As minor as it may be, if there’s any silver lining to the lumpish state of the quarantine era, my argument is the push to revisit older cinema.
I mean to some level it was mandatory; these were days that a Sunday trip to the local cinema was deadly. But still, I do enjoy that we all learned to appreciate what has already come, including myself. As I was rewatching the bigger releases, I noticed a troubling phenomenon emerge ever so subtly. There was what I expected: films that I viewed as progressive, and films that I knew were troubling and still are. But the newest addition were films that in my youth felt like a point in the right direction, but on the revisit felt more like they were way behind me. And nothing fit more into that category than the 2010 release Easy A. Easy A
is pretty anti sex.
Now before we plan my execution, I would like to say I still enjoyed the film! It exudes a charming energy that makes it fun to watch, the cast are all pretty good actors, and the script had a lot of dialogue that feels both cringe inducing and also extremely nostalgic. And speaking of the late 2000s, it’s not lost on me that Easy A
features somewhat forward female depictions in a time when those were effectively endangered. None of the ladies involved are supposed to be good or bad really, more so unconscious players in a system where they are set up to lose. The film does have nods to how female sexuality is weaponized and used as a pseudo-Star of David, informing how we should all treat them. This is why I like the tie in with The Scarlet Letter
and the idea that visual metaphor carries. The setup of this conversation is fine. Where things become murky for me is in the execution. By the end, the film revels in the idea that there is nothing wrong with being a woman with a sexuality, and I agree, but there’s one problem: none of the women do!
The movie has two sets of foils that our heroine comes in close quarters with through the film. The first two are her age: Marianne and Rhiannon. Marianne is your classic God-fearing girlie who is on the front lines, fighting for the purity we all need in our lives. But through the film it becomes debatable how much of these beliefs are hers. Marianne’s father is a Father of the local church. Via dialogue from both him and her, the picture suggests that Marianne is the way she is because of the men in her life. And then, at a particularly low point, she reveals that she went back on these celibate sermons to keep her boyfriend. This, in turn, leads to a quick friendship with Olive, but they return to enemies because of her boyfriend.
Then there’s Rhiannon, Olive’s best friend, who is also obsessive, but not about some boring guy. Instead, she chases the concept of sleeping with boring men in general. Rhiannon wants sex, but we see through her fight with Olive that her reason is less because she thinks it will be enjoyable and more because of the status. That word is at the core of both of these young women’s storylines. They both perform personalities seated next to sex, and they both curate said personalities to the public by being aggressive about their stance. Marianne is against and Rhiannon is pro, but both don’t really care about the actual action as much as they care about what sex says about them! And again, to some degree I do find that interesting but also troubling, especially in relation to the second set of foils.