How Greta Gerwig continues to put women first
Reflecting on Gerwig’s film career and her focus on inspiring female characters.

Greta Gerwig has left an unmissable mark in the film community. With movies like Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), it is evident that female characters continue to be at the forefront of Gerwig’s works. By transcending genres, each of her screenplays uses complex characters to empower female voices. 

Initially wanting to be a playwright, Gerwig spent most of her education learning the importance of performance. For almost 10 years of her post-graduate career, Gerwig starred in lower-budget, independent films. One of these was Baghead (2008), directed by Mark and Jay Duplass, a movie picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics shortly after its release.

In 2017, Lady Bird—Gerwig’s debut project that she wrote and directed—was released. As a coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), the film takes place in the early 2000s and depicts Christine’s life through her last year of high school. Gerwig heavily focuses on the relationships that Lady Bird has with everyone around her, including her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein). Through relatable and thought-provoking conversations, it is clear from the beginning of the movie that Gerwig’s unique writing style is what makes her stand out in the film world.

Despite being given source material to go off of, Gerwig still manages to add her own stylistic flair to her writing—reinforcing the strengths of her female characters. Noor Shaikh, a fourth-year Molecular Biology student at the University of Toronto Mississauga, spoke about how much she admires the ways that Gerwig prioritizes women’s stories. “Her adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is my favourite since she manages to capture the complex character of each [March] sister [….] something that I think even Alcott herself didn’t realize was there. [She] paints a realistic picture of what womanhood means,” said Shaikh.

In Little Women, each of the March sisters present femininity in a unique way. Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) exudes determination, intelligence, and an unwavering sense of purpose. Meg (Emma Watson) embodies an insightful approach to life, always being able to find the right words at the right time. Beth (Eliza Scanlen) captures the essence of a brilliant yet quiet mind, capable of the greatest things, while Amy (Florence Pugh) is characterized by a certain naivete that transforms into maturity. Even Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), who is a male character, is shown as someone who is driven by passion, forging unbreakable bonds with each of the sisters.

On the horizon, Gerwig’s newest film Barbie is set to be released later this summer.  While expectations vary, this film will be yet another example of Gerwig’s skills as a director who willingly spans various genres. As another story centered around women, Gerwig continues to push female-driven narratives. I believe, her work will continue to have an overwhelmingly positive effect on women all over the world.

Photos Editor (Volume 50) — Daanish is wrapping up his final year at UTM, majoring in Technology, Coding & Society, and minoring in Mathematics and Cinema Studies. He's aware of how odd that combination is, but that is enough to describe him in a nutshell. Carrying his cameras wherever he goes, you can find Daanish furiously writing Letterboxd reviews, cheering on the Maple Leafs, and blasting the Jonas Brothers any chance he gets.


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