Gender, Movies, Musing, Reviews

Easy A: A Study in Slut-Shaming, Part VIII: And Back to Olive

If you’re confused, it’s because you’ve stumbled onto the last part of my absurdly long series on the movie Easy A! Click for Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII. Huzzah!

We made it to the end, guys! This is the last of me ranting about how amazing the movie Easy A is. Again, if you somehow haven’t seen it despite reading all of these things, go watch this movie. It is so good and I haven’t even covered most of the really funny bits. Over the past two weeks, we’ve talked about Olive and the slut/virgin dichotomy that makes her sympathetic, Marianne as a representation of puritanical culture, Brandon and how slut-shaming is related to homophobia, the ways that slut-shaming turns women against each other as exemplified by Rhiannon, how ingrained it can become even in people with authority like Mrs. Griffith, how these sorts of attitudes make it okay for guys like Anson to commit sexual assault and rape, and how all of this is stupid because even people who are slutty like Rosemary are still people. That was a really long sentence. Apologies.

But now we are at the end, and it’s time to talk about the film’s take-away message. What did Olive learn? What did the people at Ojai High School learn? And more importantly, how can we, the people of the real world, use the lessons taught in this movie to make this shit not happen so often in actuality? 

Well, the short answer is: don’t judge people by how they have sex. It’s not actually that important, and it really doesn’t matter to your own personal life what other people do in the bedroom. No, really. It will not affect you at all. Unless, like, they’re sleeping with your boyfriend, in which case the real issue is that your boyfriend is an untrustworthy asshole and you need to get a new boyfriend.

The reason Olive gets into this mess in the first place is because everyone at Ojai High School cares about her (and everyone else’s) sexual activities, and that’s just stupid. It shouldn’t matter at all. Imagine if no one actually cared for a second: Olive wouldn’t have told the lie in the first place, because Rhiannon wouldn’t have been so adamant for details. Marianne’s story wouldn’t have spread, because no one would have found it noteworthy. Brandon wouldn’t have needed Olive’s help, because no one would care that he was gay or harass him on those grounds. Hell, even the Griffiths would have come out of this a lot better if Mrs. Griffith didn’t have such an intensely internalized sense of shame over her sexual proclivities and felt comfortable actually talking to her husband about their issues. But instead, everyone is so caught up worrying about each other’s sex lives that they forget to recognize each other as people. As usual, Olive says it best:

And here you all are. Waiting outside the bedroom door for me to kiss Todd, listening to me pretend to have sex with Brandon, paying me to lie for you, and calling me every name in the book. You know what? It was just like Hester in the Scarlet Letter. Except that’s the one thing the movies don’t tell you: how shitty it feels to be an outcast, warranted or not.

Also, slight aside on the Scarlet Letter, since this movie is essentially a modern adaptation of it: that book is ridiculously sexist. Probably by virtue of the fact that its author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, while having a lovely way with words, has a much less lovely way with people. That’s why it’s so important that Easy A doesn’t end the way that The Scarlet Letter does. As Olive explains, “I actually re-read the Scarlet Letter to see how Hester dealt with it, and it turns out she bore her punishment in humble silence, which are two concepts I am not comfortable with.” In a modern world, where women are allowed to make their own decisions about their own lives and sexualities, not to mention speak on their own behalf, Hester’s ending is just more of the same pig-headed sexist stupidity.

In contrast, Olive’s story ends with the realization that her life and her choices are entirely her own, and she doesn’t owe them to anyone else. She immediately sets out finding a way to take a stand and speak up for herself against the whole school, and she even works in a musical number. Basically, the opposite of humble and silent. And once again, I can’t say it better than she did:

“That’s Todd. Not that I owe you guys any more confessions, but, um…I really like this guy. And, uh…I might even lose my virginity to him. I don’t know when it will happen. You know–it might be five minutes from now, or tonight, or six months from now, or maybe on our wedding night. But the really amazing thing is it is nobody’s goddamn business.”

None of your goddamn business, indeed. There is literally no reason to ever care what choices someone else is making about their own sex life. If they offer it up to you and ask for your opinion, that’s one thing, but no one is asking for the kind of treatment Olive receives. Sexuality does not define a person, and no one owes you any information about his or her sex life. Just leave it alone and treat people like people. It’s really not that complicated.

Sadly, lots of people still can’t seem to understand this basic concept. After all, even with Olive’s eloquent speech, many of her peers aren’t getting the message. To them, she is still a sex object–only worth the amount of skin she’s willing to bear. One even has the gall to complain at the end of her webcast: “I thought she was going to take her clothes off. Demi Moore took her clothes off. This is bullshit.”

Yo, dude. The point. You just missed it.

Obliviously yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“I fake rocked your world!” -Olive

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3 thoughts on “Easy A: A Study in Slut-Shaming, Part VIII: And Back to Olive”

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