I hope you’re doing well, gazing at aesthetically-pleasing sunsets or reading Proust while wearing rose-scented perfume, or whatever it is you do in your free time. I’m going to try and make this as brief as possible, but please bear with me, as what I’m about to discuss is a hill I am more than willing to die on.
Like most people who were alive and had access to modern technology at the time, I got all swept up in the Lady Bird buzz that swarmed towards the end of last year, when your ode to the city of Sacramento and coming-of-age broke a Rotten Tomatoes’ record for highest number of positive reviews without any negative ones, and just in general seemed to be all anyone wanted to talk about. Naturally, curiosity got the best of me, so I bought a ticket and settled in for an experience that, according to general consensus, would rank right up there as one of the most moving and emotional of my life.
And yeah, I laughed a couple times, shed a few tears here and there, blah blah blah. But by the time the screen went black and the end credits started rolling, I was more confused than anything else. The number one question clanging and banging around in my mind:
Where were all the conversations about men, Greta?
In a movie chock-full of interesting, multidimensional female characters having interesting, multidimensional conversations, a disturbingly small number of them revolved around the tried-and-true topic of chit-chat between chicks in movies: dudes.
It just felt like Lady Bird missed so many opportunities to needlessly invite the Y-chromosome to an X-dominated party!
Like, for example, in the scene where Lady Bird asks her mother, Marion, what an appropriate age to be having sex might be, and her mother gives her a genuine, non-judgemental answer — the exchange seems to deliberately omit the over-the-top awkwardness that is an absolute staple of every movie scene ever in which a child is having a conversation with a parent about sex… I don’t think you actually meant to do that, though, did you? There were so many possibilities there, Greta!
For instance, Marion could’ve gotten super upset that Lady Bird was thinking of being anything other than a pristinely white-clothed, cross-legged angel of chastity and demanded to know the name of the boy she was probably already pregnant by, this would inevitably lead to a nice screaming match that would end in Lady Bird being grounded “for eternity” or something.
Or, for a slightly less Carrie-and-her-Bible-thumping-mother-like exchange, Marion could have started openly talking about sex and Lady Bird could’ve started covering her ears and cringing because hearing her mom saying the word “hymen” would’ve just been too much! (It wouldn’t even have had to be the word “hymen”—“condom,” “penis,” “clitoris,” all would’ve worked — it basically writes itself).
(Side Note: Going the “bodily-functions-are-gross” route would still pass the Bechdel Test (unfortunately) but it would check off enough other boxes for a typical movie involving parents having a conversation with their teenagers that I’d be willing to call it even).
Or how about the scene earlier on in the movie, where Lady Bird and her best friend, Julie are snacking on communion wafers and giggling about masturbation, and Lady Bird says, “Maybe it’s different when there’s really a penis in there” as opposed to a showerhead. Ideally, this conversation would’ve devolved into ludicrous, Amy Schumer-style detail about all the different ways to masturbate, complete with some giggle-laden mention of vaginal discharge, menstrual blood, female ejaculation, or some combination of the three. The girls would then progress into a heated discussion of all the different boys at school they’d let “hit it from the back” and “stick it in all their holes.” These boys would all be mentioned by full name and rated in great detail on their “fuckability.”
But instead, we got some un-male-mentioning crap that illustrated the quirks of childhood bonding and the importance of close and uninhibited camaraderie between girls during the hectic hormonal-ness of the teenage years.
Pretty disappointing, if you ask me.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the entire movie, though, Greta, was the fact that Lady Bird and Julie have a falling out and break up as friends over something other than that they both have a crush on the same guy? It would have been so easy to make Lady Bird also have a thing for the math teacher or for Julie to develop feelings for the kid who doesn’t want to participate in the economy and lies about his virginity, but nooo, instead we get a real and intimate look at female friendship and the trials and tribulations it faces during adolescence.
(I really don’t mean to harp on this, Greta, but Julie could’ve shouted, “Kyle doesn’t even think you’re pretty!” Or something similarly brutal and cutting at Lady Bird during that fight on the quad. Otherwise, I don’t know… the whole thing felt very female-focused and not very male-focused… it was weird).
I just can’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance every time Lady Bird comes up in conversation about the Oscar race. In a year touted for its emphasis on female relationships in film, it feels like Lady Bird is the only awards-front runner that didn’t find a way to dump a healthy amount of dude-flavored tea into the harbor, if you know what I mean.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is lately being billed as a mother-daughter movie, but the great majority of its runtime is spent watching Frances McDormand’s character talk obsessively about the police chief to anyone who will listen, and while the things she says aren’t romantic in nature, the police chief is a man, so it counts.
Hell, even The Shape of Water, which has been described as one of the most unique and “uncharted territory-venturing” movies in a long time, goes to all the trouble of making its female lead only able to communicate through facial expressions and sign language and STILL everything she says revolves around the dude she wants to bang. If that’s not commitment to keeping an otherwise groundbreaking train on the male track, I don’t know what is.
Unfortunately, Greta, it’s a level of commitment you just weren’t willing or able to attain. Whether that’s because Lady Bird is your solo directorial debut and you’re relatively new to the game, or maybe you, for whatever reason, actually intended the primary focus to be on the girls in the movie, or simply because you’re a woman, I guess I’ll never know.
But let’s face it, it’s probably because you’re a woman.
Lady Bird Poacher