It has been exactly 10 years since I first started high school. As scary a thought as that is, I was confronted by an even scarier question when I saw Easy A in theaters over the weekend: Has the teen sex barometer increased since my high school days, or am I just getting old? I pray it’s the former. I say this because I can’t seem to remember being overly concerned about my sex life (or lack there of), or more importantly the sex life of my peers. But this was an era before Facebook, so should I really be surprised that since we now expect every part of our “friends” lives to be available for perusal, that this also includes activities done behind closed doors?
Easy A is being touted as a “different” and “smarter” film documenting the rough waters of teen sexuality. Led by a stellar cast (including my favorites Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) with breakthrough talent Emma Stone at the helm, I can say that this film brilliantly weaves together a different kind of coming of age story while paying homage to the teen classics that invented the genre. It is in these moments when we start to see the difference between teen sex then and now. Easy A only succeeds in referencing these classic films, in particular Say Anthing and 16 Candles. The film does not possess, and can not hope to encompass the quirky innocence of John Hughes’ world. Instead, the film uses these montages and throwback moments to ask the question: Do we want to go back? And the answer might actually be yes…but we can’t, and that’s the point. Even teens can be nostalgic about a time they were never apart of to begin with.
When Olive Penderghast (Stone) is pelvis high in Slutty McSlutville, she states on her webcast confessional that all she really wants is to be asked out to dinner by a guy, and not demand meaningless monetary payment for faux-sexual favors. Wasn’t sex a lot easier when all it entailed was leaning in for a kiss over a birthday cake, or hearing Peter Gabriel outside your bedroom window?
This isn’t to say I am a fanatical puritan hell bent on eradicating all sexual encounters between teens (God, if only). It is unrealistic and possibly dangerous to ignore the new present day experience of being a teenager. But does Easy A really present a new message to teens or is it hiding a reality that is eons deep in our culture and will most likely never fully be forgotten? Let me explain.
For the most part, audiences are left with this food for thought at the end of the film: You can have sex, or not have sex, and it’s all cool and no one’s business but your own. However it clouds over the issue of why we need to keep our mouths shut about it in the first place. Because throughout the movie, Olive, because she was a girl, was labeled a slut. I think we all know how the boys got along. Just fine thank you very much. But it seems that if a woman wants to own her sexuality, she either needs to except the label of a harlot, or not breathe a word about the encounter and hope the guy does the same. Don’t get me wrong, Easy A is a step in an interesting direction that argues for being your own person and in charge of your sexual life whether you choose to have one or not. I’m still waiting for the day when a girl and boy can walk out of a closet at a house party and both get cheers and pats on the back.
-Olive announces her woes and reaffirms her true reputation via webcam. Not a journal. Or a bathroom stall. My, my times have changed.
-The high school campus is ridiculously gorgeous, a la “10 Things I Hate About You.” And what’s with public schools in movies having these cute little gym uniforms? That just doesn’t happen.
-Overly understanding parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) a la “Juno.” One wonders if this is the filmmakers subtle plea to today’s parents, begging them to take it easy on their hormonal kiddies. I’m not holding my breath.