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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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