Olive: Haven't you heard? I already did.
Clean-cut high schooler Olive Penderghast (Stone) does not want to spend the weekend camping with her Best Friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) and her New-Age Retro Hippie family, so she explains that she has a date (with "George") and explains that he is a friend of her brother at college. Afterwards, when Rhiannon presses her for details, she is overheard insinuating that she lost her virginity over the weekend.
Rumors begin to spread and, after she spends an afternoon in detention with her gay friend Brandon (Dan Byrd), she agrees to pretend to have sex with him to help convince the school he is straight. Several boys learn what she has done and beg her to perform the same service for them, hoping to benefit from their "lost virginities". This eventually turns into a full-fledged business, lucrative for Olive and socially beneficial for the boys, but her new reputation as tramp/slut/skank/etc. gets her the attention of the local Christian club led by Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes). They want to "save" Olive, but also feel that it is vitally important to get her the hell out of the school first.
Olive's life begins to resemble that of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Olive then decides to use the rumors to her own advantage, affixing a red A to her clothing in reference to the embattled heroine of the novel. However, the glamour and mystery quickly deteriorates, and Olive must figure out how to reclaim her good reputation.
This film provides examples of:
- Activist-Fundamentalist Antics: Marianne's group do these. First against the school mascot, then against Olive. To the point of picketing fellow students with hateful slogans, Westboro Baptist Church-style.
- Adults Are Useless: Most of the adults in the movie are either a direct part of Olive's problems or make no attempt to intervene.
- After-School Cleaning Duty: Olive and Brandon had lost contact in the time before the movie, and reconnect with each other as friends when they are both performing detention clean-up.
- Almost Kiss: Olive and Woodchuck Todd when they were in eighth grade. Todd chickened out, and later shared his first kiss with Rhiannon.
- And Starring: Emma Stone is credited last in the opening titles despite being the lead. She is first in the end credits though.
- Attempted Rape: Anson refuses to take "no" for an answer from Olive until she finally gets violent with him. This ends up being the catalyst for her to realize that the charade, which she's already gotten sick of, has run its course.
- Bad Girl Song: Subverted by Olive In-Universe: her big musical number at the end, "Knock on Wood," would be a magnificent example of this, except for the fact that Olive is, of course, a good girl.
- Because Destiny Says So: Parodied. How does Marianne account for the fact that her boyfriend has been held back in senior year not once, but thrice? "It's His choice! If God had wanted him to graduate, He would have given him the right [test] answers!"
- Big "WHAT?!": Played for Laughs. During a moment while discussing puberty with their mom, Olive’s little brother Chip points out that he’s adopted, which prompts their dad to jokingly do this.Dill: WHAT?! OH MY GOD! WHO TOLD YOU?!
- Bilingual Bonus: Olive goes to a "stupid foreign movie theater" and decides to see Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe, apparently unaware of what it is and giving up on even pronouncing it halfway through. It's the 1973 German adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. Ironically, this was lost on viewers of the German dub, since it looked just like someone photoshopped the translation in.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The webcast, serving as a narration/framing device throughout the whole movie.
- Brick Joke: The Huckleberry Finn joke.Olive: Ironically we were studying "The Scarlet Letter". Isn't it always the way? The book you read in class always seems to have strong connection with whatever angsty adolescence trauma is going on. Except for Huckleberry Finn, 'cause I don't know any teenage boy who ran away with a big, hulking black guy.
Girl: Oh, my god! Did you hear that Brandon ran away from home? Yeah, totally; he left his parents a note that said "I'm gay, bitches" and then he skipped town with some big hulking black guy!
Olive: My apologies to Mark Twain.
- At the end, almost every major character in the film is shown on a computer, watching Olive's confessional webcast. In this sequence, we also see Brandon and the aforementioned (though non-hulking) black guy watching the film adaptation of Huckleberry Finn.
- Olive and Mr. Griffith talk about The Scarlet Letter, and how most students only watch the movie, and talk about how hot Demi Moore is. At the end of the movie, one student is watching the webcast, and when he realizes that Olive is not going to do anything risque, he states that Demi Moore at least got to take her top off.
