Easy A – Movie Review

Easy A – Movie Review

Review by Stacey Tuttle

There are times when I see a movie or read a book less for my own personal interest (i.e. because it appeals to my sense of taste) than for the insight that I think it may offer into the culture which produced it or to which it appeals.  Easy A was such a movie.  What did I think?  While I wrote down several pages worth of “offenses” the movie (in my rather conservative opinion) commits, I still found it surprisingly (or maybe begrudgingly) redeeming and endearing.  But that is the very thing which concerns me.  Are we willing to overlook things which we shouldn’t overlook just because it feels likeable?  Or is it possible that the reason it’s likeable is because there is something good in it?  Frankly, I’m still not sure. 

What offensive things did I see in the movie?  Let me list a few things just so you can see the kinds of concerns I have and why.

Let’s start with the grownups, parents, and should-be role-models in the movie.

  • Her best friend’s parents are nudists and are doing drugs
  • Most parents are portrayed as completely absurd, buffoonish
  • Dad says he was gay once, “it’s OK.  We all do it.”
  • Parents encourage children to date and explore whatever sexual orientation is of interest
  • Guidance counselor gives horrible advice and offers no actual guidance whatsoever
  • Guidance counselor is having affair with a student and lets Olive take the fall for it
  • Parents are of the “no judgment” mentality – even though they say their daughter looks like a stripper, they look at the bright side and say that at least she looks like a high-end stripper.  At no point do they even attempt to step in and actually parent their daughter
  • The mother is constantly bragging about her sexual contortionism and her vast sexual exploits (in the past)

Why do I think this is a concern?  Two reasons really.  The first is that respect for your elders is not something our culture highly prizes.   On the contrary, our culture values youth and beauty (among other things).  While parents at home may want their children to honor them, look to them for guidance, treat them with respect and obey them, that very message is undermined by a large majority of television shows and movies in which the adults are made to look like silly, irrelevant, foolish buffoons.  Easy A is definitely such a movie.  It is easy to understand why Olive would not want to go to her parents for guidance, or her guidance counselor, or her friend’s parents… 

Frankly, we live in a world where Father doesn’t Know Best any more.  The kids are the ones who are wiser, who “get it” and who have it all together, or at least when they don’t, they are capable of getting it back together in their own knowledge, strength and capabilities.

Why do I think our culture likes this message so much?  I think it’s because we are a proud people.  We don’t like to submit to authority.  We do value youth and beauty.  So it’s easy to buy into it when we are told that youth and beauty have all the answers.  It appeals to our young to believe that adults are irrelevant and foolish.  Then they don’t have to listen when their parents or boss or superior in any technical sense says they should do something they don’t like.  And then, the young mature, and they still have that line of thinking ingrained into their mind, without even realizing it. 

 The other reason I think this slips into our culture so easily is the way we value humor.  We will forgive nearly any offense if it’s masked in humor.  And it’s just oddly funny to see something that is out of order with the natural way of things…like an adult who is ridiculous and a child who has it all together. 

 The second reason I think the way adults are portrayed in Easy A is problematic is that, despite the fact that our culture tends not to honor the elderly, the fact is, it is the natural way of things for the young to look up to and model their parents and mentors.  They are still, no matter how much the young might resist it, role models.  So the message that these role models are sending out is one of total lawlessness—especially in regards to sexual exploration:  anything from premarital sex, to hetero, homo, bi-sexual, to nudist colonies, to sexual contortionism, to affairs to sex between students and teachers. 

Another concern is the casualness with which things which ought to be private and sensitive are so boldly and crassly handled.  There is no sense of shame or sensitivity in this movie, about anything.  Olives’ best friend continues calls her B**** and S*** Face – as if she was calling her Honey or Goofball.  There’s not a moment’s pause when Rhiannon (Olive’s best friend) says her parents are now nudists.  Wouldn’t that cause most teens some awkwardness and pain if that was their parents?  But we are supposed to find it hilarious and therefore acceptable.  And, need I mention that the whole center of the movie is the publicity of Olive’s (you could even say everyone’s) sexual exploits?  Real or imagined, does it make any difference?  When did sex become a matter for tweets and videos versus a private matter between a husband and wife?  For gosh sakes’, even if you aren’t married, shouldn’t it still be something private, between the two of you and the two of you alone? 

While our culture no longer values virtue or discretion, that doesn’t mean they are any less valuable.  Proverbs 2:11 says, “Discretion will protect you.”  And then in Proverbs 11:12, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”  I guess, in the end, Olive kind of found these things out for herself.  Maybe this is one of the reasons why it was redeeming and endearing.  She said that people might have been “proud of her for sleeping around a little—but not too much.  Then she was a whore.”  She also said that, “Notoriety never seems to benefit the noted, only the notees.”   And sadly, “no one was getting hurt, but a lot of people hate me now.  I kind of hate me too.” Her intentional lack of discretion left her open to the scorn of others.  In their opinions and even in her own, she became like that ring in the pig’s snout. 

 The remarkable thing is, she hadn’t actually done anything.  She had only pretended to do something.  But, the Bible says in Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.”  Whether or not you believe the Biblical view that sex should be saved for marriage, almost everyone will agree that it ought to be at least between two people who care about each other.  Most people will agree that casual sex is not a good thing.  But here was Olive, pretending to do a bad thing.  Not only that, but she was pretending that that bad thing was completely good and acceptable—she was calling evil good.  (Need I mention that she was also lying…another evil thing that she was justifying and calling good.) And even though she was just pretending, it brought her sorrow and made her feel dirty. 

 Confession is good for the soul though, so Olive came clean.  And to conclude the story, she announces to the world about her new found love, “I may lose my virginity to him in 6 minutes, tonight, 6 months, or on our wedding night…but it’s none of your *@#* business”.  Well, she may have learned something about discretion, but don’t hope for any positive plug for abstinence.  If the movie celebrates anything, it is the right to freedom and the right to personal choice.  And personally, I think it’s a shame when personal choice trumps wisdom in the pantheon of virtues.

 Questions for Discussion:

  • What positives and negatives about our culture did you see revealed in Easy A?
  • Do you think Christians should be concerned with the way Christians are portrayed by the movie?  (I realize this was not covered in the review, but is a good question for consideration.) 
  • Do you think we have any reason to be concerned about the way grown ups are portrayed by the movie (and sitcoms, etc.)?
  • Is discretion a dying virtue in our culture?  In your own life?
  • How do think the internet has effected our sense of privacy and discretion?  What about the next generation?
  • Which do you value more, freedom of (personal) choice or wisdom?
  • What examples do you see around you of our culture calling evil things good?  When have you been tempted to do that in your own life?
  • When have you been protected by discretion?
  • What was your overall response to the movie?  Did you like it?  Hate it?  Like it but feel guilty that you liked it?  Did you feel that your emotional response to the movie may have been disconnected from your mental response (or what you think the appropriate mental response should be)… i.e. you enjoyed it even though you found it offensive and inappropriate?