failing the class?: The Trailer for Easy A

Remember Emma Stone from Superbad . . . paired with (ugh) Jonah Hill (image courtesy of movies.about.com)

Yesterday Vulture tweeted the trailer for Easy A, a comedy from Screen Gems starring Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Thomas Hayden Church, Patricia Clarkson, and Stanely Tucci. Some of you may remember Emma Stone who made her feature film debut as Jules in Superbad (2007) and also starred in Zombieland (2009). In Easy A Stone plays Olive Penderghast a teenage girl trying to navigate the pitfalls and trappings of high school. According to wikipedia, the film is about how Olive is “ostracized by an unfounded rumour that she’s sexually promiscuous” and focuses on how “she eventually uses the rumour mill to her advantage, pitting puritanical students and teachers against their more liberal counterparts.” But the trailer offers up a slightly different narrative. Here it is:

Hmmmm . . . where to begin . . . maybe with the beginning. I like how the trailer starts off. At first it seems that Easy A is going to address how heterosexism constricts heterosexual girls and homosexual/queer youth, in which Olive helps a gay classmate escape homophobia and bullying by pretending to have (really really loud) sex with him. But I start getting nervous once the trailer emphasizes how this one-time thing turns into a business, in which Olive offers the same service (in exchange for Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons) to unpopular and geeky (and possibly heterosexual) males at her school. What’s more is that while the males are high-fived and welcomed into the hyper-masculine inner circles of the jocks, Olive is branded a slut. Moreover, other girls at the high school alienate Olive and conspire to have her banished from school. Easy A adds yet another queasy layer when Olive, inspired by her class assignment to read The Scarlett Letter, willing brandishes a scarlett “A” on her clothing, suggesting that she is taking ownership of that fact that everyone considers her a slut and that this ownership is a form of empowerment (eek!).

I understand that the trailer for Easy A suggests the film will be satirical, and in fact the film reminds me of another teenage satirical comedy, Saved! (2004). Here’s the trailer for that film:

Now granted I’ve seen Saved! several times and even wrote a paper on it for a Girls Studies Conference, and I’ve yet to see Easy A – so my comparisons aren’t exactly fair and maybe they’ll prove to be inaccurate. But my point is that it’s pretty obvious from the trailer what Saved! will be satirizing – Christian Fundamentalism. My issue with Easy A is that I’m not sure what the film will be satirizing and if I’ll appreciate the humor. I mean we have the Amanda Bynes’ character channeling a bit of Mandy Moore’s character in trying to redeem Olive’s soul. And Easy A appears to touch on homophobia, which Saved! also addresses. But how Easy A tackles (if at all) the double standard, slut-shaming, and the post-feminist idea of equating empowerment with desirability remains to be seen. The trailer doesn’t focus on this so much, since we have to leave room to establish that yes (of course) there will be a romantic subplot in the film – involving none other than Penn Badgley who plays Dan Humphrey on the CW show Gossip Girl** – that will undoubtedly overshadow everything else by the 3rd act. I’m also a little nervous given that I haven’t seen much from Will Gluck, the director of Easy A. According to wikipedia this is only his second film and is the follow-up to his 2009 film Fired Up!, which is about two teenage boys who quit the football team and join the cheerleading squad in order to meet girls. Hmmm . . .

My thoughts exactly. (image courtesy of snapcracklepopfizz.wordpress.com)

I’ll hope for the best and see what reviewers have to say when Easy A is released in the fall. If only this film was in pre-production right now rather ready for release, the filmmaker, writer, cast, and crew could have attended the Rethinking Virginity Conference and participated in the debunking of myths related to sexuality and virginity discussed at the conference.

**small note: When I first saw the trailer for Easy A I mistook Penn Badgley for Jesse Bradford (of Bring It On fame). They kinda look like the same person, no? Maybe I just have Bring It On on the brain since the Alamo Drafthouse is doing a Master Pancake Theater version of it . . . maybe. Happy Friday!

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~ by actyourage09 on May 14, 2010.

3 Responses to “failing the class?: The Trailer for Easy A”

  1. I’m a lot more hopeful about this movie than you are. For one, I’m not so sure that the double-standard goes unaddressed–Olive seems genuinely irritated by the responses to her behavior even if she is undeterred. I also like the parallels that seem to be drawn through the use of the “Scarlet Letter”–it is Hester Prynn that’s forced to wear the letter while Dimmesdale remains a respected, public figure despite his indescretions.

    I also find Olive’s appropriation of the “slut” label (via the use of the “A”) fascinating–the trailer seems to indicate that this disrupts the symbolic order of the school by making overt what had merely been implied about Olive. Just how disruptive this appropriation is and to what end it will serve will determine whether or not this film could be read as progressive.

    Either way, the trailer suggests that the film raises some interesting questions about the sexual economy of high school, revealing the “slut” to be something of a construct rather than a reality, something that Emily White’s book “Fast Girls” revealed to be the case. This in itself, along with the fact that we have a film centered around a smart, independent young woman (who’s making media!) makes me hopeful that this film will at least best mainstream indie films. Of course, I’ve been proved wrong before!

    • C,

      I’m glad that you’re optimistic about Easy A and trust me – I hope that between the two of us, you’re proven right and I’m proven wrong. Nice point in noticing that Olive is shown making media in the trailer. I’m interested in how media will allow Olive to voice her story and give her version of events.

      I’m still not optimistic about how sexuality in general – and the double standard and virginity in particular – will be dealt with in the film. As you mentioned Easy A is drawing some clear parallels between Olive’s story and that of Hester Prynne in The Scarlett Letter. One big discrepancy though is that Prynne is forced to wear the A (as you point out) while Olive seemingly chooses to wear her scarlett A and to embrace her title as the school’s slut.

      While I have no doubt that the film will indeed reveal that the term “slut” is constructed, my hunch (my fear) is that “slut” will be deconstructed only in so far as everyone realizes that they were shaming Olive for something she never did (except for maybe at the end with her romantic Gossip Girl dude) – not because she has sex with all these boys and they shouldn’t be shaming her for it in the first place.

      Overall, I’m not sure how much the film can critique the double standard and slut-shaming, when the very premise asks us to identify with a girl who is wrongfully accused of so-called slutty behavior, rather than asking us to identify with a girl who is sexually active with multiple partners and is ostracized by her peers for her actions. The difference in terms of who we – the audience – are asked to identify with – which type of girl – speaks volumes to me.

      Either way sounds like it would be useful for me to read Emily White’s book in preparation for the film’s release in September. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I saw the trailer yesterday and was disturbed that this appears to be yet another movie of recent times where: a girl has to be a slut or sexually active to be viewed as one who can be popular/ strong, men who are gay *should* remain closeted if they are to be popular/ strong, guys who are virgins can only be respected if they are sexually active but the girl who provides this gift is the slut, all Christians are backward hypocritical prudes and therefore should be parodied to the extreme.

    Although I never watched “Saved!”, I knew enough this was similar, and a cousin of mine confirmed that even Amanda Bynes’ character was almost exactly the same.

    My only hope is that because an intelligent woman like Lisa Kudrow stars in this that she wouldn’t make a movie where, at the very least, a woman’s character is not solely empowered by sexual promiscuity (real or imagined) nor is her strength/ power/ character diminished by being as sexually active as the popular males either.

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