- Brief Accent Imitation:
- During part of the narration, Olive makes fun of Demi Moore's British accent in The Scarlet Letter film by briefly putting on a Cockney accent.
- Olive does an imitation of a Southern Belle's accent when her mother jokingly tells her that Brandon has come to ask for her hand in marriage (also in an accent).
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Olive is a straight-A student who has never been in trouble before, but when she gets sent to the principal for nothing more serious than using a curse word (and not even that vulgar a word), he threatens to expel her if she is ever in trouble again.
- Celebrity Paradox: Olive mentions Gossip Girl (2007) when discussing being hung up on the person you lost your virginity to. Penn Badgley is in both Gossip Girl and Easy A.
- Chekhov's Skill: During the "Pocket Full Of Sunshine" montage, Olive is seen sewing. She later uses this skill to sluttify her wardrobe. Hester Prynne, the protagonist of The Scarlet Letter, worked as a seamstress.
- Clique Tour: A variation of this trope is played in the opening credits sequence. As Olive begins narrating, the camera takes a one-shot of various cliques in her school, culminating in her getting shoved out of the way by an Alpha Bitch archetype and having her stuff dropped, papers flying away and all.
- Cluster S Bomb: Mrs. Griffith's breakdown when she decides to confess that she has been sleeping with a student, and that she has given him an STD."Goddamn shit!"
- Comically Missing the Point: Some of the people watching Olive's webcast do not seem to understand, even at the end, that she is not going to be taking off her clothes.
- Comically Small Bribe: Olive is usually paid for pretending to have sex with people in gift cards from various stores. The lowest price she ever accepts is soon-to-expire vouchers for the foreign language arthouse cinema, with a close second being a 20% Off gift certificate.
- Confessional: Olive attempts to confess and seek advice from a priest, but the other half of the confessional is empty. "Should've seen that one coming."
- Cool Teacher: Mr. Griffith. He also has some Psychologist Teacher in him when it comes to Olive. Plus, he is hilarious.
- Date Rape Averted: Anson will not take "no" for an answer.
- Defiled Forever: Played With. Olive initially discovers that her reputation has advantages, but eventually finds that it also has drawbacks, even in a liberal-minded modern setting. In the end, she concludes that her sex life is none of anyone else's damn business, apart from the guy who might be involved.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- "I hope you don't mind, but we had a few pre-cocktail party cocktails... like before the cocktail party. With cocktails."
- "Brandon was just in the middle of telling me this really funny thing, which was really funny."
- Disturbed Doves: Parodied. When Marianne finds out that Micah has chlamydia, she screams. A video playing in the foreground shows doves taking off at that same moment.
- Double Entendre: The title itself refers to a school course with a reputation for being easy to do well in, to Olive's reputation for being sexually easy, and to how easily the actually virginal Olive gets a reputation for promiscuity. And it also refers to the eponymous letter of The Scarlet Letter.
- Double Standard: Examined; while the guys who pretend to have sex with Olive get a reputation boost, Olive herself starts to be pilloried as a slut.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Micah is sent to live with his grandparents for a while, while recovering from his "condition".
- Ear Worm: Olive's grandmother sends her a birthday card that plays "Pocketful of Sunshine," by Natasha Bedingfield, which Olive initially says she hates. Its earworming becomes a Running Gag through the movie.
- Easter Egg: If you look hard enough, you'll be able to notice that an orange is placed somewhere in every scene.
- Eating Lunch Alone: Olive after she has become ostracized by much of her school.
- Edible Theme Naming: Multiple:
- Everyone in the Penderghast family is named after food. Olive, her mother Rosemary, her father Dill and brother Chip. Her older brother, who is never seen in the movie, is named Kale.
- An early draft of the movie's screenplay lampshades this by having Olive say that both her parents were amused by them sharing their names with food items that they decided to name all of their children the same way. The names of Olive's siblings in the draft were Sage and Ginger, with Olive further lampshading this by saying, "It’s shocking, I know. We’re like a fucking pantry, us Penderghasts!"
