Movie Reviews

Easy A Ending Explained

Summary

  • Easy A is loosely based on the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the ending draws inspiration from John Hughes’ films.
  • Olive Penderghast starts off as a nobody, but after a small lie to get out of dinner, she becomes the center of attention for her rumored sexual interactions, causing her to realize the negative side of notoriety.
  • Easy A takes a strong anti-slut-shaming stance, emphasizing that women’s sexual choices are nobody’s business; however, some aspects of the film reinforce the very ideals it rejects, such as internalized misogyny and sexual shame.



The 2010 comedy movie Easy A tells a zany story with a resonant ending message that still matters today. When it comes to the best Emma Stone movies, many come to mind. However, few are as cherished as her breakout role in the teen comedy Easy A. The movie follows a teenage girl named Olive Penderghast, who goes from being a nobody to being the center of attention for her rumored sexual interactions. What started out as a simple lie to get out of dinner became her defining trait.

Because she already has a negative reputation, she starts agreeing to lie for other Easy A characters about having sex with them. When the situation becomes more than she bargained for, she has to find a way to refute the rumors and get the truth out. This leads to Easy A’s entertaining ending, which draws inspiration from the John Hughes movies that Olive loves so much.

Emma Stone received her first Golden Globe nomination for playing Olive Penderghast in
Easy A
– going up for the award of Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.



Do Olive And Todd Get Together In Easy A?

Todd Supports Olive Even When She Says No To Kissing Him

Easy A isn’t technically a romantic comedy because of how little the two romantic interests interact; however, the movie still sets up Olive’s interest in Todd early on, setting the expectation that they’ll get together. He later supports her and drives her home after her date attempts to solicit her for sex. However, because of her reputation, Olive doesn’t believe she’s worthy of his affection.

Luckily, he respects her boundaries but lets her know that he’s there to support her. This is a turning point for both Olive’s character and their relationship. He even agrees to help her with her webcast plan, even though he could get in trouble. After finishing the webcast, she leaves for a date with him, confirming that the two are likely in a romantic relationship now.


Olive’s Webcast Plan In Easy A Explained

Olive Sets Up A Webcast To Set The Record Straight

Olive holds up a sign in Easy A

The storytelling motif in Easy A is Olive’s webcast. At first, the video looks like she is talking to the audience, but by the end, it’s clear she’s relaying her story to her school and community. When Olive realizes the negative consequences of her notoriety, she turns to all the people who lied for her, hoping they will recant their stories. After getting multiple rejections, she devises her webcast plan.

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Olive manipulates everyone’s interest in her sexual escapades by doing a risque musical number to the 1966 hit song “Knock on Wood” by Eddie Floyd at the school pep rally. She then promises them a sex livestream if they go to FreeOlive.com that evening. However, in reality, the livestream is an opportunity for her to tell the truth about what happened. Disturbingly, fully grown adults tune in to watch two teenagers get sexually intimate. Hopefully, she at least told Mr. Griffith about the plan because he otherwise just became disturbingly creepy.

The big reveal that Olive is telling her story to the community is where the movie requires a suspension of disbelief. If viewers went onto that webcast to see sex, there’s almost no chance they’d stay on to listen to Olive’s story. Still, everyone stays on until she leaves, allowing her to speak her peace. By the end, she seems to have regained her confidence, not caring what everyone else thinks.


How Olive’s Lie Gets Out Of Control

Olive’s Small Lie Becomes Central To Her Reputation

Throughout Easy A, the lie about Olive’s sexual activities gets increasingly out of control, harming Olive’s reputation and self-esteem. Olive doesn’t intend for anyone except her best friend, Rhiannon, to hear her first lie about having sex. Unfortunately, Marianne Bryant hears their conversation in the bathroom and immediately starts telling people, causing the lie to spread throughout the school. At this point, Olive enjoys the attention, even if it comes with judgment.

Everyone at school starts to think she’s exchanging sex for money and other rewards, causing them to slut shame her.


She then lies a second time with the good intention of helping her gay friend Brandon avoid violence and ridicule, which hurts her reputation again. She still feels like she has power in the situation, though. However, things get out of control after she lies for a third time to help her classmate Evan. Everyone at school starts to think she’s exchanging sex for money and other rewards, causing them to slut shame her. They think of her as lesser because of her sexual choices.

