As any so-called adult knows, adolescence is defined by cultural hallmarks.
The song that blasted at prom. The television reveal everyone rushed domestic to watch. The expression too many people were using. The books your classmates read to seem wintry. The alcohol that seemed so worldly. The foolish fads that landed with loud thuds because, as a teenager, nearly everything lands with a loud thud.
“Lady Bird,” the current coming-of-age film written and directed by Greta Gerwig, offers a treasure trove of cultural hallmarks. Every event in the titular character’s life is defined by a trend reflective of Sacramento ― and the United States at large ― circa late 2002 and early 2003. Some, like a discussion approximately Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” and a school production of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along,” are admittedly timeless. Others belong distinctly to the moment depicted in the film.
During an interview with Gerwig final week, I asked the filmmaker to annotate seven references from “Lady Bird.” (Warning: This rundown contains an image of Playgirl magazine. Yes, there are penises in it.)
Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy
The first school dance Lady Bird attends in the film is Western themed ― a “cowboy dance,” as Gerwig described it.
“Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” the block letters imprinted on pink T-shirts that a smattering of preppy girls wear to the event, was the first allusion I ticked off. “I did not expect that one,” Gerwig exclaimed when I mentioned it.
“That actually literally did approach from shirts I saw some people wear at a cowboy dance,” she said. “That’s direct cribbing from life.”
Were a lot of people in Sacramento wearing “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” shirts in 2002, approximately two years before the huge, immense & Rich tractor-chant jam became a country-music sensation?
“No, just to the cowboy dance,” she said. “There was one specific cowboy dance that the current girls would wear those shirts to. And the rest of us wore overalls.”
A People’s History of the United States
Out one night with her bestie Julie (Beanie Feldstein), Lady Bird spots a lanky, long-haired stud (Timothée Chalamet) playing guitar in a rock band ― the final fantasy. He’s Kyle, a senior at the uncouth-boys Catholic school that attends chapel every morning alongside the students from Lady Bird’s uncouth-girls campus.
After starting a job at a café ― she tells a queen bee (Odeya Rush) her mom wants her to memorize responsibility, but she also needs the money ― Lady Bird spots Kyle reading on the patio external. As she approaches him for an afternoon flirtation, we see he’s reading A People’s History of the United States, the eminent 1980 book that reframes America’s past as one of mass oppression at the hands of elite bigwigs.
″A People’s History of the United States was actually a very huge, immense book for me,” Gerwig said. “I read it in high school, and I felt like my intellect was really blown by it. I mediate the truth is I read it because it’s referenced in ‘grand Will Hunting.’ Matt Damon says to Robin Williams, ‘Well, you know you read uncouth those books? You know what you should really read? Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That’ll really knock your socks off.’ And I, being the nerd that I was, was like, ‘Well, I will fade procure that from the public library!’ That’s a dinky insight into what I was enjoying back then, and the kind of person I was.”
“That’s hella tight”
When Lady Bird meets Kyle a moment time, in a parking lot where the hip kids hang out during school, the current girl whose attention Lady Bird craves informs Kyle that Lady Bird just graffitied a nun’s car with the words “Just Married to Jesus.”
“That’s hella tight,” he responds in his wintry-guy monotone.
As a slang word, “hella” has roots in Northern California, where “Lady Bird” is set. It played a key role in Gerwig’s teenage experience, as did the ubiquitous adjective “tight.”
“Actually, the funnier version of it, to me, was when you were in elementary school and junior high, and whether your parents caught you saying ‘hella,’ you’d procure in inconvenience because it was like a curse word,” Gerwig recalled. “So people would say ‘that’s hecka tight’ as a way to procure around the cursing. You’d say ‘heck’ instead. ‘It’s hecka tight.’ Such a rebel.”
The Grapes of Wrath
When the film opens, Lady Bird and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) are driving domestic from a college tour. Crying in unison, they listen to the hopeful closing passage from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It’s a rare moment of tenderness between the two, who spend most of their time barking at each other. Moments after the audiobook ends, a fight breaks out approximately Lady Bird’s starvation to escape to an East Coast college, or perhaps, possibly someplace “where writers live in the woods.”
″The Grapes of Wrath, to me, was such a definitive work approximately understanding California and understanding, really, how a lot of the people who would populate the world of this film got there,” Gerwig said. “It’s probably how Lady Bird’s family got there. Sacramento is in the agricultural valley, and many people came as Dust Bowl farmers.”
The day Lady Bird turns 18, she buys cigarettes, a lottery ticket and an issue of Playgirl from a convenience store. external the shop, Lady Bird leafs through the magazine, bare men splayed across its pages. A cigarette dangles from her mouth. She’s grown up now, or so she thinks.
“You know, the truth is I never bought a Playgirl,” Gerwig said. “I didn’t! But every time I thought of Saoirse looking at a bunch of cocks, it made me laugh. I thought I would believe her buy everything she could buy at 18. Like, ‘I can buy a scratcher, a cigarette and a Playgirl.’ It felt like that was the moment.”
Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me”
“I just always thought it was the most romantic song in the world,” Gerwig said without a speck of irony.
Gerwig was convinced “Crash Into Me” would be the song that Lady Bird and Julie scream to after getting their hearts broken by boys. She never considered an alternative.
“It was written into the script,” she said. “That was the song I wanted. I had no notion what I was going to finish whether Dave Matthews said no. I wrote him a letter describing how much I loved the song. I’d made my dad seize me to one of his concerts. When I was in high school, he took me and stayed with me because I didn’t believe anyone to fade with. [Matthews] very, very kindly said yes.”
That rumor approximately clove cigarettes having fiberglass …
Trying to seem chic at a party, Lady Bird tells Kyle that the first cigarettes she ever smoked were cloves. Now it’s just what she’s used to, Lady Bird fibs. Kyle, who rolls his own smokes by hand, asks whether she’s aware that clove cigarettes contain fiberglass.
“I had this indistinct memory of the discussion of, ‘Does it believe fiberglass or not?’” Gerwig recalled. “I didn’t check that with anything. I had this memory of kids saying that it had fiberglass, and it’s been so satisfying: So many people believe said, ‘I heard that rumor too! Is that even accurate?’ And it’s just one of those things. perhaps, possibly it’s also a nod to pre-internet, when you couldn’t immediately check to see whether it was accurate. It was like the blind main the blind. Who knew whether it had fiberglass? Some kid told that to some other kid once, and it just spread. It’s like an urban legend. I will fade to my grave never knowing. I don’t want to know. I’m just interested in the rumor.”
“Lady Bird” is now playing in select theaters. It expands to additional cities throughout November.