Time to Fly: How Ladybird Transcends Gender Inequality

McKenna Matus '19, Staff Writer

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Originally featured in the March 2018 Edition

Greta Gerwig’s 2017 film Lady Bird is a quirky coming-of-age story about 17 year old Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson’s senior year of high school in Sacramento, California. The film dives into the complexity of Lady Bird’s family, school, and interactions, as well as the complexities of her character as she transitions from adolescence to adulthood. Lady Bird is the centerfold of the film; the plot and supporting characters move around her axis of intricacy and exist to highlight, provoke, and challenge her.
This makes the film female-centric, being a female story starring a young woman (Saoirse Ronan). Not to mention, it was also written and directed by a woman (Greta Gerwig). Ronan, who plays Lady Bird, was nominated for “Best Actress” at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars; Laurie Metcalf, who plays Lady Bird’s mother, was nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” at the Globes and Oscars; and Gerwig was nominated for an astounding 5 awards at both the Globes and the Oscars, being the 5th woman ever nominated for the Academy Award of “Best Director.”
Lady Bird was Gerwig’s directorial debut, which makes her the first ever female to be nominated for an Oscar for her first film. Lady Bird draws attention to notable gender inequalities in the film industry, and its success proves that films made by and starring women can compete with those made by and starring men.
Film itself is a reflection of the society we exist in, and when the only stories accessible to us, or the ones most publicized, are those that make women irrelevant or stereotype them, these trends will likely carry on their existence in the real world and will influence the way people perceive and treat women. This problem largely occurs due to the lack of female leadership and representation in film and media; when women’s opinions aren’t voiced during the creation of films, this leads to inaccurate, often sexist, portrayals that treat female characters as merely accentuations to male characters. By taking on the role of writer and director of her female-focused comedic drama, former actress Greta Gerwig (nominated for her role in the 2012 film Frances Ha) hoped to inspire women, not just of future generations, but current adult women, to pursue their passions in film.
A study conducted at San Diego State found that in 2014, 80 percent of films had no female writers, 85 percent had no female directors, and one-third lacked female producers. In 2015, an astonishingly low 16% of directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors of the top 100 films of the year were women (Huffington Post). There is obviously an extremely prevalent gender gap in the film industry. If it is not combatted, its influence will persist, and women will continue to be silenced.
Influence and authority in the film industry are absolutely vital to women. Women’s stories need to be told and depicted accurately from the voice of a woman; they need to be more than just “damsels in distress” or sex symbols. Young girls everywhere are watching films, now more than ever due to the new age of accessibility, and they need to see strong and powerful women working in high-paying, elite jobs. The future is female, and in order to inspire this greatness, women must hold the reins in front of the camera lens and behind it.
Stories crafted around complex, fascinating, and realistic women, like Lady Bird, will help pave the way for equality in the film industry and future success for women. Greta Gerwig is an inspiration to women everywhere striving to be at the top of their fields and achieve greatness despite the gender implicit obstacles they might encounter. Natalie Portman, who is an activist, a leader in the #TimesUp movement, and an Academy Award-winning actress, told Variety that she has “wanted to see this movie for the past 20 years, and it hasn’t existed.” It is time for female-focused films to take their places in the spotlight in order to create effective change for gender equality in the film industry and in all realms of life.

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Time to Fly: How Ladybird Transcends Gender Inequality