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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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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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