Posted on September 29th, 2010
It’s about a girl who, partly due to peer pressure and partly due to her soft spot for the downtrodden, acquires a reputation as a slut at her high school, even though she has actually experienced none of the sexual exploits attributed to her.
Let me just get my complaints out of the way first. Well, it’s really just one main complaint: the portrayal of high school is totally unrealistic. Okay, not totally, but very.
[**Side note: E has just learned to say “totally”. He first got it hearing a character say it on How I Met Your Mother – had his head in the toy box at the time. It’s hilariously well-pronounced: “Todely!” So this evening I’m reading Mr. Silly to my kid and I say, “Look at that chicken with rubber boots and an umbrella – isn’t that silly?” He of course replies, “Totally!“**]
Back to unrealistic high school. I’m sorry, but you can’t have this character – or any, for that matter – go from being “anonymous” and “a non-entity”, as protagonist Olive puts it, to being the subject of ravenous gossip. If people have no idea who you are, I aver that they will not care about the status of your virginity. (If you think I’m wrong, please say so.) PLUS, there is no way that this smart, beautiful girl is anonymous at her school. Movie-makers use both these strategies fairly regularly, but it doesn’t make them any more believable.
Along the same lines, teenagers, while sheep-like in certain ways, do not have quite the mob mentality they do in the media. I used to be a teen, and I’ve taught well over a hundred of them, and I just don’t believe that huge groups of them do things like listen outside a room where two people are (supposedly) having sex. And as we overheard another moviegoer point out, the Christian youth group is portrayed as extremists of improbable flakiness. (She didn’t say it quite like that, but you know.)
But anyway! Skye and I liked the movie a lot.
- The writing is wonderfully quirky. People say things that are smart and weird and funny, and they do so very naturally. You want to go hang out with them. (Well, some of them.)
- Emma Stone is great. Delivery that’s brimming with personality and humour.
- Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, as her parents, are also great. Such comical family dynamics, without being overdone.
- The plot, though pretty silly (Totally!), avoids falling into certain predictable situations. And it doesn’t over-explain itself.
- I appreciate the confusion and poignancy and inspiration of the protagonist’s struggle to empower herself. The overall message has some strong points but is also politically and morally iffy… just like high school.
Thinking about the movie afterward, I had a random memory from my first year of teaching – one that reminded me that it is actually possible for a rumour to take off with very little help from the person involved.
I was having a conversation with one of my Grade 9 Applied (read: they don’t want to be there) French classes. Tough teaching. I have no idea how we got to be having this conversation, but a couple of the kids said that they were planning to smoke pot for the first time that weekend. Someone asked me, “Mademoiselle,” (as I was back then), “have YOU ever tried it?”
I blushed, because no – I had never tried marijuana, and had only ever had a single drag off a regular cigarette, for Pete’s sake. Probably every one of these kids was more experienced with intoxicants than I was. But the kid who’d asked the question noticed I was blushing and jumped to the conclusion, “You have!!” At that point, when I tried to say no, actually, I haven’t, they assumed I was lying, saying I hadn’t in an effort to discourage them.
They all wanted to know what it was like. Ha ha. Finally, I gave up and told them what I know from other people: namely, that some people like it, some aren’t really affected by it, and some get sick from it. And then I turned it into a mini “be safe” lecture – just make sure you are with people you trust, please don’t be stupid about this, etc. That part, at least, they responded to with an earnest “Yeah, of course!”
Oh, high school.
Those kids would be about 21 by now. I can still picture some of them very clearly. Wonder what they’re up to, the little buggers. 🙂