Due to (positive) personal life circumstances, I am very behind on my blogging for the week – I still owe Laz and CD comments on both of their eloquent posts, not to mention responding to the Beyoncé comments. I have a lot to say about the feminist issues this movie raises, so I will definitely be returning to this topic at a later date. Please consider this part 1 of at least 2 posts on Easy A.
I was excited about this movie from the minute I first heard about it last year. As a female, heteronormative pop-culture-consumer only three years out of adolescence, how could I not be? Plus, quite separately from the feminist glee, I appreciate a good literary joke, especially about something as boring as The Scarlet Letter. (Note: I do not consider all high school assigned novels boring.)
I am glad to report that Easy A lived up to my moderately high expectations. This movie could not have succeeded without Emma Stone’s charisma and endearingly clumsy grace, and they were very, very lucky to cast her. I hope she has a long, successfully feminist career in movies. Lord knows the industry needs more like her.
I would also like to compare Easy A to Juno, another well-made feminist teenage fantasy. Many reviewers before me have no doubt connected the two, but probably not in the way that I do. The movies are alike in tone – the irreverent, self-aware attitude of the 21st-century teenager – and in female empowerment – exploring and encouraging the sexuality of young women. The moral and social conclusions the feminist viewer can draw from them, however, are very different. More on this will have to go in the next post. Extra credit if you can figure out what conclusions I draw from Juno before I write them.
LINK TO SOURCE: YOUTUBE TRAILER
+ FEMINIST POINTS
• The movie is hilarious. Why is this important? Because Christopher Hitchens thinks women aren’t funny. (I refuse to link to that sexist “article” and give him the page hits.) And he’s clearly not alone, so any successful example of females being funny is a punch in his eye.
• Her parents are class acts. They clearly both love and support their daughter, even when they completely don’t understand her. It is so rare to find a piece of teen fiction/fantasy where the (living) parents aren’t demonized.
• The scene with her mother on the car at the end of the film gets special mention, because it is lovely. And poignant. And funny. And completely believable. And thus totally feminist.
• The fight with her best friend is also surprisingly realistic, given the conventions of melodrama. Everyone has at least one friend-by-convenience in high school, and if you’re a loner/invisible, then it makes complete sense that you’d stick by that friend until drama happens to divide you. I am also glad they didn’t slap a Seventh-Heaven-style make-up scene at the end. Alert viewers will notice that the screenwriters left hope for reconciliation but no conclusive proof. And that’s exactly true to life. Poor Aly Michalka had such a horrible tan, though.
• I was completely surprised and pleased by the guidance counselor’s storyline. What an unusual choice regarding female high school administrators – and Lisa Kudrow knocked that performance out of the park. Too bad teen comedies never get noticed at the Oscars.
• I was also completely surprised and pleased by the storyline for Micah, the male Jesus freak. They opted out of any of the clichéd fates for him, and instead gave him a nuanced, sympathetic problem. Unless you’re a militant atheist, you will watch this film and want him to succeed. (Why does this count as a feminist point? Because I think you can argue that his character is a feminist, or at least that his actions are.)
– FEMINIST POINTS
• Emma Stone is much too pretty to play Jules. I know, I know, this is a convention of teenage film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t frustrating. It takes serious suspension of belief to accept a gorgeous girl (with professionally-managed hair and makeup) as an invisible loner.
• Emma Stone is much too skinny, period. Yes, some teenage girls really have such frames, but the Viewers At Home do not need more body-dysmorphia-inducing images. Ellen Page in Juno looked much more like an average teenager, albeit a thin one.
• Far too many of the male characters are portrayed as Evil one-notes. Yes, the dad and English teacher are excellent (almost too excellent), but does that make up for the gross actions and attitudes displayed by: the principal, the Fat Nerd, the Popular Jock, the Indian Nerd, the Horndog, and all the other dudes except the Gay One and the Love Interest? No, no it does not. Easy A is far better at rounding out peripheral characters than the average chick flick, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to let anything slide. Real teenage boys are much more conflicted about their sex drives, and their characterization here was a little unfair.