- Fake Orgasm: Olive and Brandon fake having sex during a Wild Teen Party so he can convince his classmates that he's straight. So they lock themselves in a bedroom, sit on the bed, and fake bizarre orgasmic noises for a while. But while she can fake it just fine, he has trouble doing a convincing The Grunting Orgasm so she "helps him" by punching him in the gut.
- Fate Worse than Death/Place Worse Than Death: Olive described Micah's forced exile to his religious grandparents in Florida as that."And if there's one thing worse than Chlamydia, it's Florida."
- The Film of the Book: Three different film versions of The Scarlet Letter are cited:
- The 1926 black-and-white film, from which clips are shown.
- The 1995 Demi Moore version. Both Olive and Mr. Griffith comment upon the mediocrity of this adaptation, and reflect that most of the students watched this film instead of reading the book or seeing the original.
- Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe, the film showing at the foreign cinema Olive attends, is a 1973 German adaptation.
- Foreshadowing: Right near the beginning, Olive is listening to a pop song on a musical card, with lyrics that pretty much sum up the bullying she's going to endure.Say what you want, you're never going to break me/sticks and stones will never take me
- Framing Device: Olive's Confession Cam webcast to the entire school explaining the movie/situation.
- The Fundamentalist: Marianne's father is adamant about his own beliefs and doesn't recognize others, as evidenced by his constant corrections of Olive's hypothetical question about Hell. As far as he's concerned, Hell is a real place, and there's nothing hypothetical about it. He's a hypocrite as well; he's watching Olive's webcast, expecting her to have live sex on camera, and is disappointed when she doesn't.
- The Ghost: Olive's older brother, who is mentioned in passing as how she met her so-called hook-up.
- Gilligan Cut: After Olive receives a birthday card from her grandmother, she discovers it has a sound chip that plays Natasha Bedingfield's "Pocketful of Sunshine". She dismisses it as the worst song ever. We then cut to the following day and Olive can't stop singing along with it.
- Girl on Girl Is Hot: Invoked by Olive in her big musical number wherein she kisses Rhiannon on the cheek and lays her feather boa around Rhiannon's neck; she then gives one of the female dancers a playful smack on the derriere.
- Going Commando: After Olive fakes sex with Brandon, she gives him her panties and presumably spends the rest of the party in her short dress without any.
- Gossip Evolution: Olive gets sent to the principal's office for calling a classmate a twat. The version Rhiannon hears is that Olive called her a cunt and punched her in the breasts.Olive: I worry about the way information circulates at this school.
- Got Over Rape Instantly: Anson attempts to coerce Olive into sex. Woodchuck Todd who was nearby offers her a ride after she escapes. Though Olive cried briefly on the drive home, the situation never comes up again and the two ride off into the sunset without further mention.
- Happy Marriage Charade: The Griffiths. At first they seem happy, in love and adorably flirty. Then we learn that their marriage is falling apart — they haven't slept with each other in ages and she's cheating enough to have caught chlamydia.
- Hate Sink: Evan. He asks Olive to do what she did with Brandon, implies that he'll spread the rumor anyway, emotionally manipulates her into helping, and tries to inflate it to more than what it was initially. His demeanor just comes off as gross.
- Head Butt Of Love: A platonic one shows up during Olive and Brandon's "sex scene."
- Hero of Another Story: Brandon. Who is apparently starring in a modern retelling of Huckleberry Finn with the subtext made text.
- Jerkass: Every guy who pretends to have slept with Olive acts entitled about it, except for Brandon, and he skips town before she can ask the favor she needs of him.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: This conversation between Olive and her mother.Rosemary: No, your father is as straight as they come. A little too straight, if you know what I mean, girlfriend.
Olive: I don't.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Melody Bostic, — who according to Olive, "is the most popular girl at school, because she's really pretty and has perfect hair" — actually seems to be decently friendly. She doesn't mind having people that are lower on the social ladder at her parties, and she greets Olive when she arrives.
- Marshmallow Hell: During the flashback with Rhiannon's parents, Olive gets a face-full of hippie boob. She was not amused.
