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Lady Bird: Coming of Age

December 2, 2017

While I gathered my head around the film I just watched, tears began to run down the sides of my cheeks before I could even unlock my car door.  Sacramento local, Greta Gerwig's film Lady Bird, perfectly captures the essence of what coming of age as a so-called 'Millennial' is like. Between grappling with leaving home, finding love, and struggling financially, Gerwig tackles the bitter yet sweet feeling of growing up.


The film brings a refreshing female perspective may so called "growing up" films have not explored yet. Audiences are used to referring to"Stand By Me" or "The Breakfast Club," as coming of age classics, yet fall short to answer with a film from this century. While movies and TV shows such as Moonlight or Stranger Things have risen as exceptions,  they still tend to favor the male perspective. Gerwig's character,  Christine McPherson aka "Lady Bird,"challenges the quintessential steps of coming of age with her ambitious drive, outspoken tongue, and spunky vulnerability. 


Breaking away:


McPherson faces leaving her family, friends, school, and hometown— essentially everything she has ever known. While her and her mother's relationship could definitely not be described as healthy, it is incredibly real and raw. This is one narrative that really stood out. Most audiences are used to seeing parents as passive figures, letting their children figure out the challenges of growing up on their own. In this case, Lady Bird's parents both digress and progress her growth as a blossoming adult. Her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, struggles with showing love for her daughter. She engages in the all too familiar micro aggressions against  her daughter's education, looks, and financial decisions. Her father, while facing depression after losing his job, sees promise in his daughter and helps her in secret apply to schools. 


While Lady Bird is choosing prom dresses at the thrift store (which she has to shop at because her family is poor) her mother comments on how Lady Bird "shouldn't have had that second serving of pasta," then she would fit into the dress better.  While there are several similar instances throughout the film,  there are also expressions of immense love. After Lady Bird leaves for her first year of college, her mother writes her a series of letters expressing her pride and adoration for her daughter. While complicated, it is a relationship many daughters and mothers, even sons and father's have seen.


There is a scene at the end of the film where she speaks to her mother, asking her mom if she "cried the first time she drove into Sacramento, because she did." Perhaps this is the scene that threw me into tears at the end of the night because I know exactly what she is talking about. Every time I drive back home for a holiday or family emergency I get this sense of immense love and hate at the same time. It is the realization that every street corner, every grocery store, every movie theater holds with it some memory that shaped me as an individual and no other place in the world can bring up those feelings.


Love: Is it real or just attention in disguise?


There is a nun at Lady Bird's catholic high school offers deep insight into the meaning of love. She asks Lady Bird if love and attention are really just the same thing. Perhaps love is manifested through attention, but it is hard to argue that the two aren't intertwined. This idea puts Lady Bird's relationship with Danny, a boy she met through a joint-school musical. While their relationship is new, fresh, innocent, and exciting, it comes to a halt when she walks in on Danny making out with another boy in the bathroom. While it takes her a long time to accept Danny back into her life, she puts away her own vulnerable, angry feelings to be there for him during his time of finding and accepting who he is as a gay man. Her acceptance ultimately aids herself in moving forward and understanding what she wants, even after experimenting with a total emo rich kid douche bag named Kyle.


Despite the unhappy ending for both, theses example perfectly depict the non-linear path to love. Relationships serve as leasing lessons, and that's exactly what she does. She recognizes her role as a friend for Danny, and recognizes her lack of similarity with Kyle. Without them as distractions, she is able to rekindle her relationship with her best friend, and put in perspective her desires to get out of Sacramento and not be held back by a boy.


Finding what you love to do: 


Despite being on of the Davis students Lady Bird pokes fun at throughout the film, I too struggled to find my identity before and after moving to college. As a humanities major, where was I supposed to fit in at a school "known for agriculture?" How is Lady Bird supposed to fulfill her big city dreams when nobody believes in her, or gives her the opportunities to shine? The answer is to search and pursue passions on one's own. Lady Bird secretly applies to schools far away from home, which pays off when she gets accepted and moves to New York.


Gerwing shows how moving from adolescence to adulthood is about experimentation,moving forward, and accepting one's past as a part of who they are. Lady Bird uses her mother's harsh criticisms to prove she is smart enough to go to a great college. Her experiences with love teach her how to express romantic emotions, and her hometown of good ol' Sacramento (which I myself am all too familiar with) keeps her humble, yet aids in accelerating her ambitions for a big city life.


While millennials face different challenges growing up than their parents, such as higher competition in the educational and work forces and more open expression of sexuality, everyone still understands the feeling of leaving the past for the future. From a mother losing her daughter to college, to a father losing a job to his son, Lady Bird  the movie encapsulates the emotions and realities of getting older for all generations.




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