The character of Saoirse Ronan has broken all the rules in Lady Bird. There’s drugs, pre-marital sexual activity, same-sex kissing, and even talk of abortion–but Catholics approve of it. In fact, they urge the members of their community to watch it.
Lady Bird is heading to the 90th Academy Awards (Oscars 2018) with five nominations on its belt. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Greta Gerwig), Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf), and Best Original Screenplay, and we’ll know in a few hours how many awards the popular coming-of-age film will take home.
But what has made it so endearing to the Oscars panel? Many say it’s the storytelling, the spot-on tandem of Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, and the freshness of the material. But as a film revolving around a Catholic school girl, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, many can’t help but point to Catholics’ appreciation of the movie, despite the supposedly taboo things it touches on.
Lady Bird is no different from many American films, filled with profanity, teenage sex, and drug use. But when you set the film in a Catholic school with an underage Catholic school girl at its lead, you’re bound to tread shaky grounds. But the thing with Lady Bird is that it managed to draw Catholics’ support, given that the film is full of adoration for the community, provides a deeper understanding of priests and nuns running the schools, and morals at the end of the film.
Monsignor James Murphy, a retired leader of the Sacramento Diocese who was unabashed to admit that he’s seen Lady Bird twice, tells The Sacramento Bee that “Lady Bird is a love letter to Catholic schools, a much needed one.”
In this day where many Hollywood films tend to focus on the vilifying of Catholic nuns and priests, Monsignor Murphy says that Lady Bird actually sheds a more understanding light on their community. “It was wonderful to see nuns and priests presented in a positive light after all the church has been through in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said.
We remember the scene in the movie where Lady Bird pranks Sister Sarah Joan and embellishes her car with a “married to Jesus” sign–which the nun takes humorously, surprisingly. Sister Sarah then tells Lady Bird that she shows her love for Sacramento in her writing, to which Lady Bird responds, “Sure, I guess I pay attention.”
Lady Bird, throughout the film, tries to show that she hates Sacramento and hates being stuck in a Catholic school. But in this scene, the nun disarms her and says, “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?”
And at that moment, Lady Bird realizes how much attention the nun is actually giving her despite her being rowdy and rebellious against their rules. It is this same kind of love and attention that many priests and nuns say they have for their students that Lady Bird has managed to portray, says Father Steve Avella, a Sacramento-born priest who is also a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
“I always tell my students that I will be praying for them every day for the rest of my life and I do. They look at me like I have two heads. When I’m not their professor anymore, it’s like they don’t need me. [But] I can’t tell you how many times I have had a student come back and say, ‘Are you still praying for me, Father?'”
Even Catholic communities and media outlets are praising Lady Bird and Saoirse Ronan’s portrayal in the film. Catholic News Service, in a review ofLady Bird, says, “Gerwig herself is not Catholic but attended a Catholic high school, and Lady Bird, although it’s not made explicit, is in the same situation. She’s not rebelling against church teachings, though, as much as life in general and her place in it.”
There were many taboos throughout the film, such as Lady Bird snacking on the Communion wafers with nonchalance. But all of it boils down to Ronan’s character learning that after all her mistakes, there’s still a number of people who show love her.
The Catholic News Agency urges its readers to watch the film as well, calling Lady Bird the “breakout art house hit of the year.” In fact, the writer of the review even foretold the Oscars nominations of Ronan, Metcalf, and Gerwig in his piece back in December.
“Gerwig does a remarkable job portraying a Catholic teenager torn between the ‘good girl’ everyone expects her to be, and her growing desires to be different. The movie handles the complex emotions of teen romance and, yes, sex with discretion visually and powerful emotion. Its portrayal of the priests and nuns in her life are all uniformly positive, Lady Bird’s relationship with her mother may be occasionally contentious, but it also is one of the most positive portrayals of a teenage child/parent relationship in ages.”
Ronan echoes these sentiments by the religious people who loved the film, saying that after all the rules she broke, at the end of the day, it’s still about how Catholic school positively impacted Lady Bird’s life.
“What’s nice about it is that is shows Catholicism in a positive light. I went to a Catholic school and had a lovely experience. Greta did as well. She’s not Catholic but she went to a Catholic school and had relationships with incredible teachers that taught her so much.”
At the end of Lady Bird, there is a redeeming wrap-up to all of the escapades and rebellion Ronan’s character went through. And even if the movie doesn’t win all its nominations, Lady Bird has already won many hearts, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Look, even this cute Catholic school girl likes it!