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What does “Lady Bird’s” loss mean in the year of women?

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What does “Lady Bird’s” loss mean in the year of women?

(COURTESY/UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

(COURTESY/UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

(COURTESY/UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

(COURTESY/UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

AJ WELKER

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If you watched the 90th annual Academy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, you most likely know “The Shape of Water” won for Best Picture. And if you haven’t been living under a rock for the past five months, you also most likely know that nobody in the Sacramento Area (and beyond) can shut up about “Lady Bird.” But my question is, why?

Yes, maybe it’s the hometown appeal and familiarity of seeing Sacramento landmarks up on the big screen. Our little ol’ Sacramento. Maybe it’s even smaller than that. Maybe it’s a “hometown kid does good!” kind of story. But if this movie, if this life story only meant something to people in Sacramento, it wouldn’t have generated Oscar buzz. It wouldn’t have generated any buzz. Maybe this movie hits home for so many because it has to do with women.

Women. In the news cycle these past seven months, story after story of sexual harassment and other allegations have been filling our news feed, our timelines and our lives. We see organizations like Time’s Up! forming in order to uplift and promote the voices of women. So when “Lady Bird” comes out — a female-led film, both written and directed by a woman — it doesn’t just uplift women in Sacramento: it uplifts women everywhere.

As a theatre kid, and somebody who has been surrounded by art almost my entire life, Oscar Sunday is my second favorite Sunday of the year. (Behind Tony Sunday, of course.) But this year it meant so much more. A young woman who grew up in Sacramento, did theatre in Sacramento, and dreamed of going to college in New York, was nominated for an Oscar. Not just any Oscar: the Oscar for Best Director, making her the only woman in eight years to be nominated in that category. Greta Gerwig’s story gave me hope for my own story. I have never felt the way I felt watching “Lady Bird.” And I know a lot of young women who felt the same way. That’s its lack of recognition frustrated me.

When scarcity of female representation behind the camera is called out, executives are quick to relate it to the lack of women interested in that side of the industry, which isn’t entirely untrue. We see this in all fields: in government women are less likely to receive the suggestion to run for office; in business, women are less likely to ask for a raise; and in film, they’re less likely to be in the big chair, calling the shots.

“Lady Bird” breaks this mold. “Lady Bird” plants the seeds in young girl’s heads, because that is where it starts. Our hope lies in the next generation. Why do we spend so much time unteaching the stereotypes of the past, when we should focus on teaching the ways of the future? And why, when all Hollywood was concerned about was lifting up the voices of women, was “Lady Bird” pushed to the side?

With all of this said, I don’t want to be too myopic. While Greta Gerwig was one of five women to ever be nominated for a Best Director Oscar, the category was fairly diverse, with Jordan Peele, a black man being nominate; and with Guillermo del Toro (an immigrant) winning the award himself. However, this year, the year of women and the year of “Time’s Up!” is starting to feel more and more like the year of disappointment.

I don’t think Greta Gerwig should have won because she is a woman. I think she should have won because she wrote and directed what was, for me, the best film of the year. She brought to light the beauty and complexity of the mother daughter relationship. If the Oscars want to have more women in their Best Director category, they need to support the existing ones there. Yes, there absolutely is a smaller pool of female directors — but the Academy’s answer to that question shouldn’t be to shrug their shoulders: it should be to fix the problem immediately.

In what could be called the year of women, the academy had a responsibility to women, and, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they failed to uphold it.

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