Kate Crudgington

Fictional Favourites: Olive Penderghast

If you haven’t seen Easy A… you haven’t lived! (Well, you probably have lived…but I like to exaggerate for dramatic effect).
Released in 2010 and directed by Will Gluck, the film stars the amazing Emma Stone as witty, intelligent and down-right hilarious student Olive Penderghast. The plot focuses on how she copes with being a supposedly ‘sexually active’ student in an American high-school.
After reading that plot summary, I imagine many people will dismiss Easy A under the assumption that it’s ‘just another sex-crazed, teenage, high-school movie’, but they couldn’t be more wrong! Yes, the character is a high-school student, and yes the plot does focus around sex, but the irony is that Olive does not actually have sex at all. She fakes sexual activity and puts her reputation on the line to help her friends, which initially sounds like a selfless, wonderful act, but realistically, it brings her nothing but judgement and discrimination from her peers.

emma stone
Despite facing such harsh judgement, Olive fights back with sass, controversial clothing choices and most importantly; a brilliant sense of humour. Here are the three main reasons why she is one of my favourite fictional feminists:
1. She fights against social injustice.
When Olive discovers her friend Brandon is being severely bullied because of his sexuality, she hatches a plan to help him avoid further torment. After both agreeing that many of the male students at their high-school are just too narrow-minded and homophobic to accept that Brandon is gay, they rock up ‘drunk’ together at a party, lock themselves in to a downstairs bedroom and make as much raucous sex noise as they can without actually having sex, in order to convince their peers that Brandon is a straight ‘alpha-male’ and therefore no longer a target for the bullies. Although the film has a strong emphasis on the importance of being yourself, regardless of your sexuality, it accurately highlights the unfair discrimination boys and girls have to deal with throughout their high school years in order to avoid daily confrontation. Fortunately, the film concludes with Brandon leaving behind his high-school trauma and leading a happier, sexually content life with his strapping new boyfriend, whilst Olive correctly states that whether people are sexually active or not: ‘It’s none of your God damn business.’

2. She’s bright, educated and a keen reader.
Unlike most of the kids in her Literature class, Olive actually reads and enjoys The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, a woman who illegitimately conceives a child in the nineteenth-century and is forced to wear an embroidered ‘A’ on her clothing so that people can identify her as a sinner. Easy A’s ambiguous title is an allusion to Hawthorne’s novel and Olive herself takes to wearing a red ‘A’ on all of her clothing after faking the loss of her virginity in order to churn more ridiculous rumours out of the high-school rumour mill. She uses the themes in the book to challenge social assumptions about sexually active girls and to challenge the rigid gender barriers we all encounter whilst growing up.

3. She proves that girls are just as funny as guys.
I can’t remember the first time I had someone tell me that ‘girls just aren’t that funny’, but it’s something that’s always echoed around my apparently boring, un-hilarious girl mind. Obviously that assumption is WRONG (read Caitlin Moran’s articles or watch Jessica Hynes in Spaced), and Emma Stone is solid proof that girls are hilarious and comedy shouldn’t be gender-biased. It’s not just as Oliver Penderghast in Easy A that Stone cracks me up, have you seen her opposite Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid Love? She is HILARIOUS. She can play-up or play-down her humour, whether it is physical or verbal. She’s not the only funny female in Easy A either, she’s supported by the side-splitting Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow and Patricia Clarkson. The cast as a whole, male and female, is solidly comical, and allows Stone to really make the role of Olive Penderghast her own.

If you’d like more than three reasons to love Olive Penderghast, I suggest you check out this list.

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