The situation gets severe enough that Micah sees her as an expendable sex object, so he lies about getting chlamydia from her. Olive devalues herself and puts others ahead of her so much that she agrees to go along with the lie. Then, her classmate Ansen tries to force himself onto her after giving her a gift card, which wouldn’t be okay even if the rumors were true. Consent matters. This moment is a turning point for her character as she figures out that the rumors actually hurt her from the beginning, despite her best intentions.


Easy A’s Scarlet Letter Parallels Explained

Easy A Draws Inspiration From The Scarlet Letter

Emma Stone in a high school hallway in Easy A

Many pieces of classic literature have teen movie adaptations, and the movie Easy A is one of the best – being loosely based on the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Olive even makes direct references to the book within the narrative. The Scarlet Letter was a smart choice for a feminist movie aimed at teenagers because the book is frequently required reading in high schools. As such, it could be fresh in the minds of the audience.


The most obvious parallel between the two stories is the fact that Hester Prynne and Olive are both “innocent” women whose reputation is destroyed because of sex, albeit Olive is a teen who’s only rumored to have sex. Both characters go through ostracization at the hands of their community. However, another parallel is the power that men hold in the situation. The teen boys refuse to admit to what really happened in the same way Reverend Dimmesdale won’t confess to being Pearl’s father. Ultimately, the men have the power due to the misogyny and the double standard surrounding sexual activity.

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Lastly, one quote from the Scarlet Letter is particularly resonant in relation to the movie. Pearl is described as the “child of its father’s guilt and its mother’s shame.” This matches how the school treats Olive and Micah in Easy A. Olive is defined by sexual rumors rather than characters believing she did something wrong. On the other hand, Micah is treated like he did something wrong rather than being defined by his actions. The parallel is just another reminder of the hypocritical attitudes society has towards women’s sexuality pervade over time

The True Meaning Of Easy A’s Ending

Easy A’s Message Is Complicated When Examined In Greater Detail

Emma Stone as Olive give a thumbs up in Easy A.


The ending of Easy A very directly states the message that women’s sexual choices are nobody’s business. The movie takes a strong anti-slut-shaming stance through direct statements. Unfortunately, the message gets much more complicated when examined on a deeper level. Many aspects of Easy A re-enforce the slut-shaming ideals it rejects. A prime example of this occurs in the car when Olive cries to Todd about the fact that everyone thinks she’s “a whore,” and she is starting to believe it, too. While others use the word “whore” degradingly to reference her promiscuity, Olive uses it to describe her worthiness as a person.

This dual meaning exists because slut-shaming links sexual activity with inherent lovability and value. Olive may not cognitively believe that sex is shameful, but the implication still exists in her words. Unfortunately, this shows how easy it is for someone who is fighting back against an issue to internalize and perpetuate the same ideals they hate. Now, the internalized stigma is normal. The fact that Olive deals with internalized misogyny and sexual shame doesn’t necessarily invalidate the message that slut shaming is harmful. However, the fact that the movie never addresses the issue makes the message a bit more complicated.


Easy A
’s stated message against slut shaming being harmful still holds water, even if some of the internalized messages are scrutable.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only incident of slut-shaming within Easy A, which muddles the message a bit more. When discussing her sexual activity with her daughter, Rosemary Penderghast. Unlike her daughter, Rosemary did actually have sex with multiple people when her sexual intimacy was a subject of rumors. Reflecting on her past, she also sees sexual promiscuity as a negative thing, describing her sexual choices as being caused by low self-esteem. While some people certainly have that experience, it’s troubling to see this as the only representation of sexually active women other than the morally reprehensible guidance counselor who sleeps with a student.


Ultimately, Easy A’s stated message against slut-shaming being harmful still holds water, even if some of the internalized messages are scrutable. A person’s desire for sex or lack thereof is morally neutral. It doesn’t matter what someone does with their own body as long as all parties are safe and consenting. As Olive says in the last moments of Easy A, “It is nobody’s godd*mn business.

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