Lady Bird, the Greta Gerwig-directed bildungsroman which has been nominated several times over this award season, is a satisfyingly authentic rite of passage, set in early 00s Sacramento, and traces nuances of pop culture which are at once disconcertingly familiar and yet utterly alien. Despite the film’s 2002 setting, Lady Bird’s style isn’t necessarily reflective of definitive (and sometimes polarizing) early-aughts fashion trends. “She’s in a beautiful moment of self-discovery and questioning and learning about herself,” explained Napier about Lady Bird’s aesthetic, which ranges from thrift, demure lace party dresses from the ’50s for important life occasions like prom, to ’90s grunge-referential plaid jumpers when she falls for a rich, wannabe alt-rocker. Lady Bird 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 about 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.
1. A People’s History of the United States
Out one night with her bestie Julie, Lady Bird spots a lanky, long-haired stud playing guitar in a rock band ― the ultimate fantasy. He’s Kyle, a senior at the all-boys Catholic school that attends chapel every morning alongside the students from Lady Bird’s all-girls campus. After starting a job at a café ― she tells a queen bee her mom wants her to learn responsibility, but she also needs the money ― Lady Bird spots Kyle reading on the patio outside. As she approaches him for an afternoon flirtation, we see he’s reading A People’s History of the United States, the famous 1980 book that reframes America’s past as one of mass oppression at the hands of elite bigwigs. Continue reading “The Cultural References Behind Lady Bird”