Jasmine Oke sieves through the connections between morality, virginity and joy explored in the popular rom-com Easy A, writing about how femininity and personhood are often unbearably inextricable, while also fabulously fun.
I got a– I got a– I got a– I got a pocket got a pocket– I got a–
As women, we are much more tolerable when we express the values of kindness, altruism, and honesty; yet we are berated when showing signs of outspokenness or standing up for ourselves. You could say there is this overwhelming pressure to be a “Pocketful of Sunshine,” much like the Natasha Bedingfield song featured in that iconic scene in Easy A (2010), starring everyone’s 21st Century comfort film princess – Emma Stone. Stone’s character, Olive Penderghast, experiences this dilemma throughout the film as an unfortunate series of events unfolds, thus highlighting the struggles and the joys of womanhood.
Olive begins the film as a quiet and understated teenage girl moving through high school at her own pace and going relatively unrecognised. This soon changes after a lie about losing her virginity, a very private and personal experience, becomes public knowledge. This lie is initially told to her best friend, Rhi, who in turn exclaims “now you’re a super slut like me!” Though Olive isn’t entirely sure why she lied, she has a sneaking suspicion it was an unconscious attempt to finally feel superior. It is then Rhi who begins the rumour mill, disseminating the knowledge throughout the entire school. This hierarchical view of friendship, and the lack of moral parameters around the gossiping that all teenage girls engage in, is an example of the harsh realities of growing up and transitioning into womanhood.
As was previously mentioned, women’s values and their self-expression are more often than not held to a higher standard than men. However, even more worth is placed on a woman’s sexuality than her actual demeanour or character. Olive is a sweet and quiet young woman, yet once her peers hear the latest gossip and she is given the limelight in her cohort as a result, she is treated as though she is barely human. This treatment in turn provokes her to behave in uncharacteristic ways – though still the same person deep down, Olive finds herself verbally lashing out on occasion in retaliation (even finding herself in the principal’s office for the first time ever as a result). She recognises that her peers are only considering her worthy of their time and glances as a result of her perceived “loss of virginity.” and she even exaggerates this later in the film by wearing provocative clothing which makes allusions to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter – in which a woman is forced to wear the letter “A” (for adulterer) on her clothing and subjected to public shaming as punishment for her sexual sins.
With a reputation akin to that of Taylor Swift in 2016-17 (and, of course, the years preceding), Olive takes on the role of the ‘fallen woman’. She finds herself in the position of being exploited by the men in her school year who learn of her dishonesty and thus pay her for fabricated stories of sexual encounters. Whilst such encounters act to elevate the social status of these men, they contrastingly diminish Olive’s moral value and character in the view of her peers. This ultimately gets out of hand when miscommunication and a man’s sense of entitlement causes him to mistake these fabricated stories as truth, and in turn forces himself on Olive in a parking lot after what she had perceived to be a genuine date.
However, Olive is also exploited by other women – most namely one in a position of power, her school guidance counsellor. After an affair with a student is brought to light through his contraction of an STD, the guidance counsellor encourages Olive to take the blame for her own immorality. What’s more, when Olive asks her to come clean in order for her to clean up her image, the older woman refuses to do so and instead assures her student that no one will believe her anyway. There is also internalised misogyny exhibited by various female students throughout the film, but predominantly by the highly religious Marianne. Marianne continuously slut shames women throughout the film, and when caught glaring exclaims, “Just [looking at] a couple of admitted whores.”
Despite all these horrors of womanhood, there are many joys which accompany them. Whether it’s putting on a catchy song (even if it’s the “worst song ever”) and dancing around your room, singing at the top of your lungs in the shower, or painting your nails – embracing your femininity and standing up for yourself is in.