Monday, April 25, 2011

Final Project: Easy A & Teen Sexuality

We believe that Easy A is a teen movie with a message. However, we think this potentially positive message gets lost within the overwhelmingly dominant ideology that has seeped into this particular piece of media. Before summarizing some of our focus points in this blog post, we also would like to note that the films marketing devices, used to appeal to teens, is not what we consider an accurate depiction of the way it actually plays out

The film “Easy A” is about an adolescent female who actually obtains her status as a “virgin” despite the fact that a lie she told to get an annoying friend to leave her alone has spread around the school and made everyone believe she is a “whore” or a “superslut.” Due to the spread of the lie, several males approach Olive asking for help with their reputations. Essentially, these young men pretend to sleep with Olive and pay her with giftcards to different stores.

When Olive faces resistance from her peers, the situation is a double bind from an analytical perspective. On one hand, the film shows how ridiculous it is when teens gossip and judge one another on the basis on sexual experience because much of the time the stories are conflated. Furthermore, the teen boys are being praised for their sexual practices while Olive faces sexual harassment and assault, rumors that she has STI’s, responsibilities that are not her own, gossip, slut-shaming, and more. In this way, the film could be interpreted as presenting reasons why sexism is still pervasive and dangerous even/especially in high schools. In the film, Olive is referred to as a superslut, a tramp, easy, a harlot, a floosy, and more.

Throughout the movie, one of the issues we really expected to be dealt with was slutshaming. Olive is shamed, ridiculed, and other-ed simply for (at least, appearing to) take control of her sexuality. The double standard of the males being praised for their roles in sexual situations, while the girls are punished, is evident in the way the males who take part see a rise in popularity and respect. At one point, one of the males tells Olive he doesn't need her permission - he can tell people they did whatever he wants, and they will believe him because of her reputation. It's a horrifying example of how our society works because it's completely true.

I've seen it argued that the overall message of "Easy A" is that rumors and being in other people's business is wrong, not that being sexually active is bad.

"And the whole word knows I’ve been whoring around -”
"No, you haven’t. A real whore can't admit it to herself, much less anyone else."

I disagree. I think though the overall message is a positive one handling privacy, that the movie continues to be controlled by the dominant social ideologies. It largely does not step outside of Leslie Grinner's SCWAMP guidelines. Even it's handling of homosexuality, something it's been praised for, seems questionable. Homosexuality is presented as a passing phase, or something that's possible to oppress with both the father and Brandon. Further, the entire plot line of changing Brandon so he will stop being bullied - something our protagonist boasts as wise, and is thus accepted by the audience - has victim blaming roots.

The current ideology of sexuality is also upheld while wrapping up Olive's sexual reputation. In the end, the characters (and thus the audience) are not taught that sexuality is healthy, or something to respect. They're taught that Olive simply didn't do those things, so she isn't a "whore," so it was wrong to label her as such. It doesn't break down the myth of sluts and whores, it simply restates Olive as a good girl.

In an article, Women's Media Center's Caroline Framke dealt with her issue with the movie.
"So while I truly liked Easy A, I was disappointed that the only aspect of the damned if you do, damned if you don't problem that Easy A doesn't cover is whether you truly are damned if you do."
She goes on to ask if Olive HAD been promiscuous, would her punishment be shown as justified? I believe Easy A does, in fact, answer that question. Lisa Kudrow plays a character who is having an extramarital affair. Though she starts the movie as a strong, positive female, by the end she has disintegrated into someone who is directly opposing the antagonist the audience is rooting for. She seems to act to mirror Olive's reputation as the "whore", as if to say now see, this is a bad girl.

By comparing the two characters, I believe you can see how Easy A continues to promote the negative sexual gender roles. As Tolman and Higgins discussed in "How Being A Good Girl Can Be Bad for Girls", girls are put in charge of males sexuality. It becomes their responsibility. Olive perpetuates this gender role by putting herself in a nurturing position for the males. In contrast, Mrs. Griffin (Kudrow) is shown as ignoring her husband - she, gasp, doesn't even provide him dinner one night. It could have been a refreshing, gender-neutral, positive representation of a marriage. It ultimately ends up as another piece of "evidence" in the morality case, presented to the audience, against Mrs. Griffin.

The writer of Easy A, Bert V. Royal, was asked what the moral of the movie was;
"I wanted to say something about judgmental people. I've known so many in my life, and I've been judgmental as well. I wanted to make a comment about people's private lives staying private. The rumor mill can really mess up people's lives. I left college because of rumors."

We entered this class with the assumption that media matters, and this piece proves it. Because our society's ideology of gender roles is so negative and all encompassing, a piece of media that does have an incredibly important message, has undertones of misogyny that go unacknowledged. Ultimately, the only two characters that are punished are, in the end, the two females who show true signs of sexuality. It says something about the current climate of the entertainment industry when the movie that has been praised as a feminist movie is ultimately still presenting negative messages.


  1. Nice Job. Big emphasis on "EASY" in that title. Yeah, it really is sad how a girl can get labeled.

  2. Nice job with your Blog and presentation. I definitly want to see the film. What is her overall reasoning for lying?

  3. I want to see this movie! From what you guys showed us in class it does seem like she was depicted differently and kind of lost some of herself towards the end.. it def. could've been beneficial if she proved a point and a lesson for girls and the whole double standard thing.