When the credits rolled after Lady Bird I couldn’t help but think, “Thank God it’s over”. Throughout this whole film my thoughts were, “Wow. She’s a brat.” “Wow. That mom is a bitch.” “What the fuck… who would say something like that?”. I did not connect or empathize with any of the characters and was thoroughly disappointed with the passive experience I had watching the film. I didn’t care whether Lady Bird got into college. I didn’t care that her prom date was a douche. I didn’t care if her and the mom made up… and that is highly out of character for me. I cry at one minute Budweiser Superbowl ads. My absolute favourite part of watching a movie is to let go and feel. And so as the credits rolled, I chalked it up to a bad movie. Now, had I been watching it alone in my room, I would have shut my laptop, grumbled about wasting 2 hours of my life, and gone to bed.
Only I wasn’t watching it alone. I had invited over three friends and we were sitting in my living room. I said, “Jeez… That movie was awful.” Instantly the other three protested in disagreement. They were beside themselves that I didn’t agree with them. One of them argued that Lady Bird was a refreshing “slice of life”. It was incredibly realistic with complex characters. When I argued that no mother would ever treat her daughter that way. Another responded dryly, “I have had those exact conversations with my mother.” The third frien d piped in, “There have been moments where I have had that exact thought: ‘Does my mom even like me?’ ”. And then I realized my privilege. The things that happened in Lady Bird have never been my reality. They were right to say that I’m living in a Disney fantasy. I have never once even thought to question if my mom liked me. I already wholeheartedly know she does. My mother has never made me feel inadequate, a burden, or unwanted.
What makes Lady Bird a well-received film is the connection it makes with 99% of its audience. For majority of people, the issues hit home with a raw sense of realism. This is where the tragedy lies: people think the mother-daughter interactions were “refreshingly realistic” and “finally a true portrayal of family”.
And so Lady Bird brings up an imperative point as I’m realizing there is a societal norm here that needs to be addressed: Family should not ever make you feel that way.
The fact that 99% of audiences relate to this experience means that we are suffering a social pandemic that no one is addressing. It is unacceptable for a parent to make a child feel inadequate or a burden. I want to be clear, I do not see the mother as the villain in the story. Her mother was abusive and an alcoholic, so considering, she’s improved greatly.
There have been numerous studies completed that talk about styles of parenting. It is almost a given that you will parent your children using the same style that your parents used on you, unless you make conscious efforts and work at growing as a person.
It is absolutely heartbreaking that so many people connected to this film. But it is even more heartbreaking that I am considered the one to have my head in the clouds because I don’t believe the actions of the characters to be acceptable. I truly believe everyone else is asleep. Everyone else does not see the fundamental problem in our society that allows Lady Bird to be so popular.
The acceptance of these standards, without any desire to change is tragic.
While some people see this film as a “slice of life”, I’m realizing more and more it is a call to action: To be better than our parents before us. It will be a continuous cycle without conscious change.