Warning: This post contains spoilers for the film Everything, Everything.
The film adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s young adult novel Everything, Everything hits theaters today. It’s a love story about a girl named Maddy who has been confined to her home since infancy as a result of a rare autoimmune disease. She catches a glimpse of the new boy next door out of her window and they fall in love via text. There is a lot to love about the movie. The amazing Amandla Stenberg plays the lead role. The soundtrack is lit and the color schemes are really beautiful. It’s also pretty cool to have a Black girl cast as the leading lady for a young adult motion picture not specifically marketed to Black people. This latter detail made other parts of the movie stand out even more to me, and there is one particular scene that really stood out.
Here comes the spoiler: After falling in love with with her neighbor Olly and getting suspicious about her mother’s insistence that she’s too ill to leave the house, 18-year-old Maddy makes a decision. She applies for a credit card — finding that they are extremely easy to procure online — and books two tickets for her and Olly to go to Hawaii. She wants to see the ocean for the first time so they sneak off early one morning for their adventure. Seeing the ocean isn’t the only first that Maddy experiences during their trip.
At their extremely nice Hawaiian dwelling (that made me wonder just how high Maddy’s credit limit was) Maddy and Olly have sex. Maddy didn’t go through any inner turmoil about her decision. There was no identity crisis about the fact that she was no longer pure. It didn’t permanently change her personality. The movie goes on. It’s literally one of my favorite parts of the movie.
Too often, Black girls’ sexuality is framed as risky, reckless behavior. It’s either meaningless, or sets them up for failure later in life. It is often the single action that launches a train of events that lead to a wreck: the relationship crumbles, she’s using sex to get something in return, or her morals go out the window as a result. The possibility of pregnancy and STDs typically looms overhead like a bad omen — I call it “Brenda’s Got A Baby” syndrome. Especially in the young adult genre, sex is a monumental decision that alters the course of one’s life, not something that humans do everyday.
When I spoke to Stenberg about this role, she told me that it was important to the filmmakers because Black girls so rarely get to be the love interest in young adult films. I was glad that both the book and the movie recognized that sex fits into the love story as well.