• The plotline for Brandon, the Gay One. The screenwriters had an agenda to push, and I’m not sure I agree with it. I’m more sympathetic towards Brandon’s choices than was the chick who wrote our school newspaper’s review of the film [[will be discussed in the next post]], but I still feel like his decision to run away was a cop-out.
• OMG the plotline for the Love Interest, Todd. WHAT A F’ING FANTASY. I’m sorry, no real teenage boy is that “perfect”. Gorgeous, socially confident, kind, and willing to wait? Yeah, right. You can definitely find three out of four in a given adolescent male (depending on how strict you are on things like “gorgeous” and “kind”), but they don’t all coexist unless you have a really rare specimen who’s mature for his age/already worked out his issues.
• Todd’s plotline gets extra demerits for that scene in his car in the rain. NO WAY IS THAT REALISTIC OR FAIR. GK and LND, who saw the second half of the movie with me, thought I was seriously overreacting. Maybe I’m overemphasizing, but that’s my right as a feminist critic. Todd was incredibly patient with Jules throughout the film, and he had just done her a huge fricking favor by DRIVING HER HOME. FROM A DATE WITH SOMEONE ELSE. IN THE RAIN. The least she could have done was kiss him.*
*Let’s be clear – I don’t advocate a system where relationship partners trade sex for favors, monetary or otherwise. But I also think it’s incredibly unfair to men (and other sexually desirous individuals) when women (and other sexually reticent individuals) continually push off sexual intimacy and expect their partner to be OK with it. If the two of you have had an honest discussion about it, then fine, whatever. Do whatever you want. Don’t tell me the details, please.
I strongly disapprove of the way Hollywood and the romance industry in this country have created an expensive, toxic fantasy out of virginity and the supposed beauty of Your First Time. Most organized religions have strict rules about sexual intercourse, but that is not what I’m talking about. Millions of secular American girls have been raised on books and films and TV shows that tell them one shouldn’t give up the sacred jewel of her virginity unless He Loves You Back. This is a pretty crappy argument. [[Let me know if you want me to say more about this in the next post.]] If you don’t want to have sex with your partner, then don’t. But please also don’t lead the other individual on. It’s rude and possibly even cruel (if you’re doing it knowingly).
If you still disagree with me, think about it from Todd’s perspective. He is the good guy here, pining for Jules over the course of several years (or so we’re told). They’ve been developing a friendly flirtation over the course of the film. She seemed really interested at that party. He has behaved like a gentleman regarding all those rumors about her sexual prowess (despite secretly getting excited). He sees her crying after the Horndog proves a horny misogynist (which IS actually a surprise) and goes to play the White Knight by driving the Damsel In Distress home. She’s not drunk or high in the car – in fact, she accidentally admits that she likes him back. She is obviously really hot, especially when wet. All the signs are there. So he leans in for the kiss and then – SHE REJECTS HIM. Gurl, I know you ain’t got yo’ shit together, but that there is just mean.
We can all predict what happens next — clearly a deleted scene. Jules goes inside and her storyline goes on, excited that the Good Guy likes her. Todd drives home, confused and frustrated (and slightly sweaty from his shift at work + all the, uh, excitement). By the time he gets back to his house, he’s still totally blue-balled. He goes to take a shower to cool off, and you can fill in your own euphemism here.
See, girls? Don’t do that to your man/sexual partner/love interest. Kiss the boy or leave the race. Give him something to believe in.
What do you think, dear readers? What have I left out or inadequately examined? Next week I’ll continue to problematize this film, particularly its attitude towards slut-shaming and high school social politics (as opposed to the individual characterizations I discussed above). The week after that, it’ll be time for some teenage Female Warrior analysis, courtesy of Katniss Everdeen and The Hunger Games trilogy. Oh, that love triangle. Were you Team Gale or Team Peeta? Reread the books if you need to and get ready to argue with me.