Author: Claire Pizzurro
Recently, I went to see Easy A, the new film starring Emma Stone and loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I thought it was a smart, engaging, and well-written comedy with a factor that would appeal to the masses. Namely, attractive people in skimpy outfits talking about sex. Considering that the girls behind me did not seem to get any of the Huckleberry Finn references, I’m not sure that its homage to great literature is going to be understood by everyone, but I found it exceptionally enjoyable. However, there was one major element left unaddressed in the film that left me frustrated and annoyed. In a movie all about slut-shaming and the prices people will pay to increase their sex appeal, the concept of double standards was left suspiciously absent.
I don’t want to write yet another article about Feminism and sexuality, but really, this bears repeating. What the fuck is up with a movie that centers around its main character’s rise and fall in the social sphere due to her perceived sexual conquests leaving out any mention that hey, this is wrong? Olive Penderghast is a spunky, intelligent, extremely attractive high school student with an unnaturally put-together family and a level of wit usually reserved for Gilmore Girls banter. Somehow, she is unnoticed in her high school until she inadvertently starts a rumor that she had sex with a college student over the weekend. All of a sudden, everyone knows who she is. And when a friend of hers asks her to pretend to have sex with him so that he won’t be bullied anymore for being gay (a very poignant and well acted scene), she agrees because she is just that kind-hearted. So then they pretend to have very loud, drunk, and aggressive sex at a party. As they leave the room where the sex acts are purported to have occurred, the whole party is gathered to cheer the boy and make lewd gestures at the girl.
Okay, seriously? I get that this is an adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, one of the most quintessential works on Puritanical Early American society. However, as a modern adaptation, one would think that the writers could have had some sort of throwaway line mentioning how ridiculously the treatment of the female protagonist versus the treatment of the men she is assumed to have slept with is handled. It wouldn’t have to have been much, just someone pointing out the obvious. And yes, maybe it would be too obvious to point out the problems, but without that line and without the issue being expressed, the message becomes that it is okay that she is treated like a prostitute because she is a girl and she was letting people believe that she was having lots and lots of sex. It is okay that she was shamed because she was behaving the way girls are not supposed to. The men she helped out were lauded as heroes for their supposed sexual activities, but she was a slut.
Slut-shaming and double standards are pervasive in American culture. Easy A was such an intelligently written film with literary allusions and hilarious references to John Hughes’ films – some of the most memorable movies about high school ever made. Unfortunately, even though the movie worked so well on an entertainment level, when my friend and I left the theater and began to talk about it, we both immediately hit on the same point. Maybe next time someone decides to write a movie that deals with girls having sex, they might say something about how silly it is that women aren’t supposed to be sexual, but men are ostracized for being otherwise.
That said, I highly recommend the movie. It was fun.