- Mark of Shame: Invoked, discussed, and inverted. When reading The Scarlet Letter in school, Olive and her classmates of course discuss the classic example — Hester Prynne wearing a bright red "A" on her clothing for her crime of adultery. Nina snarkily suggests Olive should do the same... so Olive obliges, by sewing a red "A" to a bunch of corsets and doing a Supermodel Strut into school, holding her head high. In other words, she took Nina's Mark of Shame and made it into a Mark of No Shame, essentially saying that people can brand her a slut if they want — she doesn't care.
- Mascot: "Woodchuck" Todd, formerly known as "Blue Devil" Todd (the school mascot was changed after protests from the Christian group, who claimed the mascot depicted their school as devil worshipers).
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Olive is threatened with expulsion for cussing, while Brandon, who she sees leaving the principal's office before she enters it, and who has a bloody nose as the implied result of a fight, is merely told to "sort it out". If you're a boy, nobody cares.
- Monochrome Casting: All the main characters are Caucasian, with a few ethnic minorities in bit roles.
- Mood Whiplash: It's a pure comedy until a Date Rape Averted scene.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Olive has this seconds after informing Mr. Griffith that his wife is sleeping with a student, gave him an STD and is trying to blame it on Olive.
- Never Trust a Trailer:
- The trailer never mentions Olive's lie about losing her virginity with a college boy, making it seem like the whole thing starts with her fake hookup with Brandon. It also shows some scenes out of order, giving the impression that Olive starts wearing the red A after she starts up her "business," instead of the other way around, even digitally removing the A in some scenes.
- The movie channel trailers are even less trustworthy, eliminating the fake aspect completely and making it look like it's the story of a hot high school girl actually turning into a total slut.
- The Asian release made it look like a Teacher/Student Romance film by showing the "how I became an actual home wrecker" speech overlapping with the scene where she said that Mr. Griffith is her favorite teacher along with the one where Mrs. Griffith came to the room where Olive and Mr. Griffith are having a conversation about The Scarlet Letter and other stuff. The title of the film didn't help.
- New-Age Retro Hippie: Rhiannon's parents. Olive says that they're weird even by California standards, and that they are the reason why she did not go on the camping trip with Rhiannon. In a brief flashback to the last time she hung out with them, the mom is shown with Godiva Hair, and the dad is offering Olive a bong hit.
- Nice Guy: Todd and Brandon seem to be Olive's two real constant friends throughout the film.
- No Bisexuals: Brandon, who is known to be gay, is suddenly assumed to be straight after sleeping with a girl. Averted with Olive's mother, who recounts her wild past, which included sleeping with both boys and girls. Though she'd gotten happily married to Olive's dad, there's no indication that it was "just a phase".
- No Dress Code: Olive is suddenly wearing stuff bordering on bondage gear to school, and for the most part gets away with it. Lampshaded when she asks if she's in trouble since she's never worn skirts that are too short... while the camera is focused on her lacy, spaghetti strapped bustier.
- Odd Friendship: Olive and Marianne become BFF for one day after Olive comforts her about her boyfriend's parents' divorce.
- Oh, Crap!: Olive has one when she goes into the second church and realizes that the pastor she is talking to is Marianne's dad.
- Open Minded Parents:
- Olive's parents, almost to the point of being creepy.
- Rhiannon's parents, way past the point of being creepy.
- "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The absolute first frame of the film is the background of the sky, over which the Screen Gems logo is animated. This logo, on an identical background, is the absolute final frame of the closing credits.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Olive begs her mom to stop after the latter starts talking about her youth as a wild girl who slept with both boys and girls, mentioning how "limber" she was.
- Precision T Strike:
Nina: Perhaps you should embroider a red "A" on your wardrobe, you abominable tramp.
- Olive delivers one of these to Nina (one of Marianne's friends), in retaliation to an insult. Naturally, it gets her sent to the principal's office.
Olive: Perhaps you should get a wardrobe, you abominable twat!
