By Gideon Small ‘18
As teenagers, we can get fed up with the current state of our lives. School can be hard, parents can be annoying, and friends can be pretty obnoxious. The worst part is, we grow accustomed to resenting these aspects of our lives simply because they are so present every day. As a result, the fantasy of distancing ourselves from these realities can be enticing. However alluring the idea of pushing against this numbing routine, though, Lady Bird does an excellent job reminding everyone that there are downsides to challenging the status quo.
Lady Bird is a drama-comedy coming-of-age movie that chronicles the life of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson throughout her senior year in high school. She spends time trying to strike a balance between fitting in and standing out at school while dealing with her parents’ financial struggles and her rocky relationship with her mother. The obstacles she must face on a daily basis lead her to try to distance herself from her given identity and create a totally new version of herself.
Lady Bird’s main objective in high school is to separate herself from the life that she is forced to live: a life in which she feels misunderstood, inferior, and insecure. She spends all day at a private school with kids who live in houses much more lavish than her own. She is forced to attend Catholic school despite believing that religion is just another restriction on people’s free will. What’s more, she comes home only to fight with her mother. In short, Lady Bird doesn’t see anything around her as worthy of her participation. Because she has this cynical worldview, her first instinct is to distance herself from what she is supposed to conform herself to: a routinized and thus pointless everyday life. According to Lady Bird, her mother hates her, school sucks, boyfriends inevitably disappoint, and friends are disposable. There is no incentive for her to conform to and appreciate routine because in her eyes, her routine is soul crushing. As we watch Lady Bird become increasingly anxious to shed herself of the identity that she hates, the audience wants nothing more than for the protagonist to break free.
When Lady Bird finally makes her fantasy of breaking the chains of her imposed identity into a reality, she quickly discovers the pitfalls that come with separating yourself entirely from the identity with which your life has provided you. By the movie’s end, Lady Bird has become her own person and has cut herself off from her mother and friends. We watch the protagonist finally distance herself from the high-school identity that she hated, only to see the new identity that she created fall apart. Lady Bird becomes lost, and she is subsequently forced to try and piece back the former version of herself that she initially despised. We are subjected to watching the character whom we have been rooting for to start fresh try to salvage whatever parts of her former self she can still call her own.
Even though as students at Heschel we might not be in the same financial situation as Lady Bird, and may not have such rocky relationships with their parents, we can relate to wanting to throw everything that we know and dislike about ourselves out the window in order to get a fresh start. Lady Bird acts out our wildest fantasies and worst nightmares by following through with rejecting the identity that was given to her. We learn through Lady Bird that there is meaning behind routine and seemingly pointless tasks: they help us grow in order to form our new adult selves while still being able to hold onto the identity that our school, parents, and friends gave us as we were growing up.