The teenage years, often glamorized as a time of self-discovery and the journey to finding oneself, has been depicted many times throughout the entertainment industry and most notably, the film industry. Often times, these portrayals use picture-perfect, generic tropes Hollywood producers believe will resonate with the audience, but these character types still fall short of being relatable among actual teenagers. The director, Greta Gerwig took on this challenge of portraying a realistic teenager with Lady Bird, a film chronicling the senior year struggles of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, an eccentric teenager living in Sacramento, California.
Although the film lost Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards, it has won best picture in my life. Lady Bird personally resonated with me through the protagonist’s portrayal, her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with her best friend, Julie.
The turbulent relationship Lady Bird shares with her mother seemed like one of an emotional rollercoaster, but it could have not been more spot on. Lady Bird is a teenage girl desperately wanting to venture into adulthood on the East coast. Her mother, a nurse at a psychiatric hospital, prefers her staying close to home. While Lady Bird and Mrs. McPherson seem different, they are both two women with strong personalities.
Lady Bird’s appetite for adventure is clearly expressed within the first five minutes of the film.
I experienced connection with her character within the first scene because it portrays teenagers as they are: stubborn children wanting more for themselves.
I truly saw myself through Lady Bird in the way the mother-daughter relationship was displayed. Mrs. McPherson may have seemed like she aimed to make her daughter’s life miserable by enrolling her in a Catholic school and wanting her to stay closer to home, but she displays unconditional love. Mrs. McPherson, a product of an abusive household, wants Lady Bird to grow up with a better life than she did and be successful. Lady Bird’s relationship and attitude towards her mother made me realize how much my own mother cares about me.
“Some friends come and go while others stay forever” is a message for which I believe Gerwig presented well throughout the film.
While navigating through her senior year, Lady Bird utilizes the support of her best friend Julie, to whom she confided everything as most teenagers do with best friends. Julie, who is noticeably wealthier and had better grades, never judges or thinks less of her flamboyant friend. However, when Lady Bird begins to befriend popular girl Jenna, their friendship deteriorates. Lady Bird and Julie’s rocky patch reminded me of how quickly friends can drift apart during young adulthood.
Once Lady Bird begins to fully understand how poorly she was acting towards her friend, she dissociates herself from Jenna to reconcile with Julie. Though she felt popular and had access to exclusive parties and luxuries enjoyed by her gang of new friends, she was only temporarily happy on the surface.
The difference between Lady Bird’s relationship with Jenna and her relationship with Julie is the longevity and purpose.
Lady Bird was originally infatuated by a boy named Kyle, and became friends with Jenna for a short time in order to pursue a romantic relationship with him. On the other hand, Julie and Lady Bird were friends because they shared the same interests, hobbies, and traditions for a long period of time. Lady Bird’s internal realization of her treatment of Julie made me reevaluate my current friendships and their purpose. Now when I befriend someone new, I ask myself, “am I trying to gain something from this person?”
Many young women yearn to see relatable characters when it comes to representation in fiction.
Whether it’s a character of a certain race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, at one time or another, I was one of those young women struggling to identify with a female protagonist in film. Lady Bird’s initial release turned heads as its portrayal of an awkward, unconventional teenaged protagonist received generally positive reviews. My personal connection with Lady Bird’s character stemmed not only from her personality traits, but also her worldview as well. Lady Bird was a bright girl full of ideas; she did not bother conforming to standards set by others around her, for example, preferring to be addressed as ‘Lady Bird’ instead of her given name, Christine.
Lady Bird’s unorthodox attributes inspired me to realize how special it is to love my quirks and uniqueness.
Her quest to experience life outside of her so-called bland city made me appreciate the suburb in which I live, and its distinct features. Throughout the film, Lady Bird desperately wants to attend a school far away from Sacramento, but at the end of the film, she begins to feel homesick, realizing that the everyday life she had once known heavily contrasted with her new life on the East coast. Her transition from high school to college taught me to really live in the moment and appreciate the people in my life and the flaws of my surroundings.
Lady Bird, a coming-of-age film based on the life of director Greta Gerwig, depicts the crazy rollercoaster that is senior year, and focuses on how one offbeat teenage girl deals with it.
Lady Bird, an idiosyncratic teenager, shares a tempestuous relationship with her mother, a storyline not commonly focused on in Hollywood. As a teenager myself, witnessing the relationship Lady Bird shares with her mother brought me a sense of gratitude for my own mother, reminding me that even though she may become frustrated in my actions, she truly loves me. The depiction of Lady Bird’s relationship with her best friend, Julie, illuminated how difficult it can be for two friends to recover from a falling out, and the hidden motives behind some friendships. Lady Bird’s eccentric traits and desolate attitude towards her domestic life prompted me to critically observe the positivity of my surroundings.
Most importantly, Lady Bird taught me that developing apathy towards my current life while fantasizing about my future can result in emotional pain and distress, a message I will carry along with me forever.1