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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Easy A

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Despite its title, director Will Gluck's satire of high school life, "Easy A" (Screen Gems), confronts viewers with a tangled thicket of positive and misguided values that is anything but easy to negotiate.

And, in the end, worthwhile messages about the dangers of judging from appearances and the temptation to pigeonhole or belittle others are choked off, in Bert V. Royal's often clever script, by the implication that all Christians are hypocrites and that any consensual form of bedroom behavior is acceptable as long as it is honestly acknowledged.

Emma Stone stars as Olive, a clean-cut but lost-in-the-crowd teen living in ever sunny yet spiritually sterile Southern California. Though Olive shares a happy home life with her hip, understanding parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson), her dreams of being noticed by her peers, romantically or otherwise, are going nowhere.

Until, that is, she tells her best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), an entirely fabricated story about losing her virginity to a fictional community college student. Self-righteous born-again Christian Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears the lie and begins spreading exaggerated gossip about Olive's sexual exploits, calumny that rapidly snowballs out of control.

In a modern twist on the fate of Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter"—Olive is reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel of guilt and ostracism for English class—the falsely accused Olive suddenly becomes both a celebrity and an outcast.

Her desire to resolve the whole misunderstanding is forestalled, though, when Brandon (Dan Byrd), another friend who suffers constant persecution by bullies for being gay, appeals to her to stage a fake encounter with him that will establish him as straight. Soon a succession of social outsiders are bargaining with Olive for the right to claim that they have had their way with her, though nothing of the kind ever actually happens.

Understandably confused by her situation, Olive seeks guidance in the confessional of the local Catholic church only to discover, after pouring her heart out, that there is no priest on the other side of the screen.

This is in keeping with the steadily cynical view of faith that pervades the story, typified by the mindless or malicious personalities of Marianne and her evangelical cohorts who—acting very much in the mold of Hawthorne's Puritans—launch a campaign to have Olive expelled.

As Olive begins to emerge from the avalanche of misperceptions that have buried her true identity, various incidents make it clear that, while lying about sex is wrong, for the most part, any freely chosen sexual action—adultery, thankfully, excepted—is admissible.

The film contains a negative portrayal of Christianity, including Catholicism, a benign view of premarital sex and homosexuality, implied drug use, brief partial nudity, a venereal disease theme, some sexual humor, at least 10 uses of profanity and, much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta): Mother Teresa of Kolkata, the tiny woman recognized throughout the world for her work among the poorest of the poor, was beatified October 19, 2003. Among those present were hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in 1950 as a diocesan religious community. Today the congregation also includes contemplative sisters and brothers and an order of priests. 
<p>Born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje, Macedonia (then part of the Ottoman Empire), Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu was the youngest of the three children who survived. For a time, the family lived comfortably, and her father's construction business thrived. But life changed overnight following his unexpected death. </p><p>During her years in public school Agnes participated in a Catholic sodality and showed a strong interest in the foreign missions. At age 18 she entered the Loreto Sisters of Dublin. It was 1928 when she said goodbye to her mother for the final time and made her way to a new land and a new life. The following year she was sent to the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling, India. There she chose the name Teresa and prepared for a life of service. She was assigned to a high school for girls in Kolkata, where she taught history and geography to the daughters of the wealthy. But she could not escape the realities around her—the poverty, the suffering, the overwhelming numbers of destitute people. </p><p>In 1946, while riding a train to Darjeeling to make a retreat, Sister Teresa heard what she later explained as “a call within a call. The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.” She also heard a call to give up her life with the Sisters of Loreto and, instead, to “follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.” </p><p>After receiving permission to leave Loreto, establish a new religious community and undertake her new work, she took a nursing course for several months. She returned to Kolkata, where she lived in the slums and opened a school for poor children. Dressed in a white sari and sandals (the ordinary dress of an Indian woman) she soon began getting to know her neighbors—especially the poor and sick—and getting to know their needs through visits. </p><p>The work was exhausting, but she was not alone for long. Volunteers who came to join her in the work, some of them former students, became the core of the Missionaries of Charity. Others helped by donating food, clothing, supplies, the use of buildings. In 1952 the city of Kolkata gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which became a home for the dying and the destitute. As the order expanded, services were also offered to orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging, and street people. </p><p>For the next four decades Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Her love knew no bounds. Nor did her energy, as she crisscrossed the globe pleading for support and inviting others to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On September 5, 1997, God called her home.</p> American Catholic Blog A healthy marriage is that it is a witness of Jesus’s love for the 
Church. We are the bride of Christ, and the greatest declaration of the groom’s love is found at the cross. The complete gift of self by Jesus at Calvary is so entire that it is life-giving.

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