Easy A draws many inevitable comparisons to Mean Girls – teenage girl who wants to be popular spins some yarns to make herself the hit of the school, realises she’s become horrid person in the process – but one way in which they are practically identical is the parental figures within them. Easy A has more fun with Olive’s (Emma Stone) parents than Mean Girls did with Cady’s (Lindsay Lohan), but that’s probably due in large part to having landed actors with the wit and loose charm of Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson - although that’s not to slight Neil Flynn and Ana Gasteyer, who certainly have their moments of fun rapport alongside Lohan (“What are my tribal vases doing under the sink?”). But the point here is that both sets of parents are supportive, understanding ones – and that’s the thing about the teen film in recent years. The parents aren’t the enemy anymore. No longer are they ignoring Molly Ringwald’s birthday or telling Winona Ryder to take the Volkswagen or just generally being repressive, old, MEAN old windbags who you’re better off only seeing at holiday gatherings.
|"Spell it with your peas!"|
|Olive (Emma Stone), the besmirched|
For a similar, if much more thorough, example of this, we can look back to 2004’s overlooked Saved!, with Jena Malone battling against her religious high school when she gets pregnant as a result of trying to ‘save’ her possibly-gay boyfriend. Interestingly, the main adversary here is, like Bynes, a former good-girl teen star, although Mandy Moore thankfully looks slightly less inflated than her contemporary. Moore’s Hilary Faye is a more foregrounded, and so much more vital, counterpoint to the struggling heroine than Marianne, and, while Easy A understandably casts Marianne aside, Hilary is central to the climax of Saved! and the nub of the point it rather bluntly makes.
|Praise her. Praise Mandy.|
The latter reaction would be the viewpoint of many of the characters in Saved!, and likely of Marianne too, but these films both seem to reflect the ultimate point of Rosenblatt’s declaration: “In short, people may at last be ready to say what they wholeheartedly believe. The kindness of people toward others in distress is real. There is nothing to see through in that.” Of course, we’re not dealing in death and terrorism here, but both Saved! and Easy A reflect that kind of proclamation of equality and generosity of spirit. Easy A’s Brandon (Dan Byrd) has an effective dramatic scene that showcases a kind of oppression that isn’t often depicted anymore (Nick’s gay bandmates in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist have a more functional love life than he does), but it seems rather befitting given the Prop 8 struggle in California over the past few years – being gay still isn’t okay for everyone. Saved!, of course, lives in an even more repressive locale than this, where most things aren’t okay for anyone. But Brandon does a Huck Finn, and the gay teens of Saved! who’ve been sent away crash their prom to protest their right to be treated equally.
|Look who crashed the weddi- I mean, prom|
The age of irony didn’t end, but the age where irony defined everything did. Our world has become so entrenched with cycles of cultural referencing that this type of teen film, a smarter subset than the more juvenile Hollywood blockbuster comedy, has to employ a certain amount of irony simply in order not to look naïve. But there’s nothing ironic about their romantic finales, nor about their sweet messages of equality. Perhaps you wish they didn’t have to tread so carefully, but there’s a certain amount of respect to be had for films that don’t so much want you to like them, but want you to like each other.