TV & Film Case Studies: Easy A the Movie

Introduction

The Will Gluck film Easy A is a comedy that revolves around the teenage exploration of sex and high school. A rumour is spread concerning Stone losing her virginity. This misunderstanding opens the chapters of romantic relationship and scandals among high school students. The story raises the underrated Olive from the class of unknown to a star. The comedy turns the awkward and sad story into a charming and comic event. The fraudulent sexual behaviour has a potentiality of damaging one’s character but this is not the case. The film illustrates how Olive effortlessly embraces the insecurity of her character to escape public condemnation. The path taken by characters in the film leads to conflicts with the protagonists winning the battles. This essay uses the film, Easy A as a case study for understanding human behaviour within a social environment by focusing on moods, emotional intelligence, and social identity theory, locus of control, perceptual errors, and emotional labour.

Perception

People naturally react to things that they learn in their environment. Perception is defined as a process or an outcome of learning about objects, relationship, and events through sensing activities such as observing, recognizing, and discriminating. These activities enable a person to organize and interpret the stimuli to make a particular sense. Perception extends to involve cognitive processes that rely on information collected to make an informed opinion about a particular phenomenon. The interpretation given to a particular phenomenon affects the response to an activity hence display of perception. The sensory organs aid the development of perception towards an object or an occurrence. Human beings rely on the five senses to respond to stimuli in the environment. 

Social Identity Theory

People tend to exhibit some sense of belonging by associating with certain people or group within a social setting. Within the school setting, for example, students tend to create a relationship with peers that comfortably fit into their group. Groups such as social class, family, and debating clubs etc are important to us because they enable an individual to feel some sense of belonging to the social world (Oppenheimer & Barret, 2014). Hardly anyone lives without belonging to a group within society. Self-identity theory holds that people exhibit the tendency of discriminating against those that do not belong to their social group to promote their self-image (Horowitz, 2012). Self-identity refers to how an individual feels about self. It is derived from how perceived belonging to a particular social group.

Marianne Bryant

Marianne Bryant is depicted as a devout Christian girl. She is prissy and committed to ensuring that members of her group remained committed to the school church group. According to social identity theory, the in-group of Marianne is school church youth group. The members of the school church group are committed in Christianity and unwilling to welcome behaviour that conflict with the ideals of their group. She displays a sense of belonging to the school church group. For example, when she overheard Olive telling Rhiannon about losing her virginity to a college boy she went further to spread the information to members of her school church youth group (Guck, 2010). Marianne’s in-group chides and bullies Olive so that she may drop from school and stop being a member of their society. The members of the school church youth group feel that engaging in sex is not appropriate. The self-identity is derived from the perceived sense of belonging to a particular social group. Thus, bulling of Olive to leave school is meant to enhance the self-identity of the school church youth group. Marianne in-group discriminate against Olive as suggested in the social identity theory that individuals belonging to a particular social in-group would prejudice against members of out-group.

Locus of Control

The way people react to the conditions or activities within their social environment displays their ability to exercise control over the situation. Some people do not have the power to behave responsibly when pushed by external pressure. Locus of control is defined as a construct used in grouping people’s basic motivational orientations and perceptions of the extent of control they exhibit over conditions they are facing. People react to conditions or activities in their social environment by displaying external locus of control or internal locus of control (Oppenheimer  & Barret, 2014).). A person with an external locus of control responds to the external conditions and views life outcomes as stemming from factors that are beyond their scope. For example, in the film, Marianne heard Olive saying that she broke her virginity and was not able to control herself from spreading rumours about the incident. Assumedly, if she had an external locus of control, she would have kept the information to herself. On the other hand, a person with an internal locus of control responds to internal states of affairs and views life outcomes as stemming from their conducts and abilities. For example, Olive did not become abrasive even after the rumour came out that she had broken her virginity.

Olive

Olive is depicted in the film as a person that exercised internal locus of control in dealing with the rumour that she broke her virginity. She seems to be aware that she is able to control herself and reactions towards the rumour and misunderstanding spread by her peers. She exercises control over her life outcomes for example when she lies to her friend about breaking her virginity she is aware of her the society would perceive her. Further, even with the discrimination advanced against her by members of the school church youth group, she does not become abrasive as expected.  Instead, she jokes over the situation and maintains calmness.  People with an internal locus of control are able to protect themselves against internal states of intentions and view the outcome as resulting from their own abilities. For example, in the film, Olive counters bullying and harassment from members of the school church youth group by wearing provocative clothing just to see how the school would react.

