The verdict is in, well, at least my verdict. Easy A was not high on my priority of movie-watching until I started getting comments on my Freethunk Daily News Bite asking whether or not the movie was Christian bashing. The post seems to remain at the top of my section that tracks most popular posts ever since I wrote it. This is a touchy subject.
To begin with, Easy A is an enjoyable, breezy teen flick that probably got more attention than it deserved due to leading lady Emma Stone holding a mediocre script together. It is loosely inspired by Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter where the heroine of the story was forced to wear a red “A” which stood for Adulteress. Nathaniel Hawthorne wove a story about Puritanism and a type of Christian legalism that, to be quite honest, most Christians despise these days even as they may be guilty of it. Fact is, we all tend to be guilty of judgments at one time or another but we usually whisper them to our spouses or simply think them instead of verbalizing. If a woman dresses a certain way you’ll see the icy stares, “slut, whore, tramp…”
In the case of Olive Penderghast, she is a teenager who decides to embrace the repugnance of the “A” symbol because after certain rumors begin about her she figures if they’re going to call her a slut then to hell with them, let them think she is a slut. Very few teens can be that individualistic. She dresses provocatively and agrees to help woeful nerds who need to get a reputation. In a way, Olive is a hooker in imagination only. She gets paid to sell an illusion while humorously paid in the form of gift cards to places like Best Buy and Home Depot. In reality, Olive is a sweet, down-to-earth girl that any guy would be lucky to date…and she’s still a virgin.
But it is true that Easy A does present a Christian stereotype which is a throwback to what we consider to be Puritanical. I hesitate to say it is Christian bashing when it literally is the entire school that turns on Olive, not just the legalistic Christian group. However, I think a valid complaint may be to show contrast–the legalistic Christian and the reasonable Christian. Teen comedies really don’t seem to care about being nice though and, unfortunately, maybe it is because of the ongoing gay-bashing–which this film also explores–that the decision was made to use extreme Christian stereotypes.
These stereotypes feature Marianne played by Amanda Bynes who heads up a small group of Bible thumpers who I would say are just as confused as any other teens. They only think they have all the answers because apparently their church or God told them so. The group does come off as a rather dumb clique with Marianne’s boyfriend being so old from having to repeat his fourth year that he can have sex with the guidance counselor and it’s not statutory rape.
Olive’s first client is Brandon, a gay teen. He asks Olive to make him straight in the eyes of all his classmates who constantly torment him. Outside of this comedy, the torment is real and if Christians want to complain about being viewed as stuck up and bigoted they may need to reconsider how they treat the gay community. Kids are vicious to begin with, but it doesn’t help when Christian youth leaders say homosexual teens are unnatural or need to become straight. They also need to stop thinking that the high rate of gay teen suicide is evidence that the gay lifestyle is harmful. Ever stop to think if all your classmates and the outside world considered you to be a deviant freak and harrassed you day by day that you too might feel like killing yourself? That’s not the gay lifestyle that is doing the damage? That’s the straights making gay teen lives a hell on earth with their unfounded Biblical judgments.
If it were not for that element to the movie, “the bullied gay teen,” I would be more inclined to say this movie went too far with its depiction of Christians. But a comedy is a magnification, a bloating of the real world into something cartoonish and these Christians are cartoon figures depicting the current wave of homophobia fearful of gay marriage. A fear that is equivalent to the evil of the apocalypse with the coming of the Anti-Christ. In my mind the Christian bashing + the gay teen bashing = fair play.
Returning to Olive, I do want to note that she has the coolest parents ever! No, they’re not pushovers, but they obviously have confidence in their daughter to make the right decisions even as she stumbles trying to figure out what those right decisions are. And they approach questions of sexuality with a sense of humor to allow for conversation on an awkward subject. Olive, herself, is every parents’ dream kid (in my opinion). She has the best of intentions and an intelligence that is constantly sorting through the deluge of pointless epithets such as “slut” so she can discover herself versus what people think of her. This is not a teen sex comedy, for all intense purposes–it is a romantic comedy with a lot of noisy idiots in the background. Because of this attitude and Emma Stone’s performance I can recommend this as a Freethunk film to humanist parents with a need for some discussion afterwards. It’s not high art, but injecting a lowbrow teen comedy into your dvd rotation isn’t going to kill too many brain cells.
SIDENOTE: As with any complaints to stereotypes the goal should not be to ban a movie or tell people not to watch it just for that reason. The goal should be to show an alternative. Christians should clean their own house of unreasonable legalistic views by depicting them and showing the contrast with Christians who are “nice.” As an atheist I’m happy to watch such a film if they exist (feel free to leave a recommendation), though I may still disagree with the beliefs. As of yet, I haven’t come across a good example.