn't perfect. Other than the point I listed above, I'm not excited about the portrayal of Brandon, the gay character. I feel like there was also tokenism of racial minorities. And there was lots of fat shaming involved in one of the characters that Olive helps look cooler.
But at the end of the day, "Easy A" gets an A from me in the realm of teen comedies. I love Emma Stone. I love confronting slut shaming. I love a movie that references classical American literature. I love not walking out of a teen comedy feeling grossly covered in misogyny. 'Nuff said.