Perceptual Errors

Perceptual errors are said to influence the perceptual process. The perceptual errors are halo effect, false consensus, primary error, and recency error. Some characters tend to display all or some of these errors depending on the prevailing conditions in their social environment. In the film, Olive display all four perceptual errors. Halo effect is defined as the tendency for a general evaluation of a person on specific dimension to be used as the prism for judgment of that person on other specific dimensions (Balcetis & Lassiter, 2010). For example, in the film, Olive is perceived to be of low moral because she broke her virginity. Marianne and her school church youth group members judge her because of this behaviour. Some of the characteristics that can be given to Olive based on her conduct in the movie include calmness, honest, and sincere with herself. It can be seen that the members of the school church youth group dislike Olive and go as far as harassing her because she had sex with a boy perceived to be gay.

Primary error is defined as the tendency for facts, impressions, or things that are presented first to be learned or remembered than items presented later in the sequence (Balcetis & Lassiter, 2010). Within the social context of formal learning situations, items or things presented first to the learners tend to stick in the mind better than materials presented later in that sequence. In the film, Olive shares with her friend a lie that she broke her virginity. Marianne overhears this discussion and shares the rumour with members of the school church youth group members. The entire group of students that learned about the lie is reluctant to accept another version of the story. Olive presents the true version of the story but the students are unwilling to accept the second version because of the first impression bias. It follows that first impression tends to stick in the mind of people than the subsequent versions of the story. While the second or subsequent versions of the impressions may be true, people are often reluctant to accept the later versions.

Recency error refers to a case where the most recent presented facts or impressions are remembered or learned better than materials presented earlier (Balcetis & Lassiter, 2010). In the film, Olive presented a story about breaking her virginity to her friend. The story becomes viral leading to her harassment by friends and members of her class. She then comes up with a plan to clear her name against the misconception and misjudgment. She present a song and a dance during school pep rally which draws  audience attention to watch. The plan works because many boys that had rejected her begin admiring her. They forget about the story of breaking her virginity. Recency error helps Olive to gain her reputation after being labeled as of being of low morals.

False consensus refers to an opinion or belief mistakenly thought to be held by all or nearly all people in a social group whereas the fact is significantly different (Balcetis & Lassiter, 2010). In the film, the school church youth group and members of the Olive class held that she had broken her virginity whereas the real fact is the story was a lie. People can hold a false consensus about a given phenomenon while at the same time ignoring the fact of the story. The false consensus about a given phenomenon may thrive for a long time until the point where an investigation about the issue occurs. In the film, Olive’s friends held a false consensus that she lost her virginity until when she refuted the claim. 

Emotions, Moods and Attitudes

People react to the activities or conditions in their environment by displaying certain patterns, which may entail experiential, behavioural, and physiological elements by which a person attempts to counter the matter. The emotion that a person displays towards a given event or occurrence largely depends on the extent to which threat, fear, or elation is triggered in the mind (Ciarrochi & Mayer, 2013). All activities that occur in a person’s life trigger some form of emotion. Management of emotions affects how people would react to incidents in their environment. Attitude is a judgment that a person displays towards a given object or incident. A mood is a disposition to react emotionally to an event or incident that may last for a given period.

Emotional Labour

Emotional labour refers to the ability of a person to control emotion or set of emotions. Emotional regulation is important because it influences how a person would react to a given incident. Sometimes people respond to situations that are supposed to elicit anger by showing no reaction or calmness. In the film, Olive displays emotional regulation by reacting comically and calmly to the misunderstanding and rumour spread by Marianne that she broke her virginity. Modulating emotion helps in eliminating instances that may turn out to be ugly. For example, in the film, one would expect the misunderstanding about Olive breaking her virginity to cause abrasion, altercation, or bitter exchange between Olive and her schoolmates but this does not happen. Olive’s approach of modulating her emotions helps in neutralizing the situation. Olives react to the story by admitting that she had sex with the gay boy. She even goes as far as changing her dressing style just to confuse her friends. Emotional regulation tends to increase as the age of an individual increase. This is evident in the reaction of Mr Smith when he reacts to the allegation that his wife is cheating on him.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is defined as a type of intelligence that entails the ability to react to emotional information and apply it in reasoning and other cognitive activities. Emotional intelligence comprises of four abilities namely to perceive and appraise (interpret) emotions accurately, to access and elicit emotions when they lead to cognition, to acknowledge emotional language, and to modulate one’s emotion to promote growth (Ciarrochi & Mayer, 2013). In the film, Olive is depicted as a character with the greatest emotional intelligence. First, when Marianne spreads rumour and misunderstanding that she broke her virginity she controls her emotions and acts calmly towards Marianne and her friends.  It can be seen that Olive was able to apply emotional intelligence in reacting to the information and reasoning in order to avert the ugly incidence of abrasion. It is important to judge the effect of a given reaction before displaying it to others when responding to things in the environment. Olive displays this attribute when dealing with harassment and bullying.