- Marianne, who usually goes out of her way to avoid swearing ("No, you insensitive rhymes-with-witch!"), screams "THAT BITCH!" at the top of her lungs when her boyfriend claims Olive gave him Chlamydia.
- Plenty of Blondes: Rhiannon, Marianne, Mr. and Mrs. Griffith, Micah, Melody Bostic, Olive's mom and several other bit characters. Oddly enough, redhead Olive's actress, Emma Stone, is a natural blonde herself.
- Product Placement:
- Olive tells her brother that her pants are from Costco.
- Olive gets paid in gift cards for every business from Home Depot to Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Except for Lobster Shack, a Bland Name for Carrows Restaurant or Red Lobster.
- The very overt (and totally random) Quiznos mascot guy during the protest against Olive.Quiznos Guy: New honey mustard chicken at Quiznos!
Olive: Not now, Quiznos Guy!
Quiznos Guy: You're a slut.
- Olive's family makes sure to scratch "Watch The Bucket List" off of The Bucket List.
- Every computer is a Sony Vaio, and every mobile phone is a Sony-Ericsson. The reason for it being Sony specifically (other than computers and mobile phones being used in the film of course) is that the parent company of Screen Gems is Sony.
- Pungeon Master: Olive. Also, her father (who also lampshades this).Dill: What is the rumor mill churning these days? Anything interesting?
Olive: Not much, it's a little low in grist.
Dill: Nice wordplay, you must be related to me.
Olive: Only by marriage.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: A clique of Christian Fundamentalists and a homophobic school principal in California? It's more likely than you think. Not all of California is as liberal as people think.
- Really Gets Around: Olive unjustly gets this reputation. Her mom embodied this trope in her youth. Also, Mrs. Griffith seems to consider herself to be this.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Played straight with Mr. Griffith, averted with Principal Gibbons, and subverted with Mrs. Griffith, who seems like a reasonable and empathetic guidance counselor, but then refuses to actually listen to Olive just when Olive is offering to open up to her, and instead assumes that the rumors about Olive are true, even though her husband had already told her they weren't. And that's before she's revealed to be having an affair with a student and willing to throw Olive under the bus to protect herself.
- Rip Tailoring: Olive's creation of her "A" outfits.
- Running Gag: "I've got a pocket got a pocket full of sunshine..."
- Satanic Panic: Holier Than Thou Marianne and her flunkies accuse their high school of endorsing Satanic worship in order to bully the administration into changing the popular Blue Devil mascot into a woodchuck.
- Shoulders-Up Nudity: During the brief Shower Scene where Olive is singing "Pocketful Of Sunshine", she only seen from the shoulders up.
- Shout-Out: By the bucket load.
- The majority of the plot is also a reference to The Scarlet Letter.
- Olive's excitement at having "a gentleman caller" may be one to The Glass Menagerie.
- References are made, complete with clips, to the many films of John Hughes and other teen movies of 1980s (namely, to Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Say Anything..., Can't Buy Me Love), with several of their more climactic scenes re-enacted in the film; three at once are referred in the final sequence alone - with Todd holding speakers up like John Cusack in Say Anything, then holding the fist up in the air like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club and riding a lawnmower like Patrick Dempsey in Can't Buy Me Love.
- Olive's awful guitar playing followed by her proclamation "Not one lesson!" is another Shout-Out to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (a brief scene where he's badly playing the clarinet); as is the scene where she's singing in the shower.
- And with Can't Buy Me Love, it's more than just the above - actually, the entire major plot device of "buying popularity at high school by paying a girl for her to pretend to be intimate with you" can be said to be borrowed from that film.
- Mr. Griffith also tells Olive to "Stay golden."
- This may or may not have been intentional, but the actress who played the lead in the 1926 The Scarlet Letter was known to be loyal and a favorite to a man she called "Mr. Griffith".
- Slut-Shaming: The film is built around this trope: the protagonist pretends to have had sex once, and when the whole school starts to slut-shame her for not being a virgin she decides to make the most of it.
