So I went to see Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird in theaters the other day, and my trip to the movie coincided with what feels like a significant moment in my movie-watching / media-consuming decision-making process. But first, a bit of background…
I teach high school media studies classes. One of the classes I’ve envisioned, and for which I’ve been gradually collecting various articles, would deal with the issue of ethics and responsibilities when it comes to the choices we make as media consumers. It would begin with a collective discussion over our conceptual frameworks. What are the values and beliefs we claim to hold, and which impact our daily life? For me, it would be things like: the fundamental and inherent equality between women and men; the oneness of humanity; the need for universal education — to name just a few. After coming to a consensus of the values we claim to hold as a class, we’d explore just how coherently we live our lives. Among other things, we might discuss: do the choices we make as paying media consumers reflect and uphold the values and beliefs we claim to champion as individuals?
In preparation for this eventual class, I’d been collecting a list of names – a list which has recently expanded exponentially – of celebrities who were convicted or accused of certain heinous actions (most commonly male public figures acting disgustingly towards women). What responsibility, if any, do we have to be more conscious of whose works we support with our money? And, more personally, how well have I held myself up to these standards of coherence? And how can I make sure my awareness and discussion of these issues does not cross into the realm of gossip and backbiting about others? These are the kinds of questions I’ve been reflecting on lately, and which remained at the forefront of my mind when it came time for me to see Lady Bird.
I don’t watch movies in theaters very often any more. In fact, until Lady Bird, it would be safe to assume that the last 5-10 movies I watched in theaters were either big superhero movies I went to solo, or more family-friendly fare I went to with my son. For various reasons, including the potential to use the film in a future class (and my low-key fascination with Saoirse Ronan…), I felt like I needed to see Lady Bird as soon as possible — on the big screen.
So I’m about to head out for a 9:40pm showing, and I decide to get a last-minute confirmation of the showtime. Google tells me there’s a 9:40pm showing, but the theater’s website does not. Odd. I check another nearby theater for Justice League times and tell myself that if I get to the indie theater and Lady Bird isn’t playing, I’ll just go see Justice League. Seemed like a no-brainer to me. Night out with the ultimate goal of watching a movie would be accomplished either way.
On my way to the theater, I start second-guessing myself. Wait a minute. What is my goal here? What is the message that will be sent – however small – when I spend my money on Lady Bird, a small film written and directed by a woman, that focuses on the relationship between a young woman and her mother? How is that message different if I were to pay for a Justice League ticket instead? A movie written and directed by a bunch of men? Telling a story that reinforces structures of conflict? And which, from my cursory knowledge of the movie, objectifies the few female characters that do appear on screen? Especially since I don’t go to the movies often, how much more intentional can I be in the types of movies I’m saying I want to see more of? So in thinking through these questions, I make a decision before I get there: if the movie’s not showing, I’ll either go back home to bed or pick another indie film at the indie theater.
So I get there, and excelsior! The movie’s playing! I gladly pay the money, grab a seat, lights go down, and the previews start rolling. Oh cool, a new Kate Winslet movie! I love her. Cool visuals, too. Love what they’re doing with the colors. What? Co-starring Jim Belushi? Weird, but intriguing, especially since Kate Winslet is in this. And Justin Timberlake’s in this, too?? I’m in!
And then this happens:
After all that, there’s no way I can go to this movie!
Sigh…well played, universe. Way to test me just as I formed some new convictions…
Hopefully a lot of you are rolling your eyes at what I’m saying here because you’ve come to these realizations long ago, and I apologize it’s taken me so long. If I’m being really honest with myself, they’re thoughts I’ve had before, too. But they’re getting to the point – at least with movies – where my desire to choose what feels most right is finally outweighing my desire for what feels most convenient or enjoyable. Or, to quote a Common Market song: “yeah I got desires, but above those are standards.” I’ve felt that way for a long time about other things, but I seem to be finally getting there when it comes to movies, too.
Not sure what all this means, exactly. But I think it’s a good thing. And I’m looking forward to discovering its further implications.
So thanks, Lady Bird! And thanks for reading.
And I didn’t even get to talk about how amazing the movie was…