Second, Olive displays emotional intelligence when she counteracts with her bullying by embracing a new image as the school tramp. This reaction helps her avert abrasion with her peers and at the same time sets the stage for changing the perception that they have towards her. In essence, Olive was able to apply emotional intelligence to deal with the challenges that she faced in her social group. Thirdly, Olive displays emotional intelligence when she agrees to pretend that she slept with Brandon (Guck, 2010). The plan helped Brandon to shed the label of a homosexual among his peers. In this case, the decision to pretend that she slept with Brandon had significant implications on her image. Nonetheless, she decided to assist Brandon to shed off the label of homosexual which his peers used in bullying him.

Motivational Theories

Motivation is described as the impetus that gives purpose or meaning to human behaviour and occurs at a conscious level. The manner in which people respond to activities in their social environment largely borders on motivation. There are two main categories of motives namely primary and secondary motives. The source of motivation may be internal or external but they encourage or discourage certain behaviours.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow hierarchy of needs suggests that human needs are hierarchical in nature. The level of human needs tends to change as a person’s social status changes. According to Maslow human needs are fulfilled in a hierarchical manner (Dweck, 2013). People begin by fulfilling the needs at the bottom of the ladder before moving to those at the top of the ladder. The categories of human needs are physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. The character whose needs change throughout the film is Olive. At the start of the movie, Olive tries to fulfil physiological needs such as sex. When her peers react to the rumours and misunderstanding that she broke her virginity, she attempts to fulfil the need for safety. She crafts a plan to counter the discrimination by her peers by wearing provocative clothing and attracting the attention of boys instead of rejection.

To fulfil the need for love/belonging, she confesses the truth to her boyfriend and she wins back his trust. Further, Olive attempts to attain esteem by presenting a song and dance in school, which helps her to earn the respect of others. In this case, she attains a sense of personal value. Finally, she attains self-actualization by solving the problem of prejudice. In each step in Olive’s life, she displays plays a desire to fulfil a human need according to the theory of Maslow.

McClelland’s Needs Theory

McClelland’s learned needs theory focuses on three things namely power, achievement and affiliation. This theory suggests that persons with a strong desire for achievement attempt to accomplish proportionately changing goals using their own effort. These people exhibit the tendency of working alone to achieve their intention. The need affiliation theory suggests that people exhibit the desire to seek approval from others, attempt to fit within the expectations of a given group and avoid confrontation and conflicts (Dweck, 2013). The need for power theory holds that people that have a high need for power attempt to exercise control over others and often interested in a leadership position.

The conduct of Olive in the film shows that she behaved according to the McClelland’s Needs Theory. The three aspects of this theory achievement, power, and affiliation are largely illustrated in the nature of relationships that she created with her peers. For instance, Olive sought the approval of her friend, Rhiannon by lying to her about losing her virginity to a college boy. Olive got involved in song and dance so that she could attain the need for achievement (Gluck, 2010). She worked on the song and dance alone and won the admiration of her foes and peers. Finally, Olive need for power is evident in her reaction towards her peers. For example, Olive began wearing provocative clothing to influence how people perceive her in the school.

Conclusion

The comical film Easy A, displays how characters struggle to fit within the social environment. People are social beings hence they like associating with others whom they share common things. The self-identity theory explains why people reject those that belong to the out-group. The reaction that people display towards activities or incidents in the environment display some form of locus of control that may be internal or external depending on the individual. The perception that people have towards activities or things trends to have perceptual errors. Events that affect people’s lives tend to motivate or influence their mood. The source of motivation may be internal or external factors. Maslow suggested that human needs fall in five main categories whereas McClelland’s needs theory states that human needs fall into three categories.

References

Balcetis, E. & Lassiter, D. G. (2010). Social Psychology of Visual Perception. New York: Psychology Press.

Ciarrochi, J. & Mayer, D. J. (2013). Applying Emotional Intelligence: A Practitioner’s Guide. New York: Psychology Press.

Dweck, S. C. (2013). Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. New York: Psychology Press.

Guck, W. (2010). Easy A. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1niv0_FOSepYW1MatctMr4-JOcfndkdEG/view 

Horowitz, M. J. (2012). Self-identity theory and research methods. Journal of Research Practice8(2), Article M14.

Oppenheimer, L. & Barret, M. (2014). National Identity and Ingroup-Outgroup Attitudes in Children: The Role of Socio-Historical Settings: A Special Issue of the European Journal of Developmental Psychology. New York: Psychology Press.