Barnard Alumna Greta Gerwig Exemplifies Why We Need More Women Writing Movies

By now, you’re probably familiar with “Lady Bird.”  If you haven’t seen it yet you probably want to, unless you have something against coming of age stories and Timothée Chalamet’s beautiful face.  Chances are you’ve heard rave reviews from your friends, your cool Aunt, and just about every critic out there (it recently became the best-reviewed movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes, taking the title from Toy Story 2.)  If you’re a student at Barnard, the “Lady Bird” buzz is multiplied by ten, as the film was written and directed by Greta Gerwig, class of 2006. During her time at Barnard, she co-founded an improv group called The Tea Party Ensemble, wrote plays, and acted in the 2005 Varsity Show.  Since graduating, she’s become a well-known player in the film industry as an actress, a writer, and now, a director.  She co-wrote 2015’s Mistress America, a film about a Barnard student that features shots of some of campus’ best spots - the Quad, Milbank, the back room of Hewitt (that last one was a joke - it really is in the film, though.)

While “Lady Bird’s” titular character does attend an unidentified NYC college that could be Barnard but is almost certainly NYU (She gets off the subway at West Fourth Street), I’d argue that Barnard’s real influence on the film is its devotion to and care in telling a teen girl’s story.  Women, and teen girls especially, are often not portrayed with complexity in films, and when they are, it’s usually on the part of the actress versus the product of good writing.  This is likely due to a lack of women behind the scenes in film. “Lady Bird” is a prime example of why women are needed.  Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is a well-crafted, complex character.  She listens to Dave Matthews band and doesn’t care that it’s not cool.  She writes the names of boys she likes on her wall (and crosses them off, too.)  She runs for class President every year even though she knows she’ll lose.  She loves herself.  She’s sometimes unlikeable.  I often found her more unrelatable than relatable, which I was initially disappointed by but later came to appreciate.  I don’t want to fully relate to every female character - that would mean that they’re all more or less the same.  In my favorite “Lady Bird” review, The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday writes, “‘Lady Bird’ makes the case for reframing female stories as epics on a par with genres usually coded as male: Our heroine’s crucible might be a snug middle-class home and the sleepy streets of Sacramento, but her movie is just as big and canonical as a film about young men evacuating Dunkirk’.”  Saoirse Ronan does the character complete justice, but its Gerwig’s writing that is “Lady Bird’s” strongest facet.  The movie is built on the emotional complexities of women - Lady Bird, her mom, her best friend - the power of which Gerwig proves is deserving of its own epic.