Greta Gerwig’s 2017 movie Lady Bird is a coming-of-age comedy-drama. The movie is set in the 2000s and follows the story of Christine McPherson who is in her senior year at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. Christine hopes to attend college in a “city with culture” on the east coast despite her family’s financial difficulties. At the start of the movie, she gives herself the name “Lady Bird”.
What I love about the movie is that it intertwines Lady Bird’s journey of self-discovery with her relationship with her mother. Throughout the movie Lady Bird and her mother, Marion, have a strained relationship. Marion often reminds Lady Bird of how ungrateful she is for what she has, and she encourages Lady Bird to go to a local college that will be more affordable. This wish clashes with Lady Bird’s hopes for her future, creating a rift between mother and daughter. The movie explores this complex aspect of girlhood where a girl has an image of herself that does not align with how others see her. A scene I think encapsulates this perfectly is when Christine gives herself the name “Lady Bird” in an audition at school. When questioned if “Lady Bird” is her “given” name she replies, “I gave it to myself, it’s given to me by me”. In this brilliant scene, Lady Bird tries to carve out her own identity independent of her parents.
Lady Bird also explores how a girl’s sense of identity growing up is affected by relationships and friendships. At the start of the movie Christine is best friends with Julie. They are outcasts together and do not have many other friends. After Lady Bird starts dating the cool and mysterious Kyle, she become closer with popular girl Jenna. Julie and Lady Bird begin to drift when Lady Bird lies to Jenna about where she lives as she does not want Jenna to know she is not wealthy. Lady Bird’s newfound relationships lead to her lying about her identity so she can fit in. This exposes the pressures girls face growing up as they navigate different friendship groups.
Lady Bird is powerful in that it exposes all the external pressures that make carving out an identity as a young woman so hard. Throughout the movie Lady Bird battles against her mother’s perception of her. She hides parts of herself to fit in with new friends and in changing herself loses an old friend. The movie is wonderful at dealing with girlhood identity without oversimplifying it. Towards the end of the movie Lady Bird gets into a college in New York and achieves her dream of living on the east coast. Unfortunately, this leads to her mother giving her the silent treatment until she leaves. When she arrives in New York, Lady Bird finds letters from her mother that make her realise how much she really cared. After reading the letters Lady Bird decides to go by Christine again. This ending holds a powerful message in that it shows that a girl’s identity is what she makes of it. Lady Bird ends up on the east coast as she hoped but decides to be Christine again. What this ending says to me is that you may get a little lost along the way but in the end, it is you who gets to decide who you are.
Girl Museum Inc.