- Snowball Lie: What sets the plot into motion. Olive lies to her Best Friend that she has a date to get out of spending the weekend with the latter's nudist parents. The friend immediately assumes sex was involved, and the conversation is overheard by an uber-Christian Marianne who makes it her mission to turn everyone in school righteous. Instead of stopping the rumors, Olive chooses to perpetuate them, as it makes her insanely popular in school... at first.
- Sour Prudes: The main antagonists have this mindset and bring it down hard on our poor protagonist.
- Squee: Marianne does one when she and Olive make friends.
- Stripperiffic: Olive's wardrobe for much of the movie. Lampshaded, naturally.Olive's Mom: No judgment, but you kind of look like a stripper.
Olive's Dad: A high end stripper, for governors and athletes.
- Strawman Political: All of the members of the school's Christian club, particularly Marianne.
- Supermodel Strut: When Olive first embraces the Slut-Shaming rumors, she comes to school with a "sluttified" wardrobe and confidently struts down the school halls while swaying her legs, arms, and waist seductively and even blows kisses to her audience who are all turning their heads to gawk at her. All while bombastic music plays in the background.
- Tagline: Let's Not and Say We Did.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!:
- Rhiannon calls Olive "Bitch" in almost every exchange. At one point, Olive points out that the term is not actually one of endearment.
- Brandon uses it to punctuate dramatic or important statements, including the letter he leaves for his parents saying he is gay. "I'm gay, bitches!"
- This Is Reality: Olive frequently remarks about how certain things only happen in movies or books. Most of these things end up happening to her, or to Brandon, later on. Often after she has spoken about how she wants that specific thing to happen.
- Two-Person Pool Party: Referenced. Melody Bostic's parents let her have a party ever time she catches them having sex in the pool which, according to Olive, is about once a week.
- Unreliable Narrator: Olive states at the very beginning that this is her side of the story. Also, she is recounting events, but she was not present for every event she recounts — most of them, yes, but the phone conversation between Micah and Mrs. Griffith was a key exception. The most important exception, though, is the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Griffith after Olive had left the room, where Mr. Griffith was trying to get his wife to have sex. Olive wasn't there, so how could she know what was said? Later, Mrs. Griffith told her that she had not had sex with her husband in some time in a way that seemed to put the blame on Mr. Griffith — did Olive in her recounting of events shift the blame to Mrs. Griffith because she was angry at her?
- Virgin-Shaming: Played With; although no actual sex is had, Olive starts trading on her reputation to allow guys to pretend they had sex with her in order to boost their standing around school.
- Waxing Lyrical: Olive still has the "Pocketful Of Sunshine" Earworm mentioned earlier, so when talking about her fictitious weekend with "George" she ends up mentioning that she feels like "I got a love, and I know that it's all mine".
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: It really seems like the Cross Your Heart Club is trying to help Olive, at least until word gets out that she banged Micah; then it was more of a grudge match.
- Whole-Plot Reference: This movie mirrors the plot of The Scarlet Letter and its characters... Ironically, neither the writer nor the director of the film have read The Scarlet Letter. Olive is Hester in that she is unjustly accused of being a whore. Olive is also Hester's husband Chillingworth when she exposes Mrs. Griffith's infidelities but comes to regret it. Mrs. Griffith is Rev. Dimmesdale who pretends to be a pillar of moral character. However, this is really an aversion or subversion. Hester Prynne really did commit adultery, whereas Olive didn't do any of the things that the rumors about her supposed, which, when you think about it, might be why Olive was not comfortable with Hester's "humble silence". Hester bore her punishment because, a puritan herself, she accepted that she deserved it. Olive knows herself to be innocent. Likewise, Dimmesdale really was a decent man who felt terrible remorse and begged Hester to name him and expose his guilt. Mrs. Griffith, by contrast, turned out to be a liar, a cheater, and willing to potentially wreck a teenage girl's life.
- Wild Teen Party: Melody Bostic's party serves as a subversion. All references to sexual activities at her parties involve Olive, and both involve her lying about what happened (Olive and Todd lie about kissing in eighth grade, and Brandon and Olive are not actually having sex in the spare bedroom now). Despite appearances, nothing crazy is ever shown actually happening.