“Lady Bird” is a 2017 movie that has been called a feminist masterpiece. While I believe that the director, Greta Gerwig, created an excellent movie with strong feminist themes, the source of inspiration this movie draws from is often left out. The 2002 drama comedy “Real Women Have Curves,” an older movie with many similarities to “Lady Bird,” is an often overlooked movie. Both movies are about teenagehood and a mother-daughter connection. They examine how our relationship with our mothers shapes how we view the world and ourselves. They aim, in part, to help people empathize with their mother and view their mother as a human being. We so often see our mothers as an extension of ourselves and our own needs. Humanizing mothers is important, yet often forgotten.
However, the movies also teach us to give ourselves grace and allow ourselves to heal from our fractured self image caused by our mothers. Because part of being human means you aren’t perfect, moms make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes can stay with their children for the rest of their lives. While both mothers make comments about their daughters’ appearances, their children react differently. In “Lady Bird,” the main character’s self image and self worth are impacted by her mother’s comments. In “Real Women Have Curves,” the main character rebuts her mothers comments and actively works to find self acceptance.
“Real Women Have Curves” features a Mexican family, but in “Lady Bird” they are replaced with a white family. Whitewashing in the media is a very unfortunate yet common occurrence. The most famous example of this is the 1961 movie “West Side Story,” an adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet story with a ‘50s teenage gangster spin in which the Puerto Rican characters were all played by white people in brown makeup. They even darkened the skin of the only Puerto Rican actor, Rita Moreno.
“Lady Bird” didn’t bring attention to “Real Women Have Curves.” Instead it retold the story in a palatable way for general white audience. There are so many similarities between Lady Bird and Ana — the main character of “Real Women Have Curves” — it feels eerie. They want to leave their private California high schools for prestigious East Coast colleges, but are both faced with the challenge of their parents’ financial struggles and familial issues. “Lady Bird” did have aspects that aren’t usually seen in the media, but they were also shown in “Real Women Have Curves.” By whitewashing the story, “Lady Bird” loses some of the original feminist meaning that Greta Gerwig was trying to showcase. “Lady Bird” shouldn’t have gotten the recognition it did without talking about “Real Women